BILLY SUTER chats to newcomer WILLIAM YOUNG, who has the lead role in KickstArt’s revival of the hit pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, last staged in 2013. The spectacle, directed by Steven Stead and designed by Greg King, opened on December 8 and runs until January 15 at Durban’s Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre. Tickets range in price from R130 to R250 and booking is at Computicket.
NOTE: For my review of “Jack and the Beanstalk” click here: https://wp.me/p8dL0W-7eI
DOES “JACK AND THE BEANSTALK” MARK YOUR PROFESSIONAL DEBUT? ALSO, WHAT THOUGHTS ON THE ROLE AND JOINING THE KICKSTART FAMILY?
It does! I’m very excited and honoured. It’s such a fun show and I’ve been watching the KickstArt pantomime every year for as long I can remember, wanting to be on the stage. It’s really a full-circle moment!
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO PEOPLE TO ENCOURAGE THEM TO SEE “JACK AND THE BEANSTALK”?
It’s such an awesome and hilarious show for the whole family, from the youngest child to their grandparents. and everywhere in between, There is something for everyone. It’s also such an incredibly talented bunch of actors that I can’t wait to share the stage with them. Plus KickstArt never fails to delight audiences. The cast includes Bryan Hiles, Blessing Xaba, Lyle Buxton, Liesl Coppin, Shelley McLean, Iain ‘Ewok” Robinson and Roshanda Lewis.
I UNDERSTAND DIRECTOR STEVEN STEAD STARTED TO SEE YOU IN THE ROLE AFTER YOU DID ONLINE TUITION WITH HIM DURING YOUR MATRIC YEAR.
Yes, it was during lockdown, when Steven started some online acting classes. It was a phenomenal experience for me. Still being in high school and getting one-on-one classes with such an accomplished professional, and the opportunity to work on my craft, was such an advantage.
I REMEMBER YOU AS A STANDOUT IN THE YOUNG PERFORMERS’ PROJECT MUSICAL, “CURTAIN UP”, AT THE ELIZABETH SNEDDON THEATRE. HOW MANY (AND WHICH) MUSICALS DID YOU PERFORM IN AS PART OF THAT PROJECT … AND WHAT WAS MOST MEMORABLE ABOUT THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE?
Unfortunately, Curtain Up was my only Young Performer’ Project musical because I didn’t know about the project before that. I wish I had done more because it was so great to meet and develop relationships with cast members that you’d never have crossed paths with otherwise. That was the most memorable part of that experience for me. It was such an amazing growth opportunity to be a part of such a large-scale, detailed show at that age.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST ENJOYABLE EXPERIENCE ON STAGE SO FAR?
Ah, that’s such a hard one! There have been so many enjoyable experiences. The Young Performers’ Project was one, performing with the Kearsney College Choir nationally and internationally was another. Then there were the shows Our House and Pippin , with the Waterfront Theatre School in Cape Town, where I now study, and working at Stardust Diner in Woodstock (a theatrical restaurant with singing and dancing waiters). Each time, it seems to be because of the people that I love it so much.
WHERE AND WHEN WERE YOU BORN – AND ARE THERE OTHER SHOWBIZ FOLK IN YOUR FAMILY?
I was born in Durban in 2002. My gran used to love theatre and performed a lot. She also played piano, which inspired me to play piano. Also, my sister does drama at school and everyone in my family loves some good music and a good party.
WHERE DID YOU ATTEND JUNIOR AND HIGH SCHOOL? ALSO, WHERE AND FOR HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN STUDYING PERFORMING ARTS?
I went to Highbury Preparatory School and to Kearsney College, where I matriculated in the dreaded 2020. I’m currently in my second year at The Waterfront Theatre School.
AT WHAT AGE WERE YOU FIRST BITTEN BY THE ACTING BUG?
It was when I watched KickstArt’s Cinderella. I can’t remember exactly how old I was then, but I recall asking my mom how I could be on stage instead of in the audience.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN SINGING – AND WHAT FORMAL TUITION, IF ANY, IN THIS REGARD?
I sang in choir throughout my Highbury and Kearsney years, and started classical singing lessons in 2018, then moved to contemporary at the end of 2019. I have been training in all styles at The Waterfront Theatre School since the beginning of last year.
I’ve been playing piano since I was six or seven, and violin since I was 10. I have been doing tap, jazz, ballet, street and modern dancing since the beginning of last year at The Waterfront Theatre School.
HAVE YOU WON ANY ACCOLADES/AWARDS AS A PERFORMER?
A few throughout school years.
HOW LONG WILL ‘JACK’ KEEP YOU BUSY AND WHERE TO FOR YOU AFTER THAT?
The show runs until mid-January. After that I’ll be going straight back to Cape Town to start my third year at The Waterfront Theatre School and to keep working at Stardust Diner.
