We got the chance to catch up with one the West End’s brightest newcomers , Simon Adkins. He gives us the inside gossip on Viva Forever.
Q. At what age did you start performing and where did you train?
I was born in the dance studio really, as my mum was my dance teacher when i was younger. So i began dancing at about 2/3 yrs old at the Susan Taylor Dancing Academy, Banbury, and never looked back. I use to do a lot of amateur dramatics whilst i was at school, and then it wasn’t until 1998, when i went to Bird College to do my degree, that i began singing and acting more seriously.
Q. When you first heard about the auditions for ‘Viva’, what were your initial thoughts about a musical based on the Spice Girls work?
My initial thought was, great subject matter, the biggest girl band of all time. Got to be a hit really hasn’t it? I wasn’t sure until i started auditioning if the book would be a biographical based storyline or if Jennifer would write an original story. Also the fact that Judy Craymer was producing, I knew it would be the talk of the town, following on from her global success with Mamma Mia.
Q. When you started the workshops/rehearsals, was there an opportunity for your own creative imput with the role of Leon?
Absolutely. The creative team were very generous in letting us suggest things for our characters. Thats the beauty of creating something from scratch, there are no right or wrong answers so we were allowed to try different things along the way and throughout the whole process. A luxury an actor wouldn’t be allowed in most other shows.
Q. How was your first meeting with the Spice Girls and Jennifer Saunders?
I first met Jennifer at my last couple of auditions for the role actually. I was told she would be there and obviously being the Ab Fab fan that i am, i kinda s**t myself a little bit!! The feeling of walking into a room and having to be funny in front of the writer is a little daunting, especially when its Jennifer Saunders sat opposite you. Luckily i managed to make her laugh and get the job. I’d met two Spice girls previously to Viva, I actually worked with Emma Bunton as one of her dancers in her music video ‘Maybe’ back in 2003 i think. I’d also met Victoria when i was in Jersey Boys as her family love musicals. But the first time we met them on Viva was firstly at the Sitz Probe (band call) when Mel C, Emma & Geri came to watch us sing through the songs of the show with the band for the first time. And then i met them all on opening night obviously, which was such an incredible night. I never thought i’d ever be on stage with all five Spice Girls let alone chat to them all afterwards. Very special times!
Q. 8 shows a week must be exhausting, how do you keep yourself fit and healthy?
It is a busy week, but i guess we actors get use to the stamina of doing 8 shows a wk after a period of time. I make my week even longer by teaching musical theatre twice a week at Performers College. All this keeps me quite but i do have to try and eat as healthy as possible because when you’re busy its so easy to just grab something convenient and not necessarily healthy.
Q. Recently Bertie Carvel has been leading a campaign aimed at Equity and the Society of London Theatre’s, against the proposed settlement for the West End in 2013 including a clause that would allow two Sunday performances. Is this something you would support?
This is a tricky one, as the Sunday performance clause is just one part of the new Equity agreement being negotiated at the moment. Obviously Sundays are the majority of people’s day off who work in this business and i completely understand how important weekends are to those with families especially. I’m not convinced however that theatre producers would find it financially viable to do two performances on a Sunday as the costs they incur to put on the shows would be astronomical. Having done a Sunday show on a previous job i’m not sure they would find two audiences in London on a Sunday, especially the evening performance. I will be interested to see how this is settled in the not to distant future.
Q. What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry now?
I’d give them the same advice as i give my present students, there is no point in being a one trick pony in this business anymore, triple threats are what casting and producing teams are looking for nowadays. Everyone needs to be able to act, sing and dance. But if it’s something that you are passionate about doing, 100% follow your dreams and stick with it as its not an easy business to be part of.
Q. Equity runs a campaign called ‘I wont pretend’ aimed at LGBT actors to enable them to feel more confident when coming out to their employers in the entertainment industry. Have you yourself ever seen/experienced any discrimination towards LGBT performers in the industry, or would you say its the opposite?
Personally I have never seen it in the last 12 years that i’ve been working. Thats not to say however that it doesn’t happen. I’m sure people get judged on their sexuality all the time in this business, especially when being cast for roles, but it shouldn’t be the case. Why can’t a gay guy play a straight role or vice versa? But as i said I have never witnessed discrimination first hand which is a good thing in my eyes.
Tickets for VIVA FOREVER! are available until 29 June 2013
Interview by Becky Harper