19 May 2017

tick, tick... BOOM! - Interviews with the cast

If you've been around these parts a while, then you will know that I am an absolute worshipper of the late great Jonathon Larson, and not least of his absolute masterpiece, 'tick, tick... BOOM!' - which is why I'm so SO excited to publish this mega-interview with all 3 members of the current London cast: Chris Jenkins, Gillian Saker and Jordan Shaw! So, without further chatter from me, here's what they had to say...

(photo credit: Claire Bilyard)


Em: What has been your favourite thing about being in Tick Tick Boom?

Jordan: The creative process, Bronagh Lagan (Director) has been an absolute pleasure to work with, giving us all strong guidance but freedom to discover what feels right for these characters. It’s been SO much fun playing around with improvisation to find moments that feel right, not only for the characters but us as actors. After doing a few big budget West End shows it certainly has been a breath of fresh air.

Gillian: I come from a family of musicians, but never expected to be doing musical theatre. I trained as an actor. This is my musical theatre debut and it has been such a wonderful experience in lots of ways. I’ve learnt an awful lot, and also learnt that I really love musical theatre- I think that’s been my favourite thing about being in Tick Tick Boom.

Chris: I love how human the show is. We are all flawed and so are these characters. Because they’re based on real people, we, as a cast and the audience, recognise the insecurities, anxiety, dreams, aspirations and disappointments that we all feel from time to time. Time and age is a universal thing and we all have our crises at different stages of our lives and this is essential what the show is about.


Em: In one sentence, explain why people should support smaller, Off West End venues like the Park Theatre.

Jordan: Not all shows are appropriate for the big seaters that we have in the West End. There’s a great repertoire of beautiful stories that need to be told to todays theatre goers which suit an intimate setting. Strong writing with poignant messages.

Gillian: Fringe theatres can take risks that commercial theatres can’t; they’re a place for new voices to be heard and nurtured, and we need as many new voices as possible

Chris: Off West End venues are some of the most creative theatrical places going, you’ll see exciting theatre you won’t see anywhere else.


Em: Do you relate to your character at all?

Jordan: Absolutely. Although I haven’t ‘sold out’ to the invitation of the corporate world. I have been lucky to have had some amazing opportunities in this industry. It can be hard maintaining a relationship with a friend who hasn’t had much luck and to them it seems that everything has been an easy smooth ride. Especially when all you want is the best for them. Also, Mike and I do hold a common relation when it comes to nice things, the song ‘No More’ isn’t very far from how I would behave!

Gillian: We are very different people but as an ambitious and creative person I can imagine how painful it might be to leave that pursuit behind. Its funny how, even though the piece debuted in 2001, it feels almost like a period piece in some ways. It's been interesting have to access a person that feels more pressure than I do to have children, get married and seek stability. That choice doesn’t sit comfortably with me, so that’s been challenging.

Chris: I think as someone who works in the arts, you can easily relate to Jonathan. Central to any artist’s mindset is self-doubt, it’s what drives us to become better at what we do. We live for that moment of magic that we create sometimes only once a year and we will happily sacrifice huge parts of our lives to feel that again. Fortunately for me though, I don’t really have a problem with turning 30 like Jon does! I’m turning 30 later this year and I’m looking forward to it.


Em: Has anything ever gone horribly wrong on stage?

Jordan: YES! I think it was the second or third performance and during mine and Chris’ rather comedic number ‘No More’ my short ride on top of my wheeled “butcher block table” ended on top of a lovely member of the audience. Luckily there were no injuries incurred… I think.

Gillian: On press night my microphone got caught on my dress during a quick change and I was freaking out in the wings in my underwear wondering what to do…

Chris: In every single piece of theatre things go wrong; you muddle lines or lyrics, knock over water bottles, fall over in a dance, the list is endless! But I couldn’t possibly tell you some of the things that have gone wrong during this show, maybe once it’s finished!


Em: What is your favourite quote from Tick Tick Boom?

Jordan: “This is just your fear talking to you, you have to take control of it, you have to thank your brain for sharing that fear, then ignore it and go on…” - Fear has certainly played a part in my life, there was fear simply accepting this job having never had the chance to really create something and play a role. Fear is just a defence mechanism, its great to acknowledge that fear and to understand why you feel that way but go with the choice that scares you the most, because that’s the one that is going to help you grow.


