Liis Miik - Actress
This week we caught up with actor Liis Mikk, who is currently appearing in Ellie & Starlight the Musical at Hampton Hill Theatre.

Can you tell us where you are originally from and how that compares to working as an actor in London?

I’m often mistaken for Irish, but am actually from Estonia (homeland of Skype and The Singing Revolution!) I moved to London when I was 18 and back then theatre actors in Estonia would join a local theatre company and be in rep for four years at a time. In recent years, however, more and more Estonian actors have gone freelance matching the UK way. 

You’ve had quite a varied career as a performer, can you tell us a little more about the projects you’ve taken on over the past few years? 

Varied is definitely the word! I’ve recently appeared as a pilot (we shot in a flight simulator which was cool and made me realise I should never become an actual pilot); as a rhinoceros in Eugène Ionesco’s play of the same name (complete with a mask and everything); and as an eight-year-old boy in an audio drama.

What has been your favourite project and why?

I do a lot of improv and that has taken me to different immersive events and festivals over the years. Last year was my first time performing at Boomtown where I was a part of Momentary Bliss – an immersive spiritual spa offering various treatments including chakra khan and a third eye vision test. It was a lot of fun being a part of an interactive event of such scale for five days. 

What has been the most challenging role you’ve played?

It was actually one of my first in youth theatre in Estonia. We devised a play about life in the Soviet forced labour camps, using memoirs of the people deported for creating our characters. People who had lived through the Gulag came to see the show and stayed for a conversation afterwards.

What appealed to you about Ellie & Starlight the Musical? 

Let down by parents who have been otherwise preoccupied or had their head buried in the sand, children across the world have had to become leaders in climate activism. Just like Ellie in our show they see the world’s problems with fresh eyes and have enough guts and hope to try and fix them. ‘Ellie & Starlight’ illustrates that wonderfully with beautiful songs to go with it!

How are you tackling the role of Katrin?

As with any role I think it’s less about taking on another personality and more about bringing up elements of the character already within you. I don’t have any children so I look forward to discovering my inner mum and bonding with the family! 

I also do a sort of chant/rap in the show which I will practice. A lot.

We’d like to thank Liis for her time and wish her the very best with the rest of the run.

 

This week we caught up with actor Peter F. Gardiner who plays Starlight in Ellie and Starlight the Musical.

What might we have seen you in over the past few years?

I was on TV last May in ‘A Very English Scandal’ and I played David Steel MP. The show starred Hugh Grant & Ben Whishaw. My scenes were with Ben Whishaw, an Olivier Award winning actor called Jason Watkins & an actress called Eve Myles that some people might know from Torchwood, Frankie or Broadchurch on TV.

On stage I was in The Railway Children at the Kings Cross Theatre for over 2 years playing various roles and I loved it.

Of the stage shows you’ve appeared in, what was your favourite and why?

I was in ‘This House’ at the National Theatre & that felt like a great achievement & was possibly my favourite because it was such a great story beautifully told. Also I toured America & Canada in Macbeth & The Importance of Being Earnest. These 2 shows were favourites of mine because I got to really ‘flex my acting muscles’ by having lots of exciting roles in both shows (while seeing North America which was great!)

What has been your most challenging role as an actor? 

I was in a musical called Nicked for the HighTide Festival 8 years ago & I had to sing & dance & played 3 different (real-life people) I found that to be a real challenge.

Your connection with Dramacube dates back sometime.  Can you tell us how you first started working for the company?

It does go back quite a long way & I think it started with me running Drama workshops with children on Saturday mornings in Isleworth in 2012. Although I met Steve Leslie MANY years before that in 1993 at Youth Action Theatre in Teddington. So my connection to Dramacube is really through years of doing plays with Steve at YAT.

Playing the role of Starlight the Polar Bear will undoubtedly be an interesting part to take on.  How do you plan on tackling playing an animal in the show?

