Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Big Interview: Jamie Muscato

Jamie Muscato is currently originating the role of Nathan in the world premiere of British chamber musical The House of Mirrors and Hearts at the Arcola Theatre. 

Most recently Jamie starred as Eddie Birdlace in the UK premiere of Dogfight at the Southwark Playhouse. His theatre credits also include: understudy Digby in The Light Princess (National), understudy Drew and Franz in Rock of Ages (Shaftesbury), understudy Oliver Barrett in Love Story (Chichester/Duchess), understudy Melchior and Moritz in Spring Awakening (Lyric Hammersmith) and Busker in Lift (Trafalgar Studios). 

Jamie was in the international tour of Les Miserables. He went on to appear in Tom Hooper's film adaptation and performed with the cast at the 85th Academy Awards. His other screen appearances include: Rory Storm in Cilla, The Euphoria of Drowning and Wild Oats. 

Jamie’s workshop credits include: Joe in Bend it Like Beckham (Gurinder Chadha), Harry Blitztein in Blitz (Lucy Bailey), But I'm a Cheerleader (Jerry Mitchell), Colin in Falklands (National Theatre Studio, Polly Findlay) and Rowan in X (Steven Dexter). 

I recently spoke to Jamie about why he thinks The House of Mirrors and Hearts will surprise people, what he loves about performing new work and the controversy and debate surrounding Dogfight… 

What drew you to The House of Mirrors and Hearts? 
I was in a bit of a unique position because I got on board with this a bit later, so at the start I was just learning as I went along. It’s been an amazing experience because I was able to see everything on its feet and experience it as it went along. The music is really beautiful – some of it has got a Persian, sort of Mediterranean vibe to it and then some of it is kind of nursery rhyme-esque. It’s different from what you would usually get from your average new musical. 

Jamie and the cast of The House of Mirrors and Hearts

Do you think it’s going to surprise people? 
Yes – I think it’s quite a surprising piece. It doesn’t go the way you expect a musical to go. You’ve got these five interesting characters and everybody has their own story – nobody’s there to just ‘fill space’ as it were. It’s a really refreshing thing to have such a strong book along with such strong music. 

How does Nathan’s story fit into the piece? 
Nathan is a lodger who comes into this utterly dysfunctional house which is sort of in the middle of nowhere. His arrival sparks the unravelling of secrets and he starts questioning things which puts tension on the rest of the people in the house. 

What has the atmosphere been like in rehearsals? 
Amazing, I’ve absolutely loved it. It has been such a friendly atmosphere, you walk in and every day is fun. And because it’s such a small cast – the smallest cast I’ve ever worked with – I got to know everyone really quickly. Usually it takes a couple of weeks to learn everybody’s name [laughs], I know it’s cliché, but this has been like a little family. The director Ryan (McBryde) is brilliant and I’ve loved working with him. Obviously David (Randall) the MD is amazing as are all the other actors; it has been a great experience! 

You’ve been in several brand new shows such as The Light Princess, Love Story and now this. How do you find being in an original cast of a new piece? It’s a much more creative process… 
That is kind of what I do – well that’s exactly what I want to do. I really like the creative process and having the opportunity to actually say “I think this” or “what about that”. You can put your own stamp on it and get to watch others do the same thing. You get to make something which is just words on a page become something that’s real and makes sense. 

You recently did Dogfight at the Southwark Playhouse which is small, but the Arcola is even more intimate. Is that terrifying or exciting? 
I prefer the more intimate ones, I much prefer being in a space where you can just – this sounds like a really wanky, actor-y thing [laughs] – feel it rather than show it. If there are two thousand people watching you, you’ve got to hit right at the back, and must look really stupid right at the front. But here, where there are just two hundred people or less, you just say the words with the intention and all that stuff you’ve done in rehearsals and it comes across as natural and real and truthful. 

Laura Jane Matthewson and Jamie in Dogfight

Right, I’m sending you to a desert island and you can only take three musical theatre songs with you. Which three are you going to take and why? 
[laughs] Ok… erm… this is when my knowledge of musical theatre is shunned… right, let’s go with one from Dogfight. I’m going to go for ‘First Date / Last Night’ because that means I get Laura Jane Matthewson (Jamie’s Dogfight co-star) so that would keep me entertained [laughs]. What else? God… I can’t think of anything now! Let’s do something from Once, ‘Say It To Me Now’ because then I get a guitar which would also keep me entertained. Finally… my last one… err, have you got any suggestions? What’s on at the moment? 

Gypsy... Memphis… Book of Mormon – maybe you need something to make you laugh? 
Yes – let’s go for The Book of Mormon because that would make me laugh. I’ll take ‘Hasa Diga Eebowai’. 

Jamie in Dogfight
Dogfight got everyone in theatreland talking; there was a lot of debate and a lot of people who felt very passionately about the piece. What is it like to look back at that time? It was almost a year ago! 
It’s funny because the debate is still going on. There was something on Twitter a couple of weeks ago with two critics arguing over Dogfight… still! It’s still controversial but I don’t think it should be; it’s a period piece about the Vietnam war – it did actually happen and still happens. I think the dogfight is called taming the beast now, so it was a genuine thing that happened. We weren’t condoning it, we were just showing it as drama and art does. 

I think the debate was important, it’s not often a piece sparks such extreme opinions from audiences! 
Exactly, I’m intrigued to see the reaction to The House of Mirrors and Hearts as well because it could spark the same controversy or something similar. There are difficult subjects dealt with. I think they’re dealt with tastefully, but it will be interesting to see the response. 

Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

The House of Mirrors and Hearts runs at the Arcola Theatre until Saturday 1st August 2015.
Please visit www.arcolatheatre.com for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit 2&3: Claire Bilyard
Photo Credit 4&5: Darren Bell

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