Since finishing his run as Cy in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie in Sheffield Crucible and the West End transfer, Shiv Rabheru is currently in rehearsals for RSC’s A Christmas Carol opening on 4th December in Stratford-upon-Avon. Shiv has previously taken on roles of Dance Captain and Assistant Resident Choreographer and has recorded for BBC Radio show #WhatKatyDid and early next year, he will be originating a role in a new play in London’s Waterloo. Taking time out to answer our questions, Shiv tells us about playing Cy in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, his run in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 21 Chump Street and his upcoming stage roles.
What first encouraged you to get into theatre?
Like every showbiz little boy, I used to create my own shows where I would sing and dance around to the latest pop tunes and perform to my parents. Sometimes I would even rope my friends in and direct them in my shows – I was VERY creative! I remember when I was ten I wrote a play about a girl who goes missing, I cast my school friends and we rehearsed at break times to eventually perform the play in assembly. I have always been interested in theatre and my parents have been very supportive and encouraging. I have no idea where it all came from – overactive imagination I think.
Do you have a routine when preparing for a role or audition?
I always read the play first and do lots of research into the piece and who’s directing it. I like to try and understand the director’s style a little bit beforehand to give me an idea of who I’m meeting for auditions. I really love reading scripts and trying to understand the writer’s voice and what the characters are trying to say too, I find the process of preparing for auditions really enjoyable and nerve racking at the same time. When I’m preparing for a role in a play, I’ve found that using music can be really helpful too. Having a couple of tracks that give you a feel of the character and how they are feeling before you start a show helps me focus and gets me in the zone. I struggle with concentration sometimes so I need all the help I can get!
Can you tell us about your 21 Chump Street run?
The show was so fun! It’s by Lin-Manuel Miranda who wrote Hamilton and In The Heights so it’s great writing to get your teeth into! I’ve been obsessed with his work over the last few years so it was such joy to get to sing some of his music. We only had one weeks rehearsal before we opened so we had to work hard to get it up but we got there and the audience seemed to really enjoy it.
Where did you record for #WhatKatyDid and would you like to do more radio?
Yes! I would love to do more radio – I just love acting to be honest so any opportunity to delve into a script and read it with some great actors I’m happy! We recorded it at the BBC Studios in Maida Vale and it was fascinating hearing the final cut – there’s something magical about a radio play because you can hear all these characters and then you create what the scene looks like in your imagination.
You recently appeared in Terp at Finborough Theatre, can you tell us more about it?
The play was written by Ayad Andrews and directed by Fay Lomas. The story is set in 2003 Basra, Iraq. For young Iraqi student Tawfeeq, the Second Gulf War is the chance to be a part of revolutionary change, an opportunity to help set all Iraqis free from the tyranny of Saddam’s reign. All he has to do is assist the Coalition Forces by being a terp – an interpreter. But that fateful decision is about to change his and his family’s life forever.
How did you find the Everybody’s Talking About Jamie transfer from Sheffield to the West End?
I am so proud of the show and how well it has done! I was part of the original creative process when it first opened at The Sheffield Crucible. Transferring the show to the West End was a challenge to get it exactly right and there were a few changes to the show including a new song and some rewritten scenes. It’s been amazing to see the show blossom.
How was the atmosphere backstage when getting ready for the live cinema screening?
It was so exciting! Everyone was really up for it! I felt that all of us were really focused that day and wanted to make sure we got everything right.
Apart from playing Cy in the show, you were also Dance Captain and Assistant Resident Choreographer, what did this involve and how did you find the experience?
My job as a dance captain/assistant resident choreographer was to assist the resident director and look after the show when the creative team were away. I mainly had to look after the cast and take warm ups before each show. I also had to note the show and make sure everyone was keeping to the set choreography and blocking for the scene work. It’s a really collaborative job as you have to work with all departments in the theatre. Sometimes we have to set what we call ‘cut show’ for certain performances if cast members are ill and sick. It then becomes my job to restage some of the dances so they can be performed with less cast members.
What will you miss the most about being in the Jamie cast?
The cast! I love them! There are some big personalities and characters in the company and I will always remember the laughs!
What’s it like attending and performing at events, such as the Olivier Awards, whilst being part of a musical?
Performing at the Olivier Awards was an absolute career highlight! There was such a buzz performing at the Albert Hall and so exciting to watch our number back on YouTube after! Everything is very busy – we were sharing a dressing room with the cast of Hamilton and 42nd Street so it was a little manic but also very fun! Everyone is so supportive and it’s a lovely evening to really celebrate theatre.
What are you looking forward to about performing in RSC’s A Christmas Carol in Stratford-upon-Avon?
I haven’t had the chance to do a period piece yet, so I’m really excited for the costumes! I had a fitting this week and I love wearing all the authentic Victorian jackets and hats – it really helps you feel the world of Dickensian London.
Have you worked alongside any of the cast or crew previously?
I haven’t worked with anyone at the RSC before so it’s been really nice to get to know some new people and make new friends. A highlight has to be working with the director Rachel Kavanaugh. It’s amazing to watch how she orchestrates the scenes – I think she’s a genius!
This is your debut for the Royal Shakespeare Company, however have you performed in Stratford before?
I have never even been to Stratford-upon-Avon so I am really looking forward to watching some other shows while I am there too. I’ve heard some amazing things about Stratford from friends and it sounds like a beautiful place to work.
Will this be your first time appearing in a Christmas show?
I’ve done pantomimes before but this would be my first Christmas play.
What’s the best element about appearing on stage?
My favourite thing about being on stage is getting totally lost in the story you’re telling and the character. There’s nothing more exhilarating when you start free falling with the scene partner.
How different do you find screen roles over stage productions?
I find filming quite difficult as often things are shot out of sequence so you have to work a lot harder to clock into what your character is going through each time you film. Whilst with theatre you often play out the full journey of the character at once which I find really fulfilling. I think I much prefer theatre overall.
What are your acting plans for after A Christmas Carol finishes?
After ‘A Christmas Carol’, I’m going to be performing in a new play called ‘Kings Of Idle Land’ at The Vaults in Waterloo. It’s a two-man play written by Conor Hunt and I will be creating the role of Hammad opposite Sam Retford (Channel 4’s Ackley Bridge) who will be playing Michael. The play is set in Oldham in 2001 during the race riots and follows the two boys’ friendship. I’m really excited but it’s going to be a challenging role for me!
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