I’ve played a big mammal before (I was Shere Khan the tiger in The Jungle Book) and to research that role I went to Chessington Zoo to look at the Sumatran tigers there. I’m not sure if I’ll get to a zoo (or the Arctic Circle for that matter) prior to rehearsals starting for Ellie & Starlight but I’ve already started looking at Google images of Polar Bears & making notes about their different stances. I suppose one of the good things is that Polar Bears do stand up on their hind legs (a bit) and this mirrors humans physicality. So hopefully Steve (as a director) won’t ask me to be down on the floor all the time (not with my old knees!) Bears are big so I’m hoping the costume will help pad me out a bit. I am trying to give myself a deeper, older & more gruff voice in order to be Starlight but also to help differentiate from the father role of Kristof that I also play. So the short answer to the question is physicality, voice & costume. (I might dig-out the knee-pads I have somewhere!)

As you know, we run an extensive Youth Company at Dramacube.  What advice would you give to any young actors who intend to become a performer? 

I think working as a member of a team on a play or musical or a film is the most exciting thing in the world. So enjoy it and don’t worry too much about whether it’s going to end up being your career. You learn to improve your self-confidence, your body language, develop your voice & gain great new friends ALL through drama. So first & foremost ENJOY IT!!! 

On a more technical note LEARN YOUR LINES!!! 

In terms of your future as a professional performer (although as I said earlier this really IS NOT THE BE ALL AND END ALL of participating in drama shows) it’s worth trying to get into a really good Drama School once you’re 18 or 19. But if you don’t, and if you know that being a performer is definitely ‘your thing’ carry on anyway. 

I did go to one of the ‘big’ Drama Schools in London but I didn’t actually train as a professional actor (I trained as a Drama-Therapist, this was years ago when I didn’t have the self-belief to ‘go for it’ as an actor so I chose a vocational course), so there’s more than one way to achieve your dreams if you persevere, have self-belief, perhaps get an agent & turn out to be a reliable & trustworthy performer.

I hope you enjoy the show!!!
All the very best, Peter.

We currently have a work experience student with us and as part of the rehearsal process she is keeping a diary. Here is last weeks’ entry.

Today, we rehearsed “Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim” and began “A whole new world”.

I started by running warm-up games, then I read Iago’s part, since Alfie was absent. Additionally, I interviewed Polina, who plays Jafar.

I tried to add new questions to the interview, such as “What performance would you like to see Dramacube create?” I added this question because I thought it would be interesting to see what the cast might want to perform.

Ellie Starlight Rehearsals

Interview with Kate Barton

This week we caught up with actress Kate Barton who is playing the title role of Ellie in Ellie & Starlight the Musical.

What inspired you to become an actor?

I grew up watching all the old Hollywood movies such as Carousel and Top Hat and initially I wanted to be an actor so I could work with Fred Astaire! As I got older I did regular youth theatre and realised that acting gave me a freedom and form of expression that was not always possible in real life.

Can you tell us a little about your training as an actor and what it involved? 

I trained as an actor at The Poor School in London. It was the only place that allowed you to work in the day and train every night and every weekend until public season. It was a two year course which was extremely rigorous and demanded a thick skin! The first year involved a huge number of classes in voice, text, movement and dance. I remember we had to do ‘animal studies’ (plenty of time spent at London Zoo!) and observational studies with hot seating. There were various modules including Shakespeare, poetry and Restoration theatre and we spent time doing short extracts from plays with different directors. The second year was a bit like ‘rep’. We worked on play after play in front of an invited audience before preparing for ‘public season’ in front of agents. It was exhausting but glorious!
As you know, we run an extensive Youth Company at Dramacube.  What advice would you give to any of of our young actors who are aspiring to get a place at Drama school? 
Read as many plays as you can (including classical plays) and go to see them! It can be very helpful to find a specialist to work on monologues, but it’s sometimes possible to audition without that input. Be prepared to audition many times and if you can wait, go back the next year and audition again! Drama schools have an unbelievable number of applicants and it’s important to remember that if you don’t get in. You have to keep trying! It’s worth going to do an accredited drama school, as the standards will be rigorously enforced.
Can you tell us about some of your recent projects? 
I recently worked on a play called Fast at the Edinburgh Fringe. I actually wrote the play but it was produced by a company called Digital Drama. I didn’t actually write it with the intention of taking a part, but I’m so glad that I did! It was a wonderful experience… exhausting, nerve-wracking, loud and competitive, but utterly worth every minute!

