📷 : Chris Mann
Graduating last year from Royal Central School of Speech & Drama, Andy Sellers made his West End debut understudying the roles of Joe and Simon in Touching the Void at Duke of York’s Theatre from November until February this year. Andy has previously been involved with productions such as Losers, as part of Voices From Home, and has performed in a rehearsed reading of Divided. Talking with us, we found out from Andy about making his West End debut in Touching the Void, being part of Losers and training at Royal Central School of Speech & Drama.
You recently appeared in Touching the Void, how was the experience?
It was a heck of a journey! The show demanded so much of everyone both mentally and definitely physically so it was a real challenge but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I had no experience of understudying as well so that was a new experience and was a bit daunting to start with but it became normal very quickly!
How did it feel booking your West End debut with the show?
It was a dream come true! I was with a friend on the way to get some breakfast when I got the call. I think I spent most of the call running/jumping around and thanking my agent.
How long were you in rehearsals and how was it preparing for opening?
Just over three weeks. Us understudies would observe the rehearsals during the day and then have our own rehearsals in the evening. It didn’t feel a lot of time at the start and I remember feeling nervous that I wouldn’t know it all! But we had such a great team of people working with us that by opening night we all felt confident and couldn’t wait to show it to audiences.
Can you say about learning the roles of Joe and Simon?
It was terrifying! A lot of their scenes are in the heart of the first act when they are forming their friendship, climbing up the mountain and then descending down. So, trying to learn scenes with yourself, talking to yourself and then practising climbing on the set without a partner was tough. But I did kind of relish the opportunity to be able to work on both parts and again it became very normal after the first week. Although speedy line runs with the other understudies were always pretty funny!
How was it going on as cover for the first time?
Another dream come true really! It’s always mixed feelings when you find out as I was gutted for Josh (Williams) who is a fighter and we knew he didn’t want to go off. But he bought a bottle of bubbly and gave me a hug to wish me luck. He’s a gent! Everyone else came in early and helped me so I would be as prepared as possible which was amazing too so I felt as ready as I could be. The actual performance was a blur, which was to be expected. In Joe’s first entrance he makes this big monologue about why he loves climbing and I completely butchered it! I blanked halfway through and so just tried to get to the end as soon as possible. But I thought it’s good I got that out the way and now just try and do justice to the rest of the story.
What was Losers like to be part of and can you say more about it?
It was great! It was my first gig out of drama school and it was a part of a night called Voices From Home. You rehearse a few times in the weeks before and you perform for a couple of nights at some great places e.g. the one I did was at the Theatre 503 and the last one I watched was at the Arcola. The shorts are written by writers from the home counties and so you get all kinds of unique voices. Losers was by Precious Alabi!
How did your time in Trade go at Drayton Arms Theatre?
This was working with the amazing Ella Dorman-Gajic on a piece about sex trafficking in the Eastern Europe. We performed it in front of her peers in a workshop style but it was obviously very serious material so it was something we had to prepare for. But Ella is a brilliant writer and so we trusted that it was all there on the page.
📷 : Chris Mann
Is there anything you can say about playing Adam for the rehearsed reading of Divided?
This was also with Ella Dorman-Gajic but also this time with the lovely Tim Cook, who runs Broken Silence Theatre Company, who put on Voices From Home. This was also a really great evening to be a part of as my character was this nerdy photographer who was obsessed with cameras and birdwatching. But the piece also looked at young women having control over their bodies and the men that want to exploit that. The audiences really responded to it, which was really encouraging, and I hope the piece will have a proper run somewhere!
How do you prepare for auditions?
I really like auditions but I personally don’t do too much prep. I absolutely will learn my lines and do my research on the director or writer to get a feel for the tone of the piece but I also really believe in going with your gut instinct in those situations.
Do you remember the first stage show you watched when growing up?
Yes! I grew up in a little village so it was school shows or am-dram really. But I remember going to see The Wizard of Oz at the school my dad taught at and seeing this guy play the Tin Man. I think he kept improvising his lines to make them funnier because I remember everyone finding him hilarious! I then saw him at Pizza Hut a few days later and my dad tried to introduce me but I was too starstruck.
If you hadn’t been an actor what do you think you’d be doing?
Not a lot honestly! I really am obsessed with all things acting and so I try not to think about how few other skills I have!
Was there anything that led to your interest in acting and when did you first get into it?
I’m not sure, I always have wanted to do it and so I guess I’m just lucky that my parents were always so supportive and never tried to discourage me away from it. Also, I was lucky to have some amazing teachers who took me seriously and guided me towards eventually getting into drama school.
Can you tell us about your training at Royal Central School of Speech & Drama?
It was tough for sure; it felt like training to be a Jedi for most of it! But I wouldn’t change it for the world; the friends I made there, the memories and experiences I have now, all of it together was the three best years of my life for sure!
Can you say about some of the productions you worked on whilst training, for example, Six Degrees of Separation?
We were so lucky that we got to work on three amazing plays in our third year. Six Degrees of Separation, Anatomy of a Suicide and then A Midsummer Night’s Dream! But in terms of Six Degrees that was incredible, the head of our course at Central, Geoff Colman, directed it and he’s so calming to be in a rehearsal room with. We also got to take it to a theatre Festival in Barcelona and perform it along with other schools showing us work they had done!