Part Two - Stewart Clarke (Sam)
Fresh off of it's run at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre last month, and garnering a 5 star rating from us here at (A)musings (click here for Kyle's full review), the superb Ghost the Musical made a pitstop at the opulent Laurent Perrier champagne bar in Birmingham on a fittingly drizzly Thursday afternoon (fans of the show will understand) for a launch event to promote it's run at the New Alexandra Theatre this coming December.
Last time we brought you editor Kyle's interview with leading lady Rebecca Trehearn (which for those who have not yet read it can be found here) and in this second part he talks to the shows leading man and local-lad-done-good Stewart Clarke...
|Stewart Clarke (Sam) at the Birmingham|
launch of Ghost the Musical last month
Well Stewart, thank you very much for your time!
No, it’s fine!
So we saw the show in Wolverhampton last week and loved it, but we’ll kickstart for the uninitiated - how would you describe the experience of Ghost the Musical in a nutshell?
Well it’s a heart-wrenching tale of this undying love that triumphs through adversity, and how people deal with loss and how they move on from that. But underneath all that it’s a thrilling tale of action and deceit and all sorts. It’s a great show, I love it.
And aside from the obvious draw of being in such a brilliant show, what was it about the role of Sam Wheat and this production that really resonated with you as an actor and as a performer?
Well I saw it in the West End and I just remember seeing it and being like ‘wow what an incredible role!’ - so much stage time, so many emotions to go through, you know it really is the meatiest part, especially in musical theatre I think, for a male that I’ve ever come across. And that’s always an appeal, isn’t it, something with that much to play and that much to sing and just being such a huge role to tackle.
It is a brilliant role, but it must be incredibly emotionally draining to play night in, night out?
(nods head) Yeah man, and we had a matinee yesterday as well! And picking yourself up off the floor after the first show and being like ‘wow, I’ve got to do that again’ - it messes with your head, but I think once the ball gets rolling and once the actual show starts you just, you know, get swept up in it and you don’t think about how much it’s draining you even if it is.
It’s only when you come off stage afterwards and you’re like ‘wow... I’m sweating buckets and I’m absolutely buzzed’... but yeah, you sleep well every night, so it’s good.
And given that, do you have any particular coping mechanisms or ways of winding down?
Well I go to the gym quite a lot, which is always good for releasing endorphines and just making you feel a bit better, but I dunno it’s mostly just you go have a little bit of food, watch some TV, you’ve just got to unwind a little bit after that. You can’t go straight to bed, I think it’s definitely important to have the downtime and just chill out as much as you can during the day. I mean if you work too hard and then come to do the show in the evening.... oh man, it’s too much.
|Stewart as Sam, with co-star Rebecca Trehearn as|
Molly, share a tender moment in Ghost the Musical
Now one thing that strikes you when you’re watching Ghost, outside of the performances, is that it’s an incredibly complicated and ambitious show visually. So how has it been working with such dynamic sets and visuals, is it at all distracting as an actor having all that going on around you?
Well we’ve got an amazing technical team so more often than not it all works so smoothly you don’t even notice. There are a couple of illusions that require me to hit certain cues and make certain things happen, such as a dance switch where Molly is dancing with Oda Mae and then I come in, that’s sort of the most precise bit of timing that you’ve got to be aware of, so that’s a bit stressful, but no more than doing a dance would be or, you know, singing a song... it’s all part of the process.
Well I watched it last week and as you said there were loads of moments of trickery and not once do you register ‘ah, that’s how they did that!’, it’s so brilliantly deceptive.
Yeah, yeah, I remember feeling the same! It was moments like the little letter, that’s what got me the most. And then you find out, and it’s so simple, it’s brilliant!
On a similar note, you’ve got three terrific principle co-stars, but it’s something of a unique role in that you hit a point in Ghost where Sam can’t communicate face-to-face with any of your co-stars, and can only speak through Oda Mae, so how is that as an actor having to deal with that disconnect?
Yeah, it’s difficult because so much of acting is to do with reacting off other people and playing with what you are given, so it becomes quite a solo lonely performance, especially that gap between dying and meeting Oda Mae, it’s so frustrating not being able to affect anything physically or vocally. But I mean that helps, it helps play the character cause that’s exactly what Sam’s going through - he can’t affect anything, he can see things but he can’t help the woman he loves, it’s devastating, so, it’s difficult, but it does help!
It lends to that arc of desperation?
Exactly, yeah yeah.