Gillian: ‘Cages or wings, which do you prefer’ sums up the message of the piece quite nicely I think.

Chris: Hmm, that’s a tough one. I feel like I’m essentially doing a 90 minute monologue so it’s tough to pick a favourite. I’m going to go with, "Everyone we know wants to do something else.” It’s very exposing of people’s wants and desires. We all know people who aren’t happy in what they do and Jonathan’s story tells us to do what you love because we really don’t know how much time we have left. Time is precious.


Em: If you could play one of the other two characters in the show, who would you pick?

Jordan: It would have to be Jon. However I’d need a few lessons on the piano!

Gillian: I’d have a crack at either of them. Mainly so I can can see one of the others play Susan. I’m sure both would look cracking in the green dress.

Chris: I’d love to play Rosa who is Jonathan’s agent. She is a hard nosed, brutally honest New York agent who is full of showbiz and grit who doesn’t hold back on anything she says.


Em: What has being in Tick Tick Boom taught you?

Jordan: To take risks and to trust myself. Acting isn’t as big and scary as I may have thought. It can actually be fun haha!

Gillian: SO much. I don’t think I’ve ever learnt so much on any job. Its been a really supportive environment, I’ve been really fortunate. I feel like I’ve been on a musical theatre turbo crash course.

Chris: When I initially got the script, I was terrified at the sheer amount of dialogue I had to learn. The moment that made me worry was when I was highlighting all my lines and my highlighter ran out! However, somehow throughout rehearsals, it all went in relatively easily. My brain must have fallen in a very handy learning gear that I hadn’t experienced before. I love taking jobs that challenge me, make me grow as an actor. I have learnt that I can cope with that size of role and that after teaching myself piano, I can play it in front of an audience from memory, which is first!


Em: What is your least favourite thing about performing?

Jordan: Tough question, I’m so grateful to be able to call my 6 year old weekend hobby - a profession. Perhaps it’s the contrasted working hours to the rest of the world. Your personal life can easily be at detriment unless you surround yourself with people that are also theatre performers. Eating a meal at a normal hour or getting an early night is a thing of the past!

Gillian: Generally, the lack of control. Its a strange experience having other people define you. But also, on the flip side, its quite exciting because you never know where you’ll end up or what you’ll be doing. It's an adventure.

Chris: TAXES. At drama school, we are VERY briefly introduced to being self employed and everything that comes with it. So we essentially learn on the fly; what class of national insurance you’re meant to pay, what to claim as expenses, income tax and paying it a year in arrears. HMRC don’t really understand how we work, we are self employed but then we are still employed by companies on a self employed basis and income varies hugely. It can be hugely frustrating as income can vary hugely from low paid fringe productions, through to West End or high budget movies, so it’s never consistent. One thing people don’t realise is how expensive car insurance becomes when you’re an actor, the companies all assume that you’re going to be friends with Judi Dench and you’ll be driving her around, so they don’t want to be liable for her injury! Ludicrous, I know.


Em: What advice would you give to someone like me who wants to perform when they're older?

Jordan: Don’t be afraid to fail or to make a fool out of yourself. Work so hard until you feel silly and then keep on working hard until your friends and family think you’re being silly, that’s always a good sign. Find what it is that you’re good at and what sells YOU. There’s an endless pool of performers for casting directors to pick from. When you walk into that audition room use that card that sets YOU aside from others.

Gillian: Invest in performing as an art form rather than a career. Follow pursuits that cultivate your skills as an artist and the career will follow.

Chris: Try, try, try! Challenge yourself, do things you haven’t done before and you’ll find that you can do them. Whatever you choose to do in your life, be passionate about it. If you’re not, move on. Once you’ve found that thing you’re passionate about it, don’t sell yourself sort to do it, know your worth. Don’t let anyone take advantage of your passion, they have to pay you correctly for it.



Thank you so much to this fantastic trio for their answers - I cannot wait to see the show tomorrow!


And we'll end on a message from Chris...

Go and see as much theatre as you can in off-west end theatres, you will see incredible directors, writers, actors, designers and musicians before they really make it big. You will be proud that you have supported and championed those people before anyone else knew who they were. You will be supporting those theatres and producers to create wonderful, boundary moving writing and innovative theatre. It is the training ground for the future’s greats and you will have seen them first!





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