WHO ARE SOME ENTERTAINMENT PERSONALITIES THAT YOU MOST ADMIRE?
Thuso Mbedu (born in Pietermaritzburg), because it’s amazing to see a South African performer in Hollywood… and her performance in the film The Woman King was incredible. I also admire Ben Platt because I really love and connect with his music, especially the album Sing to Me Instead. I also admire Oprah Winfrey for her way with people. But there are so many performers I admire… it would take too long to list them all!.
WHAT ARE TWO DREAM STAGE ROLES?
King George in Hamilton and Evan Hansen in Dear Evan Hansen.
WHAT ARE YOUR SHORT-TERM AND LONG-TERM AMBITIONS?
Short-term is to work hard while still at college and hone my skills while also working on myself as a person. Long-term? I want to do whatever makes me happy.
WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON THE ARTS SCENE IN SOUTH AFRICA? AND ANY SUGGESTIONS ON HOW THINGS COULD IMPROVE?
I think the arts in South Africa are deeply under-appreciated because our country is genuinely overflowing with talent and just doesn’t get the support it deserves. Things could improve if we would just support the arts and artists more!
WHAT ARE FIVE WORDS YOU WOULD CHOOSE TO DESCRIBE YOUR STRENGTHS? AND WHAT FIVE WORDS HIGHLIGHT YOUR WEAKNESSES?
Strengths: empathy, inclusivity, social skills, solution-orientated, positivity. Weaknesses: over-thinking, ‘los-kop’, procrastination, over-committed, people-pleaser.
WHAT ARE FIVE THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF (HOWEVER TRIVIAL) THAT THE GENERAL PUBLIC IS NOT LIKELY TO KNOW?
I’m naturally quite a shy person at first. I am a major dog-lover. I eat A LOT and love food! I’ve read all the Harry Potter books about seven times. I love living in Cape Town.
APART FROM PERFORMING, HOW DO YOU LIKE TO SPEND YOU TIME?
I really enjoy going to the gym and CrossFit, hiking, going to the beach, reading and watching series and movies. I love doing just about anything with people I care about.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST EMBARRASSING, OR OTHERWISE MOST MEMORABLE THING, THAT HAS HAPPENED TO YOU ON A STAGE?
While we were recording Our House at Artscape last year, and just before I went on for a scene, the sole of my shoe started to flap. So I ripped them both off very quickly, I then had to do my bit – run then push my friend Brandon across the stage. While doing that, I fell flat on my face but just had to get up and continue as if nothing had happened.
HOW DO YOU PLAN TO SPEND YEAR’S EVE?
I spent Christmas with my family and ‘second family’ at either our home or theirs, like we do every year. On New Year’s Eve I will be performing at Stardust.
THE MOST FAMOUS PERSON YOU HAVE MET – AND WHO WOULD YOU GIVE GOLD TO MEET?
The most famous person I have met is Thuso Mbedu. It was during The Young Performers’ Project when she sat in at a rehearsal or two. She helped us, gave us some words of wisdom, and also watched the show during our run. I would give gold to meet (musical theatre composer) Jason Robert Brown. I love his work.
HOBBIES, PASTIMES AND FAVOURITE THINGS?
I love doing anything with good company. My friends mean the world to me.
WHAT FIVE THINGS WOULD YOU LIST UNDER ‘VASTLY OVERRATED’?
Truffle oil, tomato sauce, New Year’s Eve, The Kardashians and vaping.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST SURPRISING THING SOMEONE HAS SAID OF YOU?
When I was told I had got the lead in Pippin in our yearly musical at the Waterfront Theatre School. I was grateful and pleasantly surprised!
WHAT HAS BEEN THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR YEAR SO FAR?
It has to be playing Pippin in Pippin, the musical, at The Waterfront Theatre School with the inimitable Paul Griffiths directing. A definite highlight.
WHAT ARE YOUR FEARS AND PHOBIAS?
I’m surprisingly terrified of cockroaches. I think it’s because of my mom…
WHAT ARE TWO OF YOUR MOST TREASURED MATERIAL POSSESSIONS?
I absolutely love my computer. I use it all the time, for everything from work to Netflix. I also love my car – it’s so freeing.
WHAT IS THE MOST PAINFUL THING YOU HAVE ENDURED?
Suppressing my queerness, which I have learnt is a big part of any identity, throughout school. That definitely was one of the most painful things. Not only because I felt like I wasn’t living my truth (I don’t like saying ‘living a lie’) and accepting and growing comfortable with myself, but because when anything negative was said about the LTBTQIAP+ I felt too fearful to stand up against it.
ANY OTHER NEWS OR COMMENTS?
Always be kind!