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My First Job - Tom Ross-Williams in The Stage
April 12, 2017
I owe a lot to youth theatres. I got both my first screen job and my first theatre job from being part of them. In 2009, I was a member of the Heat and Light Young People’s Company at Hampstead Theatre. They were looking for a chorus of soldiers for a new Royal Shakespeare Company show, Dunsinane, in early 2010. A few of us got selected from the audition and my career-defining performance in the chorus was born. I had just three words to say – all in Scots Gaelic. I was in good company: among my fellow actors were Jeremy Irvine and Malachi Kirby.
I learnt valuable lessons from that show. I hadn’t been to drama school, so just being able to listen to Roxana Silbert’s notes and watch the actors each night was really informative for me. I would often hear Roxana say “you don’t need to double-do it”, meaning to just play the action on the line. I still tell myself that quite frequently. Jonny Phillips slipped one night on the fake snow and I noticed how he brought that into his performance for the rest of the run. I understood that some of the most exciting moments can be discovered through failure and play – one time Brian Ferguson did almost an entire scene speaking the words bent over through his legs.
As to what I would have done differently, I would have plucked up the courage to invite the experienced actors for a coffee after the run to ask for advice. When you’re starting out, you worry you might be bothering people, but had I asked, I’m sure they’d have given me their time. If you’re eager to get more stage experience, stay in the room during the tech rehearsal. The RSC often needed chorus members do little bits here and there. Because I was just in the auditorium, I was asked to do it. This probably doubled my stage time in the process.