As some of you may already know, I am a huge advocate for young people within theatre. Whether its watching, acting or reviewing I believe the disconnect between the performing arts industry and younger generations has become too big, and I will always aim to change this. One of the reasons why this is may be due to the abundance of negative connotations around theatre. It’s mostly full of old men, it’s too expensive, the shows are long, boring and difficult to understand. Pretentious, dry, stuffy, boring, the list goes on…
Therefore you can only imagine my excitement to see that actor and funny guy Steve Speirs, was working with the Welsh National Opera to make theatre (and opera in particular) more accessible. His video campaign has blown up over the past couple of weeks, with his YouTube hits reaching nearly 20,000 views in one short month.
Steve, who is well known for his role in ‘Stella’ and well as his work in Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean and Eragon, has “popped his Opera cherry”, as he says, by taking on the comedic role of Frosch in WNO’s Die Fledermaus. Written and sung in English, Steve is eager to let everybody know that this show is perfect for first time opera watchers, “Die Fledermaus is an operetta, so there is spoken dialogue and it’s really, really accessible. That’s the thing I tell everybody. Die Fledermaus is a really good opera to pop your cherry on.”
Theatre is all about being immersed in the show. Allowing yourself and your imagination to run away with itself and be taken through the story by the actors onstage. And if you don’t let down your barriers and let this happen, it’s difficult for the show to have any kind of effect on you, this works identically with opera.
“Any theatrical experience demands an audience and what that means is that you have to meet the audience fifty fifty, no theatrical experience is complete without the audience. We are only ever 50% prepared and the audience picks up the rest of that experience”, says Steve.
He tells me how he has found working with the WNO “It was more difficult than I thought it was going to be because I was fitting into a world that was completely alien to me. My background in television, film and certainly comedy. It is a big new world.” He was shocked to have the call for the show and was convinced they had rang the wrong number as his brother is already a professional opera singer, “I immediately thought that they’ve made the wrong call here because I’m not a singer by any stretch of the imagination… I said you’ve got the wrong brother.” Maybe there is a place for a opera double act?
Steve will be appearing mainly in Act 3 when he ties up the loose ends of the opera as the “Jailer in MacBeth” type character. “It’s a comic role in the opera, that Billy Connolly did before and Frankie Howard did.”
Steve is also a massive fan of WNO’s other touring shows From the House of the Dead and Eugene Onegin, “In terms of a fantastic theatrical experience I just urge any of your readers to go and have a look at this.”
Steve says he is “looking forward to the Bristol experience.” You can catch him at the Bristol Hippodrome on Friday the 17th of November and then touring with the Welsh National Opera as they perform three different shows up and down the country.