For her first acting audition, Savannah Read landed the role of Matilda in the West End production of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical and whilst in the cast, appeared on Blue Peter for A Day in the Life of Matilda with presenter Lindsey Russell and performed for Tim Minchin, the lyricist and composer of the musical. As a dancer, Savannah started competing at the age of six, continuing until her West End debut, and since starring as Matilda, she has filmed for this year’s comedy series Year of the Rabbit, recently shown on Channel 4. Talking with Savannah, we chat about her West End debut in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical, appearing on Blue Peter and filming for Year of the Rabbit.
How did it feel when you auditioned for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical?
It was the first time I had ever done an audition, so I was really nervous as I had no idea what to expect. But it was so much fun and everyone was really encouraging and friendly. I was auditioning for the ensemble, so it was quite exciting when the casting team asked my mum if I could come back the following day to audition to be Matilda. Never did I dream that I would actually get the part!
What do you remember from your debut as Matilda in the West End?
My debut performance as Matilda was the most magical night of my life. I had such a rush of nerves and excitement before I went on. It was extra special as it was a brand new cast change of children and adults, so we all got to share the experience together and there was a real buzz in the air performing and backstage. At the end of the show during the bows, the entire audience gave a standing ovation and I remember standing there looking out at everyone on their feet, clapping, and thinking how incredibly lucky I was!
When did you find out Tim Minchin was in the audience of one of your performances and what was it like performing knowing he was there?
It was during the interval of my performance that I was told Tim Minchin was in the audience. I just wanted everything to go as planned and portray the character the best I could. Tim Minchin wrote the songs and lyrics for the show, so it was a real honour to have him watch one of my performances and for me to be part of the storytelling. When the show finished, he came to stage door to meet everyone. He was really nice and we all got to have a photo taken with him.
What is your favourite memory from your time in the show?
I have so many amazing memories that it is too hard to choose a favourite. But all of them include the people I worked with. I was so lucky to share the stage with so many talented adults and children, and work with the best creatives. We always had so much fun and I loved being part of the team.
I was only nine when I started playing Matilda, and I performed over 100 shows, so during that time I had so many amazing experiences which really helped me grow as a performer.
If I had to pick a favourite scene, it would be Honey House because I got to eat a biscuit!!!!
You appeared on Blue Peter for A Day in the Life of Matilda, can you tell us about this?
Lindsey Russell, the presenter of Blue Peter, came to the Cambridge Theatre to film A Day in the Life of Matilda. That was a really fun day and it was my first experience of filming for TV so it was quite exciting having the film crew there. We got to show her around backstage, trying on the costumes, and joining in with the vocal warm-ups, it was fun to chat to her and demonstrate what it was like to be Matilda. We all got a Blue Peter badge too which I had always wanted!
How was it filming for the new Channel 4 comedy series Year of the Rabbit?
I had such a great time filming for Year of the Rabbit. It was my first project in 2019, and a really interesting experience being on a Victorian London film set. Everyone was walking around in Victorian costumes; it was like I had travelled back in time. The cast and crew were really nice too.
What was it like getting into Victorian costume?
My costume was made up of four layers! Luckily it was a cold day, so it was keeping me warm when I was waiting around for my turn to be filmed.
What do you enjoy about comedy work?
Comedy work is great because you get to make people laugh and smile and they are fun projects to work on. I really enjoyed the audition for Year of the Rabbit, the script was hilarious, and it was such a funny audition. I would love to be involved in more comedy TV roles and play more funny characters.
How do you prepare yourself for an audition?
I am quite lucky because I find it easy to memorise large scripts, so this gives me more time to get to know the character and understand the dialogue, and it means I can be off-book in the audition room. I have always been quite intuitive, and I think this helps to be authentic when portraying a character. It’s also really important to be yourself.
How does it feel getting success at auditions?
It’s a really nice feeling. It makes all the hard work learning the lines, travelling backwards and forwards to London worthwhile. It makes you feel that you did a good job in the audition and made the right choices. I always do my best and hope for the best, but once I have left the audition, I try to forget about it. I never take it for granted, I am just grateful to be in the room having the opportunity to perform.
What do you enjoy most about acting?
I have always been drawn to acting and performing. When I was really little I was always putting on little shows for my mum and dad or to anyone that came round our house. I love the variety of it, portraying different people in different circumstances, syncing the character into your mind to be a true version of someone else. It’s also great to meet and work with other people, it’s a team effort, everyone has to be on their A-game for a scene to work.
We understand you have a passion for dance, how did this come about and can you tell us about your competitions so far?
I absolutely love dancing. My mum took me to a local dance class when I was five and I really loved it. I had a really amazing dance teacher who encouraged and supported me, and it became a really big part of my life. I started competing as a freestyle dancer at the age of six and was quite successful over the years, I also did various other competitions and festivals, however since the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical, I have stopped competing and spend more time training both locally and in London.
Have you filmed any roles recently or have any coming up that you can talk about?
Straight after the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical, I was lucky enough to land a role in a feature film. I can’t say too much at this point in time as it’s not been released yet. Although my role was only a small part, it has some very high-profile actors in it, so it’s a great one for the CV.
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