Doctor and actor Edward Crook funded his training at LAMDA by working shifts in hospitals. As part of a series of Q&As celebrating the contributions of theatremakers during the coronavirus crisis, he tells Giverny Masso how acting is giving him a creative outlet during the Covid-19 crisis…
How did you get into acting?
I used to play and sing at open mic nights [during medical school], but I hadn’t really done many plays before. I applied for a musical, Footloose, and I got one of the lead roles, which was probably the best experience I had at university. Then I thought: ‘If I want to do acting, I’ve got to take it as seriously as medicine.’ I started doing doing more and more plays, applied to get into LAMDA and luckily got in first time. But I thought: ‘How am I going to afford this?’, and my medicine job is quite well paid, so I started locuming – which is like freelancing. I worked day and night to pay for the course, and came up short, but luckily the Carne Trust paid for the rest of it, after I wrote to them saying: “Unfortunately I can’t afford to go.”
What jobs have you had so far?
I graduated in 2018. I used to work all the holidays to pay for living, and then straight after finishing at LAMDA I started working back in a hospital.Then I got a job in HBO’s Watchmen, which was an amazing thing to do. After that, I worked on Rosa Hesmondhalgh’s play In Place of Fear at the Pleasance Theatre in London. That was an R&D about NHS workers, and I played various roles. I was due to play Judge Brack in Hedda Gabler at the Greenwich Theatre when this all broke out.
How do you balance acting and medicine?
I’ve been a doctor for seven years now, and for the first four it was more medical – working in wards. Then I spoke to to Esh Alladi, who is another doctor and a really fantastic actor, and he said he works in A&E because it’s a lot more flexible – you can pick and choose your shifts – so that’s what I’ve been doing until now.
What has adapting A&E for the Covid-19 pandemic been like?
We’re working in an A&E that’s all one room, but there are bits that are cordoned off. It’s all within one environment and it’s all closed in, so how protected we are I don’t know. It’s getting worse and worse, and we’ve new ventilators that the government has paid for. [We’ve prepared] to have it almost like a war zone.
How is your acting experience helping you through this time?
It gives me another focus when I’m back at home. I’ve been working with acting coaches to improve different accents while I’m off – it gives me another outlet, so I feel I’m progressing while I’m at work [in A&E]. Also it has helped with people skills, especially with kids. It also gives you something else to have a chat about. Members of staff always find it really interesting, which is useful, because otherwise all you’ve got is everyone being trapped inside their house and then work.
Training: Foundation in acting at LAMDA (2016-18)
First professional role: Mr Phillips in HBO’s Watchmen (2019)
Agent: None (currently supported by the Television Workshop while seeking an agent)