Robert Gordon: ‘In musical theatre, sing as part of an ongoing drama, not to show technical virtuosity’
How did you start teaching musical theatre?
I seized an opportunity in 2003 to introduce an MA in musical theatre that filled a need for the training of writers and producers.
What’s your best advice for musical theatre students today?
Be resourceful and independent-minded enough to use your skills actively and creatively in a variety of work contexts. Try to maintain your own love of the art form in a profession dominated by commercial values.
What would you change about drama training in the UK?
Make training as focused on the development of a creative attitude to theatremaking as on the acquisition of performance skills. Training should provide tools to enable creative practice and enable the development of flexible approaches to working. The new BA in musical theatre at Goldsmiths (from September 2018) allows students to specialise in directing, producing and teaching musical theatre as well as performing. It will encourage a self-directed, self-critical approach to learning. I hope my graduates will be successful enough to persuade industry professionals to be more open-minded in supporting new developments in musical theatre.
What is the best part of your job?
Sharing my enthusiasm for the subject with students passionate about musical theatre.
And your least favourite?
Government-imposed university bureaucracy.
Which practitioners should students look up to?
Stephen Sondheim, Kander and Ebb, Audra McDonald, Imelda Staunton, Philip Quast, Maria Friedman and Trevor Nunn.
What one skill does every musical theatre student need to have?
To sing as part of an ongoing drama rather than demonstrating technical virtuosity.
What is the difference between studying musical theatre at undergraduate and postgraduate level?
Undergraduate study introduces you to all the relevant elements and the means to develop them. Postgraduate work focuses on specialist areas at a more advanced level.
Robert Gordon was talking to John Byrne