In part one of our interview with Will Barratt, who plays Raoul in the London production of The Phantom of the Opera, he filled us in on his memorable Phantom moments and how he keeps his performance fresh. In this second instalment, Will answers a selection of your Fan Questions – including how it feels to be nightly strangled by The Phantom…
Amanda: How does it feel to have a rope around your neck every night, and as the good guy, do you feel any pressure to keep in shape than any of the other characters?
(Laughs) A lot of people do ask about the rope and getting strangled. It’s fine really, it’s quite exciting, that sort of Action Man thing! To do the jump off the bridge is quite fun, you get to do your own stunts. It is uncomfortable, don’t get me wrong, and I go up on my tiptoes to make it even more uncomfortable – I’m on Demi Pointe for the entire thing which kills your calves at first! And when the rope first goes up and tightens, you do get a little rope burn around your throat… but once it’s there it’s fine, and of course it has to be comfortable enough for you to sing. But on the flip side, the signals for making it tighter or loser with the people at the side of the stage – I usually have it quite tight, because I want to look uncomfortable. From an audience point of view, I have to look uncomfortable because I’m supposed to be being strangled!
And for the other question, yes I suppose there is a pressure – I go to the gym, there is that pressure to be in shape, of course there is. You’re the love interest! I’m not completely obsessed by it, but I do try and make sure I’m in shape for when I’m having my shirt ripped open… I would feel self-conscious if I had man boobs while I was being strung up on the rope!
Smithy: What would your advice be to any young actors who would love to be where you are now?
I do lots of workshops and teaching outside the show, and when people ask those questions I say, you have to build up your experience. That’s the most important thing – getting in as much performance as you can. It depends how old you are and what level you are at, but as a teenager I’d say do as much amateur performance as you can do, any opportunity to perform in front of people, it just builds that confidence and your stage craft. Training is also very important, obviously. People go different ways with their training – I went to university first and then did a postgraduate, but some people go for three years at a performing arts college, and I think that’s very important. And after that, it never stops. I’m extremely lucky and very happy to be doing what I’m doing, playing Raoul is a dream come true, but the work never stops. We still have rehearsals, we still have to keep on top of things, you still have to have singing lessons and work on your voice and your technique. There are always things to learn. There are some great actors that are more experienced than me – John Owen-Jones, who plays Phantom now, a phenomenal performer, fantastic voice. There’s many things I can learn from him, and from other performers – so I’m still learning.
SugarDevil: What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you onstage?
I hope that is your real name! There have been some corkers. When I was doing The Producers, I walked backwards and tripped and fell over completely, then got up and tried to rescue the scene only to have the cane I was holding snap in my face, and everything just went completely to pot, I forgot my words, I forgot everything after that…
And on The Producers again, there was a fault and they couldn’t get this piece of set onstage, therefore they couldn’t get the backdrop in, so when the curtain went up the audience could see everything backstage – at which precise point, I was dropping my pants to an audience of 2,500 people. So I basically mooned 2,500 people. They thought it was part of the show, but I was at the side of the stage, and everyone saw it… I had to kind of wriggle off with my pants around my ankles!
There have been things on Phantom too, when the noose doesn’t work it’s awful – the contingency is that the Phantom grabs me by the neck and slams me into the portcullis, so you’ve got to come up with a thought as to what he’s done, has he hooked me on there, has he paralysed me, is it done with the power of his mind?! You just have to put it in your mind that the Phantom has this power over you.
Laura: Do you ever change your performance based on who is performing as Christine or the Phantom?
Yes – you can’t do a carbon copy performance. You can’t do acting by numbers, because it would be boring. You have to work with what you’re given and who you’re with, because every Christine is going to be different, she’s going to look at you differently, she’s going to smile in different places and feel awkward in different places so you’re going to want to comfort her at different points and smile when she smiles. So yes, definitely the performance changes. And John’s Phantom is very different to Scotts’s Phantom, which was different to David Shannon’s Phantom, and Ramin’s, indeed they’re all very different. My main interactions with the Phantom are in the Mausoleum and in the Final Lair, and the dialogue between us in the Mausoleum changes between John and Scott. In the Final Lair, how they react to me and how I say my lines to them to get the reaction I want and how angry they are with me – it really is all different and it’s all about the counter-play, so of course the performance does change every night.
Deborah: If you could play any other character in another musical, what would your dream role be?
There are lots… I’ve been fortunate enough to cover Enjolras in Les Miserables, but I’d like to go back and play Enjolras at some point. And I’d love to play Jean Valjean [in Les Miserables] – again I think I’m a bit too young for that right now. I’d like to play John or Chris in Miss Saigon – I’m waiting for that to come back! I’d like to play the Dentist in Little Shop of Horrors – I’ve never had that opportunity but I’d love to play that part, it’s a brilliant comedy part. I did a production of Company at University and I love that show, so I’d like to go back and play Bobby at some point in any production of that show.
Andi: Her Majesty’s Theatre is a very historic building. Have you ever come across anything in the dressing room that has belonged to previous actors?
Yes – every dressing room has its previous owners’ stamp. The funny thing about the Raoul dressing room is I found things from around 1995 in the drawers, like old VHS copies of Friends and the Robin Williams film Hook in there, and a sock puppet Christine. I kept that actually, it was hilarious that someone had made a sock puppet of Christine with real hair and little crystal eyes. I kept that, it’s now on my wall because I thought it was brilliant. I cleaned out all the old magazines and things, but I kept the sock puppet Christine!
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