Earlier this year, Paris Fitzpatrick was performing at the Royal Albert Hall in the recent run of Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man as Angelo, which saw the show open on the 9th June and run until the 19th. Paris had his first show back since the pandemic closed theatres, performing as Bob in the world premiere of Matthew Bourne’s The Midnight Bell, and he was one of the original Romeos in the 2019 production of Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet. At the 2020 South Bank Sky Arts Awards, Paris was nominated for The Times Breakthrough Award, with Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet nominated in the dance category. Over his years of being a dancer with Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, Paris has previously toured internationally with Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella, which saw him perform in places such as America and Japan, and he started his Matthew Bourne career with Early Adventures in 2017. Also a dancer with BalletBoyz, Paris performed on their Deluxe Tour this year, and early in his dance career, he was a competitor on BBC Young Dancer, where he made the finals of his category. We talked to Paris about his recent run in Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man at the Royal Albert Hall, performing in the world premieres of The Midnight Bell and Romeo and Juliet and being a dancer with BalletBoyz.
In the recent run of Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man at the Royal Albert Hall, you performed as Angelo, what was this like?
The Car Man is a lot of people’s favourite New Adventures show (audiences and performers alike) and it doesn’t come around very often, so I was thrilled when Matt asked me to perform as Angelo at the Albert Hall. The character has such a huge arc and it had been a while since I’d danced a role like that, so I really enjoyed throwing myself into the whirlwind of it.
Was there anything you enjoyed most about performing in the production?
The show has so much going for it that it’s hard to say… I think the music was a huge highlight for me. The score is so stunning and to have had a live orchestra playing for us at the Royal Albert Hall was incredible.
What was the atmosphere like during the run and how was it seeing the audience response to The Car Man?
To be honest, we didn’t know quite what to expect until we actually got in there and started performing the show. There were a lot of question marks during our rehearsal period as to how best to pitch our performances and whether certain moments would read in such a vast space, but feeling the audience response during and after the performances was really mind-blowing. I think it’s just such an entertaining show with such a clear-cut storyline that it can work in a variety of spaces and people really seem to get it.
Can you tell us about your character Bob in The Midnight Bell, and how was it being part of the cast?
I had such a good time playing Bob in The Midnight Bell. I had a lovely solo that opened the show as well as lip-syncing to songs on stage for the first time and there were many other magical moments. It was also a fun challenge tackling how best to tell his story, portray all of his nuanced characteristics through movement and finding a movement language that worked. The cast were a dream to work with and we all really enjoyed performing and touring with the show.
The world premiere of The Midnight Bell received great reviews, how was it being involved with this show?
Being a part of the creation and getting to perform this show was a special time for everyone involved, I think. It was our first show back after the pandemic and for Matt and the New Adventures team to take on brand new creation is quite something. Matt had a lot of trust in all of us and it was a very collaborative process. It was so great to be back in front of audiences after such a long time and we all felt extremely grateful to be there. To have had great reviews is wonderful too, of course!
You were one of the original Romeos in the world premiere of Romeo and Juliet in 2019, what is it like creating a Matthew Bourne role?
It was a little terrifying in the beginning, to be quite honest. I hadn’t been involved in many new creations at the time and certainly never anything on that scale. My confidence definitely grew as the creative process went on and then seeing it all start to come together in the few weeks leading up to our premiere made me begin to feel the excitement. Matt is a very collaborative choreographer, so when creating roles he encourages us to bring our own ideas to the table to go alongside his vision and input, so it feels quite special when you get to perform the role because it feels like a part of you. It can feel like a vulnerable position to be in at times but it’s ultimately a very rewarding experience.
How was the experience having Romeo and Juliet filmed for a screen release and how was it seeing the finished film for the first time?
I mean, firstly, it was a great opportunity for people to see the show that wouldn’t have been able to see it otherwise – including some friends, family and those who don’t have access to theatre. In terms of me seeing it for the first time, I think us dancers always find it difficult to watch ourselves back without being critical. With it being a live performance at Sadler’s Wells, which has a huge (sold-out at the time) auditorium, it is of course difficult to balance playing to the audience with having close-ups on camera, but this is the nature of filming live theatre. It’s still amazing that we were able to immortalise it in this way and I’m sure it will bring me lots of joy to look back on it in years to come!
