Over Easter, Simply Theatre Directors, Thomas Grafton and Jenna Melling caught up with Haydn Oakley (a youth theatre friend), playing Henri Baurel in Christopher Wheeldon’s London production of An American in Paris. We hope you enjoy our 2 part interview with Haydn...
"We were excited to see the show, given its string of 5 star reviews. The whole design concept of the show was superb – it brought you back to a bygone era of the glamour of musical theatre. It was truly beautiful with the scenery seeming to be drawn before your eyes!” said Jenna, who has a particular passion for all things Parisienne. Tom added “It was a superb show. The show has a high level of dance content for a musical theatre show, and I thought the way it added to the storytelling and exuberance of the production was beautiful. Oh, and Haydn was, of course brilliant!”
Tom asked Haydn, who trained at the Guildford School of Acting to answer a few questions for our students.
Haydn, you left school and began studying Ancient & Medieval History at Birmingham? What made you change your mind and decide to go to drama school?
I always knew I loved performing and wanted to pursue it at some point. Both my parents were teachers and they were very keen on me getting as much of an education as possible before I went to DramaSchool. But once I got my MPhil in Late Antiquity even they couldn’t refuse me the opportunity of auditioning for GSA. In fact I initially applied for Drama & English at different red brick Universities but got 6 straight rejections from UCAS. History was perhaps my second love and I figured it allowed me the opportunity to continue to act and sing in my free time with my peers if nothing else. By my fourth year I had perhaps 2 hours of class time per weekwhilst I wrote my Thesis… The rest of the time I acted, sang, directed, presented on the University Radio Station, and did what I loved.
How did you get your first job on leaving drama school?
I had a few auditions where the nerves got the better of me straight after drama school. Nothing can ever fully prepare you for standing in front of a panel of people who hold your dreams in your hands. I remember one audition where I forgot my lyrics perhaps 5 times in a row… eventually I got them right and pretty much ran out of the room. However, I was pretty grounded about it all. I just wanted someone to pay me to do what I loved.
My first job was an unpaid showcase at the Kings Head Theatre in Islington. I auditioned and got to sing songs from Tick! Tick!… Boom and Parade. This allowed me to sing professionally on stage and learn a lot of new contemporary music from composers like Jason Robert Brown. My first paid job came perhaps 3 months later, when I was cast in a TIE (Theatre in Education) play touring Ireland and Wales. I played a boy who was involved in a road traffic accident. I just tried to be myself and enjoy the process of the audition.
It’s funny how expectations change though. At first I just wanted a job, then a paid job, then a west end job and so on. Now I’ve reached a principal West End role, and next… Well there’s always TV and a professional Shakespeare I guess. The old saying goes “How do you make an actor unhappy?… Give them a job!” and it’s sadly true. There’s always another rung up the ladder and it’s hard to stay in the moment sometimes.
WATCH OUT FOR PART 2 OF OUR INTERVIEW NEXT WEEK...