This Throwback Thursday, Sarah Day speaks to Karl Queensborough as he waits to get back into the room where it happens in Hamilton.
What was your first ever show that you did as a kid, and what was it that got you into the theatre world?
The first one that sticks out was ‘A Christmas Carol’ I played ‘Bob Cratchit’ that was where I really started to enjoy the process of acting, it was the early sparks of passion that formed a career I wanted to pursue. I was around 9 when I did that show. I wanted to play Scrooge though!
Congratulations on playing the iconic role of Alexander Hamilton! What’s it like being in ‘the room where it happens’?
Still have to pinch myself that I get to play this enormous role. The journey he goes on throughout the piece is nothing short of spectacular. If you told me a few years back I’d be rapping on stage in an American accent for living, I’d think something was wrong with you. For me it’s always my first entrance, my first line is saying my characters name. And the audience’s reactions make you feel like you’re meant to be there. The energy is fantastic. I miss it. Back very soon though!
Tell us about the final night before the industry shut down for the pandemic. What went through your mind, and what are you most excited about for its return?
Funnily enough, I actually wasn’t in the country when it all shut down. I was on holiday in Dubai for that final week of theatre. The timing of it all was insane, I left for Dubai and never came back to do Hamilton again! But the week before I went away you could see more & more people with face masks in the audience. And us as a cast speculating if the show would actually close or not. The day after I came back from holiday the borders were shut in Dubai, so couldn’t have timed it better if I tried to!
What is your process when you get into character for a show?
My discovery begins in rehearsals, forming relationships with your scene partners. You can have an idea of how a character will be portrayed by others, but its not until you get into the room where the real work begins and you collaborate with the director to match your visions of the character/piece together. Getting on your feet and exploring that world, I’m a big fan of text analysis (Stanislavski) doing all that homework before the 1st day. Sometimes staying a little longer after rehearsals are finished to explore things physically too (Michael Chekhov). Having the text embodied in you so it’s not a line learning exercise but speaking from a place of truth.
Why is theatre important to you?
It offers escapism for people. Think about it, you’re in a room filled with hundreds of strangers & as you get immersed you forget about them & get sucked into the storyline. Those moments where you forget you’re watching a performance. It’s a chance for friends & families to come together & embrace art. Be entertained or moved to tears or holding your sides with laughter.
The theatre industry is calling out for more diversity in their casts, creatives and crew. Tell us what this means to you. Do you feel a positive atmosphere change or does our industry still have a long way to go?
There is still a long way to go for sure. What you see on stage should represent the world we live in. Every person in that audience should see themselves on stage, especially young people too. So they know it’s possible for them to reach those goals. Not only that, backstage needs a massive change for diversity. I can count on one hand how many non-white people I’ve seen working backstage making the shows happen every night. And I’ve been doing this 13 years now. We all need someone to confide and relate to.
How have you been keeping creative during lockdown?
Yeah, I’ve certainly been trying my best. Voiceover work has been my saving grace this past year. I’ve taken the time to update my showreel, partake in online workshops, get new headshots, starring in some short films, write music & network. But also realising it’s important to rest & recharge too.
Tell us about one of your best/funniest memories on stage?
Nothing will prepare you for doing a Cabinet Battle scene in Hamilton and having the crouch of your costume rip because you wanted to be cockney and attempt some sort of air guitar jump. And I’m not talking a small rip, it was almost down to my knees (Thank god we have several layers underneath). Had to stay on stage for almost 20 minutes after that. Hamilton does a lot! Nothing like live theatre, eh?
If your life were a show what would it be called, and why?
‘A million things that go’
(Because I’m a very active person, a true extrovert. And that’s why I use meditation to calm my mind and be more present. Don’t get me wrong, I love my energy & you need that as an actor but it’s good to know when to use it to your benefit)
It has been a really tough year for new actors graduating into the industry. What advice would you give to all the new graduates?
Just to know that everyone is in the same boat here. And industry folk know what you’ve gone through too. Not getting an agent straight after drama school isn’t the end of the world at all. There are always ways to connect, to network & meet new people. Also, be excited about the abundance of theatre, TV & film that will come flooding in. Plenty of opportunity!
Keep working on your craft, your voice & your physical well-being. The training never stops, I graduated in 2015 & I’m still learning as I go along! Look after your mental health too.
Hamilton the musical returns to the Victoria Palace Theatre from 19 August 2021.