Martin Atkinson: actor
Actor Martin Atkinson, who comes from Norfolk, trained in performing arts/acting at City College Norwich. He spent two years in TIE then joined Blunderbus children’s theatre company in 2012, playing a mouse, a crocodile, an owl and an ethereal being. Martin is now on tour with Birmingham Stage Company in Horrible Histories: Barmy Britain.
What is your role in Barmy Britain?
I’m understudy for all four parts, two of which are women. They each play many, many characters and at first there was no point trying to learn a specific role; I just had to get the whole play in there somehow. Some of them are minute, like the differences between two Vikings but it’s 50-plus, including both Burke and Hare and the whole country of Germany. I’m an actor but it’s almost been beneficial being ASM as well because I get to be around the show even when I’m not in it and to absorb all I can through osmosis. It’s coming on great guns.
How often do you get to go on?
Some weeks are busier than others. I do the props and backstage ASM stuff and then three weeks in a row I’ve been on quite a lot. I’ve done the main characters of Rog and the girl’s part, Esmerelda. She becomes a bloke, Eric. When I go on for the female parts and the lights come up and the children see me dressed as Queen Elizabeth they laugh for maybe five to ten seconds and then we just carry on with the scene. It doesn’t bother them. They just accept it and we have a really great time. It’s been good to get onstage, obviously. I love performing for children. They’re very honest, which is refreshing. If they don’t like it, they’ll tell you.
Can such a vital understudy ever be ill?
[Laughs] In the last three weeks I’d say that definitely wasn’t an option. What’s great about it is that I get to keep building. Each character is always developing. It’s an on-going process.
How much fun is the tour?
Goodness me, it’s an absolute hoot. It’s very, very, very funny and the sketches are hilarious and because there’s so much interaction you just can’t predict what the kids are going to come out with. It makes it a lot of fun.
What’s next for you?
After this tour I’m going to do understudy and ASM for Barmy Britain: Part 2 at London’s Garrick in the summer. Then it’s back to this show from September to December. So I’ve got to keep on the ball. And whenever I’m not on tour I volunteer at my local theatre, Diss Corn Hall, which is under threat. We’re looking at matched funding because there are massive structural problems, which in the long term could cause its closure.
Horrible Histories: Barmy Britain is at The Mayflower, Southampton from April 16-20 and on tour until July 19.
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