Ok, now your vocals are ridiculously good in this show (laughs) Well they are, they’re really strong! Have you always been a singer? Have you always been musical?
No, not really, it came quite late. I went to a new sixth form college and I was just looking at joining all these clubs to make friends as quickly as possible. I was like ‘I’ll do some sport, I’ll do some of this...’ and they said they needed boys for a school musical and I was like ‘yeah, let’s do it, why not!’. I just... threw caution to the wind and had a little audition, I didn’t know any musical theatre songs so I think I sang something from Pocahontas or something like that! (laughs)
|Our exclusive video interview with Stewart and the other |
stars of Ghost will be going live closer to the shows
Birmingham run later this year!
Well it did the trick!
Yeah! I got cast as the lead, we were doing Little Shop of Horrors, I was Seymour... and the bug bit, I was just like ‘this is brilliant, I love this!’ and I got singing lessons at University and discovered the voice which I’ve been working on since then. So it’s quite late, I’ve not been one of those since 7 being like (does a little faux operatic riff).
But it’s lovely, really enjoyable.
And how are you finding the actual process of touring as a whole? You must be getting to experience some great venues and places?
Oh I love it, I love it.... because every two or three weeks you’re somewhere new and it keeps it really fresh. You get an opening night, you know, every two weeks, which you just don’t get if you’re not touring and it keeps it really exciting and you’re always on your toes.
We’ve just been to Edinburgh, which is an amazing city that I hadn’t been to before, and you see some lovely theatres - I love the Grand at Wolverhampton, it’s a really nice theatre - and some lovely places we’re looking forward to going to as well, which I’ve never been to. I’ve never been to Leeds and we’re going there next. You realise how little of the country you’ve actually seen!
Having mentioned the Grand, you are relatively local aren’t you...
I am, yeah!
...so you’re at the Wolverhampton Grand at the moment and then you’re coming back to Birmingham for Christmas. It must be quite exciting to be able to bring such an important role and such an impressive production a bit closer to home?
Yeah, it’s nice, it’s really nice. You obviously get friends coming to see it as well... it’s just lovely to be in a familiar place like Birmingham where we are right now. Coming into the Birmingham station and being like ‘Here I am for work’, it’s good yeah, I really like it.
So you are relatively early in your career but you’ve already done some brilliant roles. You had Eddie in Loserville, now you’ve got Sam in Ghost. Are there any dream roles or projects that you’d like to be involved in?
It’s a difficult one... I can’t think of any dream roles per se, I think Sam’s definitely one of them, and that’s been fantastic. But I would love to do a Sondheim, I think that’d be really nice because I’ve done a few of his shows in an amateur setting and they’re just genius. I know people say that all the time but they just are - he writes songs so beautifully for an actor to perform that it’s just a joy so I’d love to do something like that. But other than that, I dunno, I just want to keep doing what I’m doing, I’ve been very lucky so far so hopefully just keep doing what I love, it’s been great.
|Stewart with co-star Rebecca Trehearn at the|
Birmingham launch event last month
And finally, again jumping back to your local roots, from your experience do you have any particular guidance or advice for local aspiring performers who might want to follow a similar career path?
I think I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve not been to drama school, I managed to get myself an agent through a concert, and there’ve been so many sliding door moments where I’ve been like ‘shall I audition for National Youth Theatre? Yeah I’m going to go for it!’ and that’s led to me doing a show with them and then doing a concert where I get spotted... so I think I’d just say take every opportunity you possibly can, because you never know who’s going to be watching, you never know what might lead to what. I think just, if you know you want to do it, throw yourself in and grab every opportunity you can.
Well thank you very much. Good luck with the rest of the tour and we’ll see you back in Birmingham at Christmas when Ghost will be running at the New Alex.
Thanks very much for your time, Stewart!
Yeah, absolutely. Cheers!
NEXT TIME: Closer to the launch of the show at the New Alex over Christmas, Kyle will be chatting to the wonderful Wendy Mae Brown who plays the shows' hilarious psychic with an uncannily similar name...
GHOST THE MUSICAL will be running at the NEW ALEXANDRA THEATRE, BIRMINGHAM from Tue 17 Dec 2013 through to Sun 05 Jan 2014.
For tickets call the Box Office on 0844 871 3011 or book online at www.atgtickets.com/birmingham
For Group Bookings call 0844 871 3031
For more information on the show's run at the New Alex and to book directly, click HERE.