In 2019, Oliver Clayton joined the cast of The Play That Goes Wrong, marking his West End debut, with the show put on hold last year due to the pandemic, and it reopened at the Duchess Theatre last week where Oliver remains in the cast. On screen, Oliver played Russ in the first series of Flatmates, filmed as Cal Seaton in an episode of Doctors and booked his first screen role as Wayne in the BBC Three series Overshadowed. Oliver trained at East 15 for a year before going to the Arts University Bournemouth, and alongside acting, he has recently started work as a model. We talked to Oliver about being in the cast of The Play That Goes Wrong, reopening in the West End and playing Russ in Flatmates.
You joined the cast of The Play That Goes Wrong at the Duchess Theatre in 2019, what drew you to the production and how had it been going before theatres closed due to the pandemic?
I remember seeing the show before auditioning and thinking that it’d be great fun to be a part of. I think that was the biggest thing. The audition itself was great, the guys were really warm, it just left me with a good feeling about the company as a whole. It was going well up until we closed, I felt like I was beginning to hit my stride as an understudy as well. To have that all stop so suddenly was hard.
The show marks your West End debut, how did you feel booking the role?
I felt really good about it. I think, as a young actor, and where I was at the time, it gave me a bit of self-validation. To know that I was going to be performing in the West End, that I was good enough to be there, so to speak. And telling my family, because it’s something more tangible for most of them, being in the West End. That felt good.
What are you looking forward to most now the show has reopened and why would you recommend seeing it?
Just to be getting back to acting really, getting paid to do the thing that I love. Seeing the rest of the cast again. Making people laugh again. If, at the very least, you just want to laugh, then this is definitely the show for you. It’s just such a good time.
Do you have any stand-out moments from your time in the cast so far?
It didn’t happen to me, but the first time Tom Bulpett (who’s now playing Chris on the tour) went on as one of his covers for the first time. We had a dressing room show and were relaxing in our dressing room. Suddenly our stage manager comes in and tells Tom that he has to go on as Dennis. He went white as a sheet! We were going over lines, telling him everything was going to be fine – we managed to sneak into the back of the circle and watch him for the rest of the show. He smashed it. And I think seeing him do that gave us confidence that we could then do it as well.
What other productions have you been involved with?
The Fall was a show I did in 2016 with the National Youth Theatre as part of their Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Amazing writer in James Fritz and an amazing director in Matt Harrison, one of the best directors I’ve worked with. Edward II was the first of two shows that I did in my final year at the Arts University, the other being Into The Woods. I’ve done a few off West End bits and pieces here and there as well.
Do you have a favourite aspect of working on stage?
The fact that it is a live medium, that you have a relationship with the audience as well as the people that you’re performing with, the fact that you make it different every single night, there’s something really exciting about that.
Can you tell us about playing Russ in Flatmates and what did you enjoy most about playing the character?
I really enjoyed being a bit of an arse if I’m honest! He’s the first ‘bad guy’ I’ve had to play and I had so much fun doing it. He’s such an annoying yet ever-so-slightly endearing character.
How did you find the experience joining the cast and working on set of the show?
It was a lovely experience, some really lovely cast and crew, one or two of which I still in contact with and really close with.
Did you have a favourite scene to film and what was it like seeing the response to your character and the series?
It’s really hard to pick a favourite. I enjoyed filming with Jade (Ogugua) and Tallulah (Greive) so, so much, they’re both so talented and wonderful people. Seeing the response was great, it’s lovely to see that people are enjoying what you’re doing.
What was it like working on your episode of Doctors and can you tell us about your character Cal Seaton?
Really great learning curve, I’ve never worked that quickly on set before. Cal was very caring, very loving, but when you’ve got a cameo like that, I think going with your instinct is what’s best, as it’s what got you the role in the first place.
Your first screen role was as Wayne in Overshadowed, what was this like to film?
It felt very close to theatre, the way we approached filming and rehearsal, which for me, coming from more of a stage background was great. I think the style of filming meant that it felt quite raw and intimate at times, which I loved. The cast and crew on that job were a joy to be around and work with, and as a first job I can only hope and wish that every actor’s first job is as wholesome as that one.
What are some of your favourite memories from working on the BBC Three series?
I think the whole experience was absolutely fantastic. It’s really hard to pick out specific things. It was a time where I was experiencing a lot of firsts, first job, first time in a trailer, first time on set etc. I look back on it very, very fondly.
Have you always had a love of acting and when did you know you wanted to take it up professionally?
I took drama at GCSE sort of on a whim, and I suppose it was quite lucky that the first show I was in was also my favourite musical (and the only one that I really knew at the time), West Side Story. From then on I loved it. But it wasn’t until I got onto the Foundation course at East 15 that I thought, yeah, I can do this for a living.
Can you tell us about your training?
I did a year at East 15 on their Foundation course and then spent three years at the Arts University Bournemouth on their Acting course. I also did a few bits with the National Youth Theatre. For me, I think it really gave me the right balance, and allowed me to manage expectation when moving out of training and into the industry, especially in terms of managing expectation. East 15 was very intense, it gave me a lot of focus. Bournemouth made me more open as a creative. And NYT was a perfect blend of the two.
How do you like to spend your free time and what TV shows or films have you seen recently that you would recommend?
I make music and write in my spare time, I also play a lot of Football Manager. Recently, I’ve been watching a lot of anime, I would highly recommend the series Demon Slayer.
We understand you’re also a model, can you say more about this?
I started this year so still very new to it all. I’m on the development board at my agency. They’re very supportive and very patient, giving me time to find my feet. My aim, when this run finishes, is to land at least one job before the end of 2022.
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