Currently in her third year at Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, Rachel Seirian made her professional and West End debut when she joined the cast of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie in January 2019. Rachel has now been in the Jamie cast for over a year where she is Swing and first cover Pritti Pasha, and the show has seen her perform at West End Live and on TV on BBC Strictly – It Takes Two. Chatting with Rachel last week, we found out about her training at Italia Conti, making her West End debut in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and being Swing and first cover Pritti Pasha.
How did you feel booking your first professional stage role in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie whilst still training?
Flabbergasted. I never expected once, throughout the entire audition process, that I would get the job. I was just happy to have some insight into what a real life audition in the industry would be like whilst in my second year. So to actually book the job was mental!
What has it been like making your West End debut with the show?
It’s been amazing, I couldn’t have asked for a better show to make my West End debut with. The entire Jamie company are the most supportive and loving people I’ve ever come across. Anytime I’d be going on for a track I’d never done before, or even when I went on for the very first time, which was during my first week with the show, and for a track I hadn’t really started looking at yet, everyone was filling me with encouragement. Jamie is like one big family.
Can you tell us about covering the role of Pritti Pasha and what do you remember about your first performance in the role?
Getting to cover a role like Pritti Pasha is amazing. I can relate to her well as, like her, at school I was studious and quite a reserved person, but I used drama and sports to express myself. I admire Pritti’s ambition, and how wise she is at such a young age. She’s such an amazing character.
I don’t remember much from my first performance, other than feeling very nervous at the start, and then extremely overwhelmed at the end of the show. I burst into tears when I came off stage, as the idea of getting to play a leading character in a West End show was one of my major life goals, and I’d just achieved it. That feeling will stay with me for life.
What’s it like performing Spotlight and It Means Beautiful to an audience when you’re covering the role?
In Spotlight, for the audience, it’s one of the first times in the show they see a glimpse of a more assured Pritti, so often when I look out, they’re usually smiling, which is amazing.
With It Means Beautiful, the scenes, both before the song and the reprise are very intimate. It’s just Pritti and Jamie alone in Pritti’s room, and she’s trying to convince Jamie that he’s beautiful, as he doesn’t believe it. The audiences are normally very engaged, and therefore pretty much totally silent. There’s a part where Jamie later leaves and Pritti is alone in her room. At that moment, for me as an actor, it’s a weird feeling to have all the eyes in the house on me. At first I found it quite daunting, but now I sometimes forget there are people out there.
How is it being Swing and can you say about the roles you’ve covered?
Being a Swing is really cool. I love how you get to have proper insight and knowledge of the show, as you’re constantly picking things apart to find patterns and relations within the script or various bits of blocking to help remember each individual track. Of course, there are times when it can be a bit stressful, e.g when you’re thrown on mid show and have to race to get onstage and hope you’ve drilled the track enough so you know what you’re doing. But I kind of enjoy the thrill and exhilaration that it brings, it keeps me on my toes and my mind active.
I’ve covered all the Year 11 girls in Jamie’s class. I like how they each have their own individual characteristics associated with them. Vicki is the tomboy of the group, whereas Fatimah is more focused on achieving her dream of being Sheffield’s Next Top Model. Bex and Becca are pretty much joined at the hip, but even so where Becca has her fair share of sass, Bex is more sweet, but will still bite back if she needs. I’ve also been on for most of the Year 11 boys, which was a fun experience.
You performed on BBC Strictly – It Takes Two, how was this?
It was awesome, I’ve never been on live TV before, so that was really cool. Some of my friends live and breathe Strictly Come Dancing, so they were sending me videos of them screaming at the TV while I was performing, which was very funny. I am very grateful to have been given that opportunity.
How did you find the experience performing at West End Live?
West End Live has been on my bucket list for ages. So to tick it off the list was crazy! The atmosphere was buzzing, I remember looking out into the crowd and just feeling a wave of electric energy wash over me. It was such a cool experience.
Can you say about any other events you’ve performed at?
The School Travel Awards was a great event. It focuses on recognising companies and attractions which provide good and educational trips for schoolchildren. Performing snippets of the show at events such as these is always amazing to be able to showcase the show to people who may not know what Jamie is about, and therefore hopefully inspire them to come and watch the show.
Another event I’ve taken part in is West End Eurovision. I took part last year with some of the Jamie cast. It was a really fun project to work on with them, and to see other skills cast members had be brought to life. E.g. our costumes were designed and partly sewn by one of the cast members. It was such an enjoyable night, and all in aid of raising money for an incredible cause.
Having previously performed in a music video, what was this like to do?
I never really imagined I’d do anything like that before. I always solely focused on theatre, so it was cool to get to experience another aspect of the industry. It was interesting to even see what it was like to be on a set of a music video, and how everything would go from looking like it did, to how it would read on the camera. It’s a very different world to the theatre, but it was something I really enjoyed.
Do you remember the first theatre show you went to see and which are some of your favourite musicals?
Yes! It was The Lion King. I was three years old, and according to my parents, I spent the next few months singing Circle of Life at every opportunity.
Some of my favourite musicals include In the Heights, Memphis, Rent and A Chorus Line. In the Heights in particular is a dream show of mine, I saw it for the first time at the King’s Cross Theatre in 2016, and returned a further four times after that because I fell in love with the show.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I love to read, mainly fiction, I’m a pretty big Harry Potter fan, and the geek in me can get lost in The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit quite easily. Drawing and painting is also very fun, and I’ve started getting into photography very recently. But I mainly just love spending time with friends and family. Juggling college life with Jamie means my schedule is full on, so when I can, I love to catch up and see how everyone is doing.
Had you always wanted an acting career and what drew you to train at Italia Conti?
I didn’t know I wanted to pursue a career in acting until my early teens. As a child I was one of those kids that did EVERYTHING. I was in a drama club, but I also took part in gymnastics, football, athletics, running, netball, skiing, even sailing! My parents let me try out a bit of everything so I could eventually gravitate towards something that made me happy, and obviously this turned out to be acting.
What inspired me to train at Italia Conti was watching the CBBC School for Stars documentary about the school. Watching the students getting to do what they loved on a daily basis, and seeing how incredibly talented they all were made me want to train there myself one day. I still remember watching Layton Williams on it and being inspired by how hard he worked on his craft, so getting to work with him in Jamie last year was a surreal experience.
How are you finding your final year of training and what have you enjoyed most about attending the school?
I think I’m still a tiny bit in denial that it is my final year! I’ve spent almost five years of my life training here, and this moment has always felt so far away.
I have so many incredible memories from being at Italia Conti. I think overall I’ve just enjoyed being a Conti Kid. Italia Conti is unique for treating all their students as individuals, you’re not seen as just another number in their eyes. Every faculty member knows who you are, and what you aspire to achieve after your time there, which really makes a difference. There’s always such a welcoming environment when you enter the building, I’ve had such a great time training here.
What advice would you give someone who is about to start their training at Italia Conti?
To make the most of every second. Your time there will fly by, and soon enough you’ll be wishing you were back in first year again. But it’s such a wonderful school, so as long as you work hard and give it your all, you’ll have the most incredible experience.
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