How did it feel being nominated at The South Bank Sky Arts Awards in 2020 for The Times Breakthrough Award and having Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet nominated in the dance category?
I felt extremely proud and thankful to have been able to be involved in something that people appreciated so much. I know that every person working on that show in every department really put their all into it and it makes me so proud that we received recognition like that. Of course, awards and nominations are subjective and they don’t mean everything, but it’s still so uplifting to know that the work speaks to people.
What are some of your favourite memories from performing in Cinderella over the years, which has seen you perform in America?
Cinderella was my first large-scale tour with the company and my first time working with many New Adventures ‘legends’ that I’d looked up to for some time. It was a highlight to work with all of them and, of course, touring internationally is such a treat! I particularly enjoyed our time in Japan.
You started your Matthew Bourne career with Early Adventures, was there anything that encouraged you to be part of the Matthew Bourne dancers?
I had seen a handful of New Adventures shows while I was training and the experience always resonated with me. As a performer, I love to tell stories and make people feel things, and Matt’s work tends to do just that. I was also aware that the movement style suited me as a dancer so it was very high on my list of things that I hoped to achieve after graduating. A few years down the line, I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time and Matt offered me a job on Early Adventures. With the show being a triple bill of some of his earliest works, it was a great first show with the company because I was able to really delve into the essence of his work.
Earlier this year, you toured with BalletBoyz with their Deluxe Tour, can you say about this?
I had a great time touring with BalletBoyz, I felt like I grew massively as a dance artist during the time I spent with them. The show consisted of two totally contrasting works which both posed their own challenges whilst getting to grips with them, but it was a fulfilling show to perform once we were on the road.
What is the BalletBoyz Company like to perform with and do you have a favourite aspect of being involved in their productions?
It’s a great experience, with it being quite a small company it has a family-like feel to the dynamic and I made some really great friends during the tour. I think the fact that they always collaborate with such exciting and interesting choreographers is also a very enticing aspect to working with them.
What do you remember most from being a competitor on BBC Young Dancer in 2015?
It was all quite surreal, to be honest. I’d never done anything like it so I felt a bit out of my depth at first, and being in front of a camera definitely took some getting used to. I went into the process with no expectations at all and then suddenly found myself in the finals for my category, it was crazy!
Do you have any stand-out highlights from your time as a dancer so far?
Romeo and Juliet is definitely a highlight for me. To have been involved in the creation of a brand new Matthew Bourne production as one of the leads is beyond anything I’d dreamt of before I started dancing professionally, and the fact that it was such a success is a massive bonus.
Where does your love of dance come from and how did you get into it professionally?
I was always very active as a kid and loved being physical. I had loads of hobbies that were mostly sports, and dancing was something that I did alongside all of those, once a week on a Saturday. I’ve also always had a huge passion for music and so as time went on I guess dancing was the thing that just sort of clicked for me the most, marrying physicality with music. I auditioned for a few schools when I was young and eventually went to Tring at age 12 and I ended up training there on the dance course for seven years. My time there was what gave me the chance to see it as something that I actually might be able to make a career out of, and I was fortunate enough that it worked out.
Do you have any favourite theatre/dance shows to watch and how do you like to spend your free time?
I like all sorts… I try to see a variety of theatre including dance (of all kinds), plays and musicals. I’m lucky enough to have a lot of friends that work in the industry so I love going to see them perform. I think there’s a lot to be learnt and inspiration to be found in so many avenues of the performing world. I also love going on bike rides and going to gigs and music events in my free time.
Have you got any upcoming career plans that you can tell us about?
I actually can’t say for sure at this moment in time, but you can certainly expect to see me in more of Matthew’s upcoming shows as well as hopefully some more work with BalletBoyz and possibly others! I usually post updates on my social media so keep your eyes peeled.
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