Robert Jackson chats to us about Summer Holiday
Who hasn’t got in the car on the way to the airport and belted out “We’re all going on a Summer Holiday”?
Oh..just me then.
Whether you have seen the film or the West End show, the story that was pioneered by Sir Cliff Richard of teenagers on the rampage in a double decker bus is familiar to most of us. This summer Bolton Octagon are taking up the mantle and adding a few special twists of their own.
What is Summer Holiday about?
There is a young group of lads in Bolton. They decide to renovate an old bus and go on a road trip to the South of France. They spend a week doing it up and set off. As they’re going through France they meet a singing group called Doe Ray Me who have broken down. They offer them the chance to travel with them. Doe Ray Me are going to Athens so they all go there. En Route they discover Barbara who is a stowaway on the bus. She is a pop superstar who is escaping the pressure of fame.
Tell me about Al?
Al was originally Alma in the film and the show but we changed that. He is one of Doe Ray Me and falls in love with Edwin, one of the mechanics. We then see the relationship develop with all the others.
Why the gender swap?
Elizabeth (Newman, the show’s director) spoke to me weeks before rehearsals. She called me and asked me if I would be interested in playing the role. I knew that that press release was already out and asked what the role was. She told me they had looked at the original structure and it was all girls meet boys and they decided to diversify the characters. It’s 2018 and it’s the job of the arts to be representative. We wanted to do a gay character but without sexuality being the storyline. It’s simply two characters who are in love.
Does that make you nervous?
Not really. I’m prepared for comments. If there are complaints it just highlights the need for things like this to be done.
Do you have a freer reign with the character?
I guess so. Elizabeth and Ben (Occhipinti – Associate Director) work in an organic way and allow us to create the roles, we’re not bound by the film. There is a big change that it is set in Bolton and not in London. This is indicative of the Octagon, they put on daring and risky productions for Bolton. I was in A Christmas Carol recently and that was set with Bolton’s skyline.
Tell me about the immersive element of the show?
The first scene is at the Interchange, the audience then get onto six double decker buses provided by Vision Buses in Bolton who have been brilliant. Then there is a singalong as they travel from the Interchange to Victoria Square. We meet Doe Ray Me at the Square and from there we all march into the Octagon for the rest of the performance. We’re praying for a dry summer.
How are rehearsals going?
They’re going brilliantly. We’re in week three at the moment. It’s a lovely company, we have ten in the cast and we all play instruments. Some of us play more than one part. We’re probably halfway through rehearsals, there’s still a lot to learn. We’ve spent a lot of time on the music. I’m a saxophonist so it’s nice to do both. Some of the cast are phenomenal musicians, they play some brilliant rock n roll music, they are so quick.
Do you adopt a different approach to a musical over a straight play?
A lot of it comes down to the Director and how they rehearse. Some are set in their ways and some allow the company to create. A musical is more full on because there are lines and music. There is definitely more homework. Lines are easier for me than music.
What drew you to acting?
I grew up in Salford in an old fashioned family. My Dad knew the Chairman of a local AmDram company and every Tuesday he would take me and my two older sisters to Swinton Conservative Club. I was eight and I loved it. My childhood was spent with him taking me from one club to the other. I had some amazing experiences performing at Lancastrian Hall in Swinton, The Lowry, The Opera House and The Palace. I went onto Pendleton College to do a BTEC and then went to Drama School in London.
Who are your acting heroes?
In film I think Tom Hanks is an amazing actor. Since graduating and being cast as a character actor, I really like Daniel Mays and Alfred Molina, they get some really gritty parts.
Where would you like to be in 10 years?
Still working. I graduated 8 years ago and am lucky to still be working. I have many peers for whatever reasons don’t pursue it.
I’ve never done TV and I think that would be an exciting next step for me. I have friends who are in Corrie and their schedules are crazy. I have been very lucky in my work though, I have toured all over the world with theatre.
What was your best summer holiday?
My Grandpa died in the 70s before I was born but he was from Canada, he met my Gran in the war so my Mum is half Canadian. In 2001 the whole family went to Vancouver for three weeks. I had never been on a plane before. Canada is such a beautiful country and we got to meet loads of new family. So that was definitely my best summer holiday.
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