With the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda the Musical touring the UK and Ireland until August 2019, Presley Charman was cast in the role of Bruce Bogtrotter, after making his professional West End debut in the original cast of School of Rock as Mason, where he performed at the Olivier Awards at the Royal Albert Hall. On screen, Presley voices Pip in Mickey and the Roadster Racers for Disney and has recently started a voiceover for Nickelodeon as DJ and Fairy Bike in Series Two of Ricky Zoom. Sitting down with Presley, we chat about performing as Mason in School of Rock, touring with Matilda the Musical and his voiceover work.
What did you enjoy about playing Bruce on the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda the Musical UK Tour?
I loved playing Bruce because he’s the main man out of the boys so I had a lot of responsibility which I really liked. Once the creators knew I was ready, I could then put my own twist on it and have fun and just be me.
Did you have a favourite scene or song to perform?
My favourite scene is at the end of Act One, when Bruce gets a massive cake and has to eat it all! I couldn’t wait knowing that I was going to have these amazing brownies! On my last show, they gave me ten brownies and asked if I liked whipped cream. I said I loved it so they put huge piles of whipped cream around the cake! I was trying to hold it in but inside I was like, I can’t wait to start!
How do you prepare for touring with a production?
Like with any show, we started rehearsals, but it was very different because the other kids were rehearsing elsewhere. My first venue was Bradford, and when we moved there it was very, very full-on. We were moving theatres all the time so we had to change a lot of things at each venue. One of the tracks was broken on my first show in Edinburgh so we had to change so much, and we only had a day’s notice! It always kept us on edge!
Do you remember how you felt when you booked the role?
I was walking to my mum in the car when I came out of school and she opened the window and said, “you’ve got Bruce!”. I didn’t react at all because I was in public and wanted to keep a cool head, but as soon as I closed the window and shut the door I just went, “YEAHHHH!!!”. I was elated, it was the role that I had always wanted to play. A lot of my friends had said I’d make a good Bruce and I’m so glad I listened to them and went for it because I had such a good time.
Did you have any stand-out moments from your time in School of Rock?
I was very lucky to be in the Original Cast of School of Rock, which ‘being in the original cast’ is something I will probably never be able to say again. We had loads of press events – I did Michael McIntyre’s Big Show, the Olivier Awards, West End Live and a lot more. The first one I did was Michael McIntyre’s Big Show, and when I met him, he shook my hand, and after I said, “I’m never washing my hand again”! The feeling that we got to be recognised by these big names was very awesome.
Can you tell us about performing at the Olivier Awards?
The Olivier Awards was my favourite event because we had to buy tuxedos so we felt really posh going in! Every corner you turned in the Royal Albert Hall, there was always someone you’d seen from somewhere. It was quite funny because, just as we were about to go on stage, I saw someone from Star Wars and I was like, “oh wow! I’ve seen you in the cinema and now I’m seeing you in person”. It was so special to perform in that venue.
What was Mason like to play?
I loved playing Mason. I can’t play any instruments and Mason specialises in computers and technology, and that’s literally me all over! He’s a very geeky character, which again, is me all over. He was a very fun role to play because he’s not stuck to doing one thing, he’s always moving and jumping around so it was very cool.
How did it feel having your contract extended?
I didn’t know what to expect because it was my first ever professional job, so I didn’t even know what that meant! When my mum asked if I’d consider going for another six months, I said that I didn’t want to stop as I was having such a good time – I wanted to keep doing it for as long as I could. It felt so good to be extended and be the role model for the new kids coming in, but at the same time, it was hard to say goodbye to all of the people that were leaving.
How did you find the experience on Britain’s Got Talent as part of the Sylvia Young Choir?
I loved that experience and it’s one that I’ll never forget. It felt really awesome to be there and we watched all of the acts rehearsing. It was surreal to see the Xs that you see on TV! I’ll never forget having that feeling of seeing David Walliams, Alesha Dixon, Amanda Holden and Simon Cowell in order on the panel, it was so cool! We went off stage freaking out, it was great!
You workshopped 101 Dalmatians at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, what can you tell us about being involved?
That was an experience that I really, really enjoyed for a very different reason to School of Rock and Matilda. It wasn’t on stage, but the fact that I was sitting down at a table with a bunch of really talented people, workshopping our ideas, being able to give our input and create something that hopefully could work, was great. I heard a while ago that it’s going to be on at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre and I’m really proud that I can say that I was part of getting it there.
What can you tell us about appearing in The Iron Woman at The Other Palace?
That was really cool. It was quite similar to Dalmatians but we were up on stage. We were able to do anything, there was no right or wrong and we didn’t have to stick to something. When I did Matilda and School of Rock, it was very fixed because it had already been on before so we had to stick to the choreography. I learnt a lot about the technical side of theatre and I found it very interesting. I loved it.
What was it like voicing the role of Pip in Mickey and the Roadster Racers?
That was so cool! I had never done voiceover jobs until I started at Sylvia Young. I got an audition one day and they asked if I could read three lines and send it in. Three weeks later, I got an email saying I’d got it and that I’d be going to Soho Studios. I then realised I was going to be in a Disney programme and thought how cool is that! I got there and it’s a studio that I’ll never forget. They were on Skype to Los Angeles and I was like – am I really doing this?! I’m just an ordinary kid who lived near Birmingham three years ago, and now I’m doing a voiceover for Disney in central London!
How did your interest in acting come about?
From a very young age, I loved Elvis Presley. My parents are both big Elvis Presley fans so I had costumes and everything!
You attend full-time at Sylvia Young, can you tell us about your training?
I love it. They push us so hard and I love being pushed to my limit, as once I’ve got there, I can push myself even further and get my skills to where they need to be in the long run. We are being taught by professionals who have been in the business for a long time, so it’s great to be taught by them.
What plans do you have for the next few months?
I am currently the voice of DJ and also Fairy Bike in Series Two of Nickelodeon’s Ricky Zoom! I have fifty-two episodes to voice which is so exciting. This will continue until July, when hopefully Series Three will take place and they extend my contract… that would be amazing!
I’ve also just finished a workshop with the great Sonia Friedman. I’m not allowed to disclose any details but keep watching!!!
I’m also continuing to be a regular voiceover for ELT sessions which is so fun. I really do love voiceovers and they seem to like me!
I have a few things in the pipeline – I’m very excited about the future!
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