Wednesday, 20 October 2010
It’s Full Circle for Sam
Unlike some, Sam Connolly did not grow up with a passion for the theatre, rather, like most Oldham schoolboys it was football that truly inspired him and his allegiance to Manchester City that dominated his weekends. He was also hyperactive and attention seeking, qualities which did not exactly endear Sam to his schoolteachers, indeed he freely admits to being “a bit of a rogue at school”. It was these qualities however, that led Sam’s mother to force him, at the age of 14, to attend Jude’s Drama school, a weekly class taught by noted actress Judith Barker; a woman who would change Sam’s life forever.
Things got off to a rocky start however with Sam still reluctant to embrace the theatrical world; “I saw 12 girls standing outside and thought I really don’t want to do this” and frequently led to him hovering outside and arriving up to 20 minutes late. This lack of focus caused initial friction between teacher and student as Judith recalls, “well, it wasn’t a great start and we did have a couple of blazing rows as he wasn’t aware of the discipline required”. Despite this the footy-mad teenager soon fell in love with acting, he now describes his first class as “the best experience of my life” and notes he quickly began looking forward to the weekend class as “I had a chance to express myself in a way you don’t usually get”. Talking to Sam it is clear that this notion of escapism fuels his passion for the theatre, he describes these early classes as an opportunity to “just let loose and be whoever you want to be”, an entrancing opportunity.
Equally evident during our chat is the strong bond between Sam and Judith, Sam asserts that “Judith was the first one to believe in me and the only one able to control be” and says that ultimately, “she made me realise that acting was what I wanted to do”. For her part Judith recognised Sam’s potential early, “ I always loved him and always thought he had an extraordinary quality” and nurtured his blossoming love of the stage, she has been his mentor ever since.
Old habits die hard however, and it was Sam’s passion for football that threatened to wreck this developing relationship. In the summer of 2006 preparations were well under way for Jude’s Drama’s bi-annual showcase and a rehearsal was set for Saturday 1st July 2006. The problem? This was also the date of England’s hotly anticipated quarterfinal with Portugal, a game no England fan wanted to miss. When Sam turned up to the rehearsal and immediately announced he was leaving early in order to watch the game, a blazing row quickly ensued, one which led to Sam storming off and Judith throwing him out. Sam soon realised he’d made a huge mistake and, apologies made, he was soon back and as passionate as ever.
By the age of 18, after four years in the class, drama school beckoned and so Sam was among the 2,500 hopefuls gunning for just 30 places at the prestigious Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. Incredibly Sam got in first time and was soon on his way to London for three years that he describes as “the best three years of my life”. Despite a gruelling 9 to 6 schedule, “I’ve never laughed so much in my life, it was hard work but also good fun”.
After an unusual experience performing Macbeth to London schoolchildren (preparing to have his throat cut by Lady Macbeth, he was startled to hear shouts of “She’s behind you) Sam got the opportunity to perform on the stage of the Criterion theatre in London’s glittering West End, an experience that crystallised his acting ambitions, “that showed me where I wanted to be in life, it gave me a goal”.
Now fresh out of drama school Sam attended audition after audition but was left empty handed and occasionally feeling like he’d “tried a little bit too hard”. Then an opportunity arose to audition for the role of the Wolf in Hard Graft Theatre Company’s production of Red Riding Hood, for Sam it would mean performing in Uppermill, within spitting distance of his home town, more importantly it also offered the chance of a reunion with Judith and the rekindling of a relationship that had been kept alive via constant phone calls during Sam’s drama school tenure. For Sam it was the role of a lifetime but the competition would be stiff, Sam would audition along with six professional actors, each with years of experience.
A nerve-wracking overnight wait followed his audition and then came a phone call the next morning. It was Judith, and the role was his, Sam was delighted “I was smiling for a good two hours afterwards” and his dream had come true, he was now a professional actor.
Despite having just landed his first role Sam has big ambitions, as well as wanting to act in the West End Sam’s passion for theatre is such that ultimately “I’d like to get theatre as big as TV”. Whatever happens next the future certainly looks bright for Sam, the classic story of the local boy done good.
Sam Connolly will be appearing in Red Riding Hood at the Uppermill Civic Hall throughout December, for tickets or more information call 0161 624 2829 or go to hardgraft.co.uk
By Alec Hawley
Thursday, 14 October 2010
Friday, 8 October 2010
Monday, 4 October 2010
It is a hard job casting. You meet loads of really nice, talented actors - just like you, then you have to choose only one. We have, of cause cast Claire Lever as Red, she's been in all three shows now and is a brilliant professional to have on the team.