(This interview is from 2009 and Robert has since been in many, many more productions!)
How and when did you discover Adel Players?
I discovered Adel Players when a friend put me in contact with Michael Armstrong in 2004 after having jokingly suggested/recommended I ought to be on stage. I think though they may have been refererring to a gibbet! Nevertheless, I got in touch with Michael who invited me to a play reading/casting evening.
What was the first production you were involved in?
The aforementioned reading was for an Agatha Christie play called 'The Unexpected Guest'. Contrary to rumour, I was not thrown out and told never to return. In point of fact, I got the part of Inspector Thomas. Everyone was very welcoming and refreshingly friendly, both in the readings and throughout the rehearsals. In particular, Dianne Newby, who directed the play, was extremely patient and thoroughly encouraging, for which I will always be grateful. Although I feel I was very wooden, I loved it. I can still remember the feeling of making my first entrance in the first performance. The adrenaline and excitement of being on stage was fabulous. I'd never acted before, unless you can count a bit part in Aladdin during infant school, where I was required to be blown up and flew through the air, but perhaps it was in my blood. I think it must have been because I now know my Aladdin appearance was a premonition. I say this because, curiously, this prepared me for the last part I had in Tons of Money where I was required to be blown up and flew through the air. The circle of life!
What different roles have you fulfilled within the group?
I've acted in eleven plays so far, stage managed two others, been assistant stage manager in one, been responsible for the lights in another and provided general help in a couple of others. The only role I would never take on is directing. I think it needs special skills I don't particularly have and lots of patience!
What is involved in being in a member of the cast?
A few weeks after the cast are selected, rehearsals begin. The most time consuming and difficult element is learning lines. When I first started, I used to learn them and constantly go over them in my mind. More recently, I've found I don't go over lines anyway near as much, as I think I've become more confident about learning them. When rehearsals start, you spend the first few weeks going over moves and the basic interactions between the characters. I enjoy seeing how we all develop our roles. As the weeks go by, you develop more confidence in your moves and become more natural and get used to where you should be at any given moment in the play.
Whether it's a comedy or a drama determines the style of the rehearsals. Drama is a much more focussed experience, I find. It seems to bring me the most satisfaction from a personal point of view, not least because the dramas I've been involved in have mainly been about real people which has been exceptionally rewarding. In these instances, I've researched the person I am playing which adds extra interest and authenticity.
My favourite is often the dress rehearsal on the Sunday before the performances. It's that moment when everything really starts to come together; the acting and the character development, the interaction between the cast as they play their roles, the costumes, the set, and the lighting and sound, all combine to add to the spectacle. What I especially enjoy is the effect having costumes and a set has on the performance. It really energises everyone. It makes all the effort and time worthwhile. And of course, successful perfomances are the icing on the cake!
What is also hugely enjoyable is what you learn from our more experienced actors who have been with the Players a long time. Their experiences, insights and advice have helped me many times. The best advice? Do what the director tells you!
What was your favourite production at Adel Players that you have been involved in?
Genuinely there are several plays that I would class as favourites but I think our middle play in the last season must rank as my most cherished role. This was the play Breaking the Code based on the life of Alan Turing who, among other achievements, led the work of solving the German Enigma code during the Second World War, which helped bring about the end of German domination in the North Atlantic, saving Britain from starvation and capitulation. I played Turing and this was a very powerful story that was well written. It was an absorbing experience and I was very grateful for the role. Of all the plays I've done so far, this is the one that most challenged me personally and taught me a lot about acting. In particular, I felt totally at one with my character which was very rewarding. Being in the round, each scene lent itself perfectly to presenting key episodes in his life and the whol play flowed effortlessly thanks to the excellent directing and the outstanding cast.
Indulge in a memory and tell us about a special time at Adel Players.
One of my fondest memories, from a total experience point of view, is 'Lord Arthur Savile's Crime', a play adaptation of Oscar Wilde's short book. The tremendous amount of fun we had during rehearsals, the zany characters, the great directing, a perfect cast and the palpable camaraderie we generated produced a thoroughly funny play where I believe our own enjoyment shone in every performance. I can still see the director stopping us in mid flow to tell us how funny something was, irrespective of the fact that we were in the middle of rehearing a scene!
What makes Adel Players special or surprising?
At the risk of sounding an odd thing to say I think that the most surprising thing about Adel is the sheer quality of the acting and the presentation of the plays. Although I had no prior concept of what it might be like, I didn't imagine it would be to such a high standard, if that isn't a contradiction. The production values are excellent, the acting first rate, and the quality and choice of plays has been enriching. Audiences have been rewarded with girdle-splitting comedy or moved by life-affirming dramas and have always been very complimentary to us. That has been one of the most rewarding aspects.
What is special is that I have made some great friends. In one sense, acting is about trust and encouragement. You learn to trust each other when you're in a play and that always encourages you to give your best. I feel part of something really good. Being part of Adel Players is one of the most satisfying things I have done.
How has being a member of Adel Players improved your life?
Being part of the Players has certainly given me more confidence as a person. Mainly, I think, because it has shown me what I can do if I put my mind to it. Ironically, I never feel more "Me" than when I'm acting. I'll leave it to others what that means!
What are your favourite social activities with the group?
Anything to do with food! It might be nice to go skydiving too!
What would you say to someone who is considering joining Adel Players?
If you really do fancy having a go for the first time, or have been in acting before and are looking to return to it, come along. Any live performance groups are a vibrant reminder that there's nothing as immediate and as satisfying as a live performance when it comes to audience entertainment. Cinemas show you the same thing over and over again. With live acting, anything could happen and when it does each audience witnesses something that is utterly unique in every sense of the word. There is a real buzz when you step out in front of the audience and it's great to be appreciated. If you've got a heart for acting, you'll be made very welcome.
Where do you see Adel Players in ten years time?
Hopefully blessed with a plentiful supply of actors but also I like to think that we might be able to expand and attract bigger audiences by occasionally presenting at larger venues. From time to time, we have had to turn people away, which is why we've extended performances to four nights. From experience, I don't think it is unrealistic to believe that we can pull in bigger crowds.