My first job was a 1989 production of Teechers by John Godber at the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative. That sounds like a great phrase to use for a vocal warm-up, but was actually a wing attached to Willesden High School. Secondary school pupils would come from all over the local borough to see the play and do workshops afterwards focused on “Why school?” and “Why work?”.
I was new to acting but my career was starting from a very good foundation. I had joined the very multicultural and diverse Ealing Young People’s Theatre. The director, who was also my mentor, came across an advert in Loot for aspiring actors who wanted to work towards their 40-week requirement to get an Equity card. The ad asked applicants to submit 500 words about why they wanted to pursue a career in acting. This was followed up by a meeting and reading with the director who had shortlisted the applicants. I was chosen alongside two other actors.
I’d had a certain sense of bravado that vanished as soon as we started the dress run in front of observers from the other departments at the TVEI. I remember getting an involuntary muscle spasm on one side of my upper lip. Thankfully I’d had some basic experience of performing in front of an audience with youth theatre. I drew on the breathing and relaxation techniques I’d already learned.
The show ended up running for six months, and the experience really helped me build confidence. There’s no audience more critical than 80 school pupils, twice a day, believe me. The advice I would still give actors today is always to warm up, physically, vocally and mentally. Be prepared for anything and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Learn and develop as many skills as you possibly can – as I discovered on my first job, you never know when you may need them.
Training: Rose Bruford College
Theatre credits include: Reclaimed, Intimacy, The Jungle Book, Leave to Remain, The Optimist’s Daughters
TV and film credits include: Britz, The Bill, Moses Jones, Viva Liberty, Jack Higgins’ The Midnight Man, The Fifth Element, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Confine
Agent: Nelson Browne Management
Riz Meedin will be playing the title role in Proteus Theatre’s Macbeth in the new year. He was talking to John Byrne