Before the pandemic closed theatres in March, Adam Davidson was in the cast of Mary Poppins at the Prince Edward Theatre in London’s West End and understudied the role of Bert, and recently, the cast performed on the semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent alongside Les Misérables and The Phantom of the Opera. Previously, Adam had been Swing and cover Neleus in Mary Poppins in Germany, and he made his professional West End debut in MAMMA MIA!, and whilst in the cast, he performed on This Morning and also choreographed and performed at West End Eurovision. We caught up with Adam about being in Mary Poppins at the Prince Edward Theatre, understudying the role of Bert and making his West End debut in MAMMA MIA!.
How are you finding your time as Pan in Mary Poppins and what was it like opening in the West End at Prince Edward Theatre?
I’m thoroughly enjoying it so far, however, playing a goat and being in a half squat for a whole number can be tough on the legs! No, but I’m definitely enjoying it and as this is my first ensemble job it has been a completely different experience to being a swing. Being able to feel really solid in my own track and able to get my teeth into it has been really rewarding. Opening this show in the new revival cast was an amazing experience and one that I definitely won’t forget in a hurry!
You understudy the role of Bert, what is this character like to play and how was it making your debut in the role?
Bert was a dream role of mine growing up so actually getting to do it was definitely a big tick on the bucket list. My first Bert show, if I’m honest, was a complete blur. I don’t remember much of it apart from the overture and the bows but I was extremely lucky to have a hugely supportive cast around me that made the experience unforgettable. The role itself is INCREDIBLY enjoyable to play as I find him very similar to myself so it makes the character a lot easier to portray. Also, because Bert partially narrates throughout the show and speaks to the audience it gives you a real opportunity to connect with each person watching… and also easier to recover if you do make mistakes…
What are you enjoying most about being part of the production?
Because we have such a broad range of ages and experience in the show, it’s a great chance to talk with people that have worked a lot more than myself. I’ve tried to use that to my advantage to understand exactly what is expected of professional West End performers so I can take that forward to future jobs.
How was the experience performing with the cast on Britain’s Got Talent?
Emotional. Truly that’s all it was. When we first got told we were closing back in March, I don’t think anyone expected us to be out of the theatre for so long. Being able to be back with my cast along with The Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables really consolidated for me how much I love what I do and how important it is for society as a whole. I think if anyone looks back at their lockdown experience and tries to imagine it without any access to the arts sector whether that be live recordings of theatre on YouTube, your favourite Netflix series or Spotify playlist, the time would have been a whole lot harder.
You were previously in Mary Poppins in Germany, what originally drew you to the musical?
Well, it’s a brilliant show. I was also very lucky to be offered this contract straight after graduating college so it was a bit of a no-brainer. At the time I remember thinking; “Working for Disney and Cameron Mackintosh for my first job, it doesn’t get much better!”.
Can you tell us what it was like being Swing and cover Neleus?
At first, terrifying! I don’t think anything ever prepares you for the amount of work that goes into being a swing. Trying to learn twelve different tracks plus when you have to jump between different parts in the same show is a lot! Saying that, I loved it. I loved the adrenaline rush when you get thrown on mid-show or doing a track you’ve never done before. I loved the fact that I got to do something different every night and all the swings seemed to develop this real connection as you all go through the same whirlwind experience. Covering Neleus for me was a real challenge. The part is very balletic which isn’t my forté but through a lot of rehearsing alone in a studio and with my poor assistant dance captain (who I constantly asked to give me notes) I was really proud with where I got to with the part. On top of that, having to speak and sing lines in German on my own, on stage was brilliant fun, if a bit nerve-racking!
What are some of your favourite memories from your time in the show?
This show holds a huge amount of memories for me, a lot that I don’t think I’ll ever forget but for some reason my favourites have to be some of my mistakes. I remember my very first show on in Germany when I was a swing. I was thrown on just before Jolly Holiday and, funnily enough, for a Pan (the same track I’m in now). It was my first professional show with an audience and I remember doing my first move which looked out into the auditorium seeing the audience, thinking “ok, this is real” and then forgetting the next eight counts!
You made your professional West End debut in MAMMA MIA!, do you remember how you felt booking the role and how was it going on as understudy Pepper?
I was living in Hamburg at the time and I remember being home alone and getting the call from my agent. I remember saying “no, you’re joking!”. It’s just the dream, isn’t it? I’ve been really lucky to be surrounded by amazing casts, so going on was made ten times easier by the people I was working with. I have to say a special shoutout to my Tanya, Kate Graham, who was awesome to play opposite!
Can you tell us about some of the events you’ve been involved with whilst in MAMMA MIA!, such as West End Eurovision and This Morning?
This Morning was a really interesting day, firstly because I can’t remember the last time I had to travel on public transport at rush hour, nightmare! Anyway, it was a cool process having to manipulate the choreography to fit into the much tighter space that was given to us on set and getting used to the cameras moving around in front of us was a totally new thing for me. West End Eurovision was an absolute laugh. I ended up choreographing with Beth Relf, who was also in the show, and together we put together a piece that we were both super proud of. To say we were robbed of winning is an understatement…
Where does your love of theatre and dance come from and how did you start?
It all really started when I was about eleven and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang came on tour to Edinburgh, where I’m from. Apparently, I said to my mum “I love that film, I want to audition” and it just went from there. I made some friends in that show that steered me towards weekly classes. It’s hard to explain where the love of theatre comes from, it’s just there. For me, mostly, I think it comes from my love of music. Music just does something to me that nothing else can.
Was there anything that encouraged you to train in the arts and have a career as a performer?
Funny story actually. I met a girl on holiday when I was about fourteen/fifteen who was training full time at Laine Theatre Arts. We got chatting about theatre and she invited me down to the Easter school and from there I went on to train at Laine full time from when I was seventeen. I also have the most supportive family that always encouraged me to do what I loved and have really been there for me whenever I’ve needed it.
Do you have any favourite theatre shows to watch?
There are a couple. My dream show has to be Singin’ in the Rain. I saw it in London a few years back and Gene Kelly is a bit of an idol for me so I’d love to be able to be in that show some day! If anyone is planning a production soon, give me a call… Also, Hamilton. Genius of a show. Lin-Manuel Miranda has written something truly spectacular there and the creative team behind it have made it one of the greatest shows I have ever seen.
How do you like to spend your time away from your career?
I’ve recently just started doing Crossfit which I’m really enjoying, not only because it keeps me fit for work but because I love the community within the sport where it’s all about encouraging each other and pushing each other to be the best we can. I’ve also enjoyed getting back into golf during lockdown and managed to play twice a week most weeks so that’s hopefully something I will continue with.
What are you looking forward to most for getting back to live theatre?
I’m really excited to get audiences back in theatres so that they can have those couple of hours of escapism from what’s going on in the world right now. I think it can do wonders for people’s mental health and encourage them to be really present and in the moment so that they can enjoy the here and now and not have to worry about the past or the future. I believe it’s an extremely important part of our culture that has been sorely missed during the pandemic.
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