Having booked the role of Eric in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical at the Cambridge Theatre, Andrei Shen made his West End debut in the production before ending his run last month. Before Andrei booked the theatre show, he was cast in the recent film adaptation playing the role of Eric, working closely with Alisha Weir, Emma Thompson and Lashana Lynch, and he attended the 2022 BFI London Film Festival. Andrei got into acting after his mother signed him up to the Jackie Palmer Stage School, who are also his agents, and he continues training in singing, dance and acting. We found out from Andrei about playing Eric in the film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical, working alongside the rest of the cast and his time in the musical in the West End.
What was Eric like to play in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical at the Cambridge Theatre?
Playing Eric in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical at the Cambridge Theatre was super awesome! It was my first time in the West End, and it was just amazing. I had so much fun, and I made some awesome friends who I know will be buds for life. Eric, the character I played, was kind of shy at first, but by the end, he became more confident to stand up to Miss Trunchbull!
How was it making your West End debut in the show and what do you remember from your first performance?
Making my West End debut was absolutely mind-blowing! It was a whole new experience for me, and I picked up loads about theatre life. Standing on that stage and seeing the audience out there is a feeling that’s hard to describe. Just before the first show kicked off, my friends and I were crouched under the table, all excited, chatting about all the effort we’d poured into it, and we kept reminding ourselves to have an absolute blast.
What was it like performing the music and choreography live on stage?
Singing and dancing on stage with all those cool lights and real musicians felt like pure magic! And when you see the audience laughing, crying, or going “aww”, it’s like nothing else. It’s like being in a magical world.
Is there anything you will miss most about being part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical?
What I’m going to miss the most is being on stage with the rest of the cast. Yeah, I used to complain about being tired after, but when you’re up there with your friends, it’s the best feeling ever. I’ll always miss that.
You were also in the cast of the feature film Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical as Eric, how did you feel finding out you’d booked the role for your first screen project?
When I found out I landed the role for my very first movie, I was absolutely ecstatic! It felt like a dream turned real, especially because I got to work with some seriously famous actors like Emma Thompson and Lashana Lynch. The audition process was quite intense, with several rounds alongside really talented kids. After each round, I was honestly shocked that I made the cut. It was a nice surprise.
Had you read or seen any versions of Matilda before auditioning and what drew you to the role of Eric?
While I’d read my fair share of Roald Dahl books, including Matilda, I hadn’t seen the musical before the audition. Learning about Eric’s character though, got me properly interested. He might not have been a big talker, but his curious nature and his journey to gaining confidence and standing up for what’s right resonates with me personally.
Did you have a favourite scene to film and what was it like on set?
The coolest scene to film was the motorbike one! It felt super awesome. But that day was scorching hot, so they had to make my costume with a special cooling sleeve. The set had so many cool details, like every brick, door, and classroom. It really felt like a real school or circus. And there was even a giraffe in the school at the end, even though the signs said no giraffes. That was funny!
How was it meeting the rest of the cast, including Alisha Weir, Emma Thompson and Lashana Lynch, for the first time?
Everybody was incredibly friendly and kind. We all hit it off right away, including the kids in the cast, and it truly felt like we became one big family from the very first day. We had our fair share of laughs and good times, which made the whole experience even more special.
You attended the BFI London Film Festival last year, how did you find the experience?
Going to the BFI London Film Festival last year was a real adventure! It was my first-ever red carpet experience, and I had no idea what to expect. I felt a mix of excitement and nerves. What was really cool was when people stopped by to compliment us. I felt incredibly proud and just a bit starstruck.
Where does your love of acting come from and how did you get into it?
I fell in love with acting when my mom signed me up for the Jackie Palmer Stage School. That’s where I found my passion for dancing, singing and acting. But it was when I got to perform live in the West End that I really knew this was my thing. I guess I’m lucky to figure all this out while I’m still a kid.
What are some of your favourite films, TV and theatre shows to watch and how do you like to spend your free time?
I’m a big fan of films with a great story behind them. My all-time favourite has to be the James Bond movies. I love the action and the witty humour in that one. I’m also really into going to watch live shows, and my recent favourite is Newsies. It’s got some fantastic performances! I had a great time watching Operation Mincemeat as well, thanks to its catchy songs and humour – it was a hilarious experience.
Do you have any projects coming up that you can tell us about and what are you hoping the upcoming months bring for you?
I just finished my last the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical West End show in September, which was a blast! But after all the hard work, I’m really looking forward to a well-deserved break and getting back to normal life and school. It’s been a while since we had a proper holiday. I’m super excited about that!
At the same time, I’m continuing my training in singing, dancing and acting. I’m really looking forward to taking on new challenges and growing even more in my acting journey. It’s going to be a mix of relaxation, learning, and new adventures, and I can’t wait to see where it all leads!