Creative Producer Fiona Lindsay considers the benefit of supporting roles.
Since when did the adjective celebrated, used to describe talent, evolve into the overused word celebrity? In my mind there’s a massive difference between the two terms and both should be used with caution.
A while ago, I had the great pleasure of interviewing Michael Parkinson in conversation. We discussed the time before the advent of celebrity – when there was a certain sense of magic and wonder associated with performers, due to the fact that we knew so little about them.
Back in a pre-social media world, gaining an insight into a star’s private life was considered to be a massive privilege. Capturing an interview was hard won and the riches delivered could last a lifetime.
Roll on 30 years and so much has changed. We’ve become fat on a diet of ridiculous nonsense, made available to us by a tribe of people calling themselves celebrities. Further still, having private lives (excuse the pun) seems to be a thing of the past. Perhaps there should be a TV show format created called You’re A Celebrity - Get Me Out Of Here.
The theatre world is less inclined to think in terms of celebrity than its TV and film cousins. Being a team sport, even the most accomplished and acclaimed performers wouldn’t want to be considered as being anything other than part of the ensemble. Each player’s performance is fundamental to the overall success of the game, as with sports like football and rugby.
Like any profession, theatre has (probably more than) its fair share of useful clichés, casually dropped into chat to make those saying them sound more knowledgeable and impressive. One common cliché during my time at drama school when productions were cast, was "there’s no such thing as a small part, just a small actor". This is something I repeated to myself on a nightly basis, when playing the front-end of the donkey (it could have been worse) in our third year Christmas panto.
There is in fact a ton to be learnt from being on the sidelines of a show. It’s here that younger performers are given the opportunity to gain extended training, through watching their more experienced colleagues.
A key stepping stone along the way is taking on supporting roles. These roles are pivotal to the storytelling, even though others can feature more prominently. When I began at the RSC most of my friends were given roles as 'cast' – the equivalent of third year spear-carrier from the back – and grew through the ranks to become significant performers in the industry.
This week we present written interviews with two marvellous supporting actors; Nick Fletcher and Adam Kotz. Each is a perfect example of the importance of team play and another reminder that there’s no such thing as a small part.
It’s about thinking BIG.