Playing Ellie will no doubt be a challenging role to take on.  How do you plan to tackle the part?

Ellie is a beautiful role and I am lucky that she has been thought out so carefully by the playwright Ken Mason. Like all roles, I look at the overall objectives for the character and then break down what they want (and how they’re going to get it!) for each moment of the play. I also think about what stops a character from getting what they want.
As Ellie is a fairly young character, I am spending time remembering my childhood (and my imaginary games) and chatting to children in the family who are about the same age!
Children in Twickenham rehearse Aladdin

Rehearsal Diary – Saturday 9th February

Children from Twickenham and Hampton rehearse Aladdin

Aladdin Rehearsals

We currently have a work experience student with us, and as part of the rehearsal process she is keeping a diary.  Here is last weeks’ entry.

Today, we spent a lot of the rehearsal time choreographing “Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim”.

I asked Emily, who plays Babkak, what she thought of this dance.  She told me “I found it a very fun and energetic dance, although it can be very tiring!”.

I helped by conducting warm-up games, as well as writing and conducting my first interview with Lily, who plays the genie (see video on social media).

I enjoyed this rehearsal because I had an interesting insight into aspects of theatre which I’ve never really experienced before, such as the interview I conducted.  Megan W.

Actor Peter F. Gardiner

Peter F. Gardiner plays Starlight 

Actor Peter F. Gardiner

Peter F. Gardiner plays Starlight in Ellie and Starlight the Musical

Theatre credits include:  Understudy on Some Mother’s Do Ave Em UK Tour Butler and Doctor in The Railway Children Kings Cross Theatre. Macbeth, Comedy of Errors & The Secret Garden at the Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre, Chester. The Porter & Policeman in A Little Hotel On The Side at the Theatre Royal Bath, Ensemble & Understudy in This House for the National Theatre, Jack Worthing in The Importance of Being Earnest and Banquo in Macbeth both for Aquila Theatre Company (New York). Ed Balls, David Davies and Danny Alexander in the musical Nicked for the HighTide Festival. Dr Ballard in Vertigo and Charles Dodgson in Alice in Wonderland both for the Oxfordshire Theatre Company. Understudied and played the role of Deeping in Balmoral at the Theatre Royal Bath, Mac in Hapgood directed by Rachel Kavanaugh at the Birmingham Rep. Mel in A Trip to Scarborough directed by Alan Ayckbourn at the Stephen Joseph Theatre. Perks in The Railway Children (The King’s Head Theatre). Shere Khan in The Jungle Book (Birmingham Stage Company). The Player King in Hamlet (Merlin International Theatre Budapest – Hungary). The Sheriff of Nottingham in The Legend of Robin Hood (Oddsocks Productions). Both Dromio’s in Comedy of Errors and Absalom in ‘The Canterbury Tales’ (The Festival Players).

TV credits include: A Very English Scandal, Eastenders, Waterloo Road, Frankie, Doctors, Emmerdale & Days that Shook the World.

Audio / Radio work includes: Macbeth by Almost Tangible.

Interview with Stephen Leslie – Director of Ellie & Starlight

This week we caught up with Stephen Leslie, director of Ellie & Starlight the Musical.

Can you tell us how you came to first direct?

Having worked as an actor for eight years, it was an obvious transition to move into directing so initially I volunteered at Youth Action Theatre in Teddington and the Riverside Youth Theatre in Sunbury, where I was able to direct large-cast productions with young people aged 12 and up.

