For his adult professional musical debut, Alistair Toovey has been playing Warner in the new production of Legally Blonde, which ran at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre and had their final performance last month. During his theatre career so far, Alistair’s roles have included playing John Darling in Peter Pan at the Troubadour White City Theatre, multiple characters at Shakespeare’s Globe in Dark Night of the Soul, and he was in the cast of An Octoroon at the Orange Tree Theatre and National Theatre. As a child theatre actor, Alistair played Gavroche in Les Misérables, and was part of the cast for the opening of the Queen’s Theatre, and before training at RADA, he performed in Lord of the Flies at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. On screen, Alistair plays Nahkt in Tut opposite Ben Kingsley and he is set to play Tybalt in the upcoming feature film Rosaline. Chatting to Alistair, he spoke about his time as Warner in Legally Blonde, playing John Darling in Peter Pan and his upcoming feature film.
You have recently finished performing as Warner in Legally Blonde at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, what was the musical like to be part of?
Legally Blonde at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre was an amazing experience. It definitely holds the title for the most joyous show I have ever been part of.
Was there anything that drew you to the show and character and what was Warner like to play?
I had seen the movie years ago, but never knew that it was a musical. I watched the Broadway production on YouTube after my initial audition, and immediately knew that I wanted to be part of such a brilliant show. I found playing Warner a very freeing experience. The character gave me the license to be extremely playful on stage, as he takes himself and his journey very seriously, and out of that comes a lot of comedic moments.
How did you find the experience making your professional musical debut with the role?
Legally Blonde was my first professional musical since graduating from RADA in 2014. I definitely felt like I was thrown in the deep end, especially being surrounded by such amazing, experienced musical theatre performers. It took me a while to overcome the feeling of imposter syndrome, as I struggled to pick up the choreography and technical vocal details straight away. But in the end, once I felt like I had a grasp on the material, it’s just about telling a story, sharing it with an audience, and being in the moment.
How was it working with the rest of the cast and seeing the audience response to the musical?
I cannot speak highly enough about our cast that I feel lucky to have been part of. Every single human on that stage gave so much creativity, love and support, not only to the production and story, but to each other. The saddest part about closing Legally was saying goodbye to everyone. Naturally you come to a point in a show run where you feel ready to take a break, or that you have achieved everything you can creatively from the experience. But I would work with everyone again in a heartbeat. The sad thing is that that is pretty unlikely, as they are all so talented, and will be on to new projects in no time – if not already!
I always find that sharing a story with an audience is the true moment where you realise whether a show is going to work or not, and this resonates partially with Legally Blonde. I don’t read reviews and prefer to judge the reaction to the show via the audience who are there with us in the moment, experiencing the story and characters for the first time.
What are some of your stand-out highlights from your time performing in Legally Blonde?
That’s a tough question, as there were so many. Working with such a talented cast and creative team, as well as being back at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre are definitely at the centre of my highlights. I think just the amount of fun and joy we had on and off stage was what really brought us all together. That, and accidentally ripping my costume suit trousers from crotch to belt loop, having to go onstage for several scenes as there was no time to fix them, ending up with me walking a little like a crab from side to side, trying not to turn my back to the audience for fear that they would see as plain as day the gaping hole in the back of my trousers, and everything that that reveals. That kept us all pretty entertained on stage that night.
What was it like playing John Darling in Peter Pan at the Troubadour White City Theatre?
I am a hugely physical person; from training as a CrossFit Athlete and Kickboxing instructor, to learning how to tumble and flip for An Octoroon: I love physical challenges. So, the opportunity to learn how to fly (quite literally) in this production was amazing. Peter Pan has always been on my bucket list in terms of a story that I wanted to tell, and Sally Cookson’s version was such a unique retelling of the classic story.
In 2019, you were performing at Shakespeare’s Globe with Dark Night of the Soul, can you tell us about this?
Being part of the Dark Night of the Soul new writing festival was a complete surprise to me. I really enjoyed working with Jude Christian again, and it was my first experience performing in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, which is beautifully candlelit to give the audience and performers an idea of what it would have been like to witness a play in Shakespeare’s London.
