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Bally Gill: ‘I never thought I could work with the Royal Shakespeare Company’

Bally Gill

Bally Gill graduated from drama school in 2015. Since then he has starred alongside Steven Berkoff and Sanjeev Bhaskar and, as he tells Tim Bano, by the end of the year will have performed in every space at the Royal Shakespeare Company…

Have you always wanted to act?

I was interested when I was about 16. I never did it when I was younger, I was a very shy child so my dad was always trying to get me to be more sociable. I did football, I did mixed martial arts and then I remember one day coming back on the train – I think we’d watched a musical – and I said to my dad: “I want to try acting.” He said: “I don’t know if you’re going to be any good at that because you’re so shy,” but I wanted to try. I went into the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry in a writing group, then as an actor in the black and ethnic minorities group, and I worked my way up into the senior youth group and met a really great teacher who told me to convince my mum and dad that I should go to drama school. That took a bit of persuading.

What was it like performing with Steven Berkoff and Sanjeev Bhaskar in Dinner With Saddam straight out of drama school?

It was really quite humbling. Steven wasn’t there for the first week so they asked me to read in the part of Saddam. I’m reading opposite one of the legends of Asian actors, Sanjeev, and I’m going: “Bloody hell, when in hell did I think I was going to get here?” I had one line at the end and I completely missed it because I was in awe of all these guys, these people you watch growing up. Even when I wasn’t needed I would sit around the table and take notes on something physical Steven would do or the way Sanjeev would construct a joke. It was like being at drama school again.

Now you’ve developed a relationship with the Royal Shakespeare Company…

I can’t rate these guys enough. They are the best in the world at what they do. Within two years of graduating, I will have done every space at the RSC – not many people can say that. I have to pinch myself every time. I never thought I’d be here. I always thought: “I am never going to work in a place like this, they are never going to employ me for anything,” someone like me who is from Coventry, who didn’t really have a background in performance. We didn’t have drama at secondary school, I had to actively seek it out and hid it from people. I came from a little bit of a rough area so I was always very scared to tell some of the people that lived in my area that I was an actor. It has been a journey in terms of people accepting what I do, but it’s working for me now. All of the dedication and the hard work and sacrifice is paying off. It’s a great feeling to have.

Now that you’ve conquered the RSC, what do you want to do next?

I’m always wanting to strive to do more, to have more responsibility. I want to work with the educational department here [at the RSC] to help them reach out to people such as myself who never really had acting as an outlet. Getting more people from a diverse background into the theatre is something I’m very interested in pursuing. That thing of going: “I never thought I was going to work here,” and you go: “Well you can.” It’s doable. You can be from anywhere and you can do it.

CV: Bally Gill

Training: Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance (2015)
First professional role: Dinner With Saddam, Menier Chocolate Factory, London (2015)
Agent: Jonathan Arun

Bally Gill is in Vice Versa at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon until September 9

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