What did you enjoy most about working at Shakespeare’s Globe and playing multiple characters?
I think working at the Globe will always be special for actors, as the theatre it is so deeply rooted in London’s history of storytelling. And multi-rolling is always fun, as you get to explore often very contrasting characters.
How was your time performing in An Octoroon at both the Orange Tree Theatre and National Theatre?
An Octoroon was a life-changing experience for me. It forced me to dig deeper into my own heritage and gave me the smallest insight as to how others have been treated throughout history. It is by no means a perfect play, but the topics and opinions it does challenge are incredibly complex. Performing at the Orange Tree vs the National Theatre were both amazing, but very different experiences. In our first preview at the Orange Tree in Richmond, within the first ten minutes of the play, we had something like 15-20 audience members walk out – some directly across the space as the actors were mid action. They left due to feeling deeply uncomfortable, because the play really does hold a mirror up to the audience and asks questions that most likely the general demographic of Richmond have never had to deal with. The National Theatre gave us the opportunity to share our story on a much larger scale, and with a big production team behind us, I feel we were able to elevate the story even more.
We understand you’ve filmed as Tybalt in the upcoming feature film Rosaline, how was your time on set and working with the rest of the cast?
I loved every minute of my time in Italy filming on the soon-to-be-released Rosaline. The tone of the movie is incredibly silly and fun, and I particularly enjoyed filming the conflicts with Romeo that Tybalt has. The cast were mainly from the UK and US, and they were some of the coolest people I’ve worked with to date. When you are away from home in a country that you don’t know particularly well, you just want to be surrounded by lovely people – our project had that in abundance.
What are some of your favourite memories from playing Nahkt in the TV series Tut?
Tut was my first screen job I booked since graduating from RADA. I love to travel, so spending four months in Morocco was incredible. But the highlight for me was working opposite Sir Ben Kingsley. The majority of my scenes were with him, and we had quite a tumultuous father-son relationship. It was a masterclass in terms of screen acting.
Can you tell us about some of the other stage and screen roles you’ve been part of over the years, which includes Les Misérables, Lord of the Flies and Silent Witness?
I was in Les Mis as a child, playing Gavroche. It was a whirlwind experience, particularly at the age of 11, but I ended up closing the Palace Theatre and opening the Queen’s Theatre which was a very special experience. That was the last time I did a musical professionally, until Legally Blonde this year. I actually attended RADA after performing in Lord of the Flies at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, so it has felt very full circle to go back 11 years later and do my first professional musical as an adult in such a special place.
Where does your love of acting come from and how did you start?
I don’t really know, I think I just gravitated towards it as a child, and I had – and still have – a very supportive family. People often ask, “What if the acting thing doesn’t work out?”, I have never viewed it like that or even considered that as a reality. To me, it’s something that I know I will do for the rest of my life.
What are some of your favourite films, TV and theatre shows to watch?
I often feel slightly guilty about this, but I actually rarely go to the theatre or watch TV and films. I am the type of person that, when I do those things for work, they are often the last thing I want to do at the end of the day. Don’t get me wrong, I love experiencing lots of different art forms, but I also have other things that I like to do that ground me, and I believe enable me to create a better longevity and relationship in and to the industry.
How do you like to spend your time away from your career?
I am heavily involved in the fitness industry. I’m currently a Personal Trainer both in-person and online, and a Strength and Conditioning Coach at a studio called House of Fitness that has recently opened in Shoreditch. I have been a coach and trainer since 2015, and started my journey in CrossFit, working in commercial gyms, boutique fitness, kickboxing studios, and heavily online during the pandemic. Something I have realised about myself is that I need balance in my life. I couldn’t just work in health and fitness as my creativity would be starved, but equally I couldn’t go for long periods of time in the arts without going stir crazy!
And when I am not either working on stage or screen, or coaching clients, you will most likely find me in the mountains. I love mountaineering, and it’s the one place where I feel I can truly be myself, decompress, and reflect on whatever is going on in my life at the time.
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