I enjoyed directing and felt I wanted to develop this skill further so applied for an internship at TheatreWorks in Hartford, C.T, where I worked with Broadway director Rob Ruggiero on a production of The Lonesome West with a small cast including Hollywood actress Susan Pourfar.

When returning to the UK, I continued to work with local Youth Theatre, before taking on Alan Ayckbourn’s Confusions at the Baron’s Court Theatre in West London and working with StopWatch theatre company, directing various touring shows. 

I then directed several corporate projects, including live events and video shoots, before forming Dramacube where I’ve produced and directed numerous productions with our Youth Company including; Annie Jr., Elf the Musical Jr., Peter Pan Jr. and Alice in Wonderland Jr.

What inspired you to direct Ellie and Starlight the Musical?

The subject matter is very close to my heart and I could see the potential to match two areas I feel passionate about, the environment and musical theatre.

I felt the story would make a lovely children’s show, and having worked on some excellent children’s theatre as an actor, I had an idea in my mind of what the show should be. 

Have you been involved in writing the show?

Indirectly yes! I contacted playwright Ken Mason and asked if he would be willing to have a go at adapting the story for the stage.  Ken read Ellie & Starlight and was keen to get involved so I then spoke with composer William Morris, who I’d worked with in 2015 on Fame Jr.  William was equally keen so I arranged a meeting between the two of them, plus Sarah Watson who wrote the original story and the creative process began!

What have you enjoyed the most about developing the script?

This has been a completely new experience for me and I’ve loved every minute! Watching a team of brilliant creative people work their magic and seeing the script and score take shape has been truly inspiring. 

I recently spent a day working with Ken and William, and was amazed at their ability to create something so special based on a short discussion or suggestion.  The script and music is exactly what I’d hoped for and I really can’t wait to see the show.

What are your hopes for Ellie & Starlight beyond the run at Hampton Hill Theatre?

Ellie & Starlight is a really important show because it shares a message we all need to be reminded of.  We must start to take care of our planet and stop being so excessive in our life-styles.  I’d love to see the show tour the UK, reaching thousands of children, and potentially tour oversees. 

We’d like to thank Stephen for this time and wish his every success with Ellie & Starlight the Musical.

Actress Liis Mikk

Liis Mikk plays Katrin

Actress Liis Mikk plays Katrin in Ellie Starlight the Musical at Hampton Hill Theatre

Liis Mikk is originally from Estonia. She has lived and worked in London for the last 12 years.

Her recent theatre credits include Lady in ‘Lady of Stavoren’ with Over the Pond Productions (2018); Stephanie in ‘Bare Essentials’ with Encompass Productions (2017); Speechmaker in ‘Rhino’ with LUXE (2017); Máire Uí Dhomhnaill in ‘Cailleach Óg’ with Blackshaw (2017); Woman in ‘The Ones’ with Urbn Theatr (2016); Chorus in ‘The Bacchae’ with Lazarus Theatre Company (2016).

Liis is also one of the founding London cast members of the internationally acclaimed musical comedy act Show-Waiters and has performed at high profile events all over Europe.

Ellie Starlight coming to Hampton Hill Theatre

Kate Barton plays Ellie

Actress Kate Barton to play Ellie

Kate Barton to appear in Ellie and Starlight the Musical at Hampton Hill Theatre

Kate Barton is a playwright and actor.  She trained at The Poor School and with Shakespeare’s Globe practitioner Emily Jenkins.  Recent credits include Dora in the ‘highly recommended’, 5* production of Fast at the Edinburgh Fringe, Ava in the award winning animation Being Good (Paris Art and Movie Awards and the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards), voice over work for Audible and classical theatre roles including Kate in Taming of the Shrew and Richard in Richard II, both of which received Best Actor nominations.

Kate has an MSt in Creative Writing from Cambridge University and her final-year play Fast received a Distinction and the Kate Bertram prize from Lucy Cavendish College and is now under contract to Digital Drama.  Kate enjoys writing for radio and stage and has worked on commissions for the International Youth Arts Festival and the Museum of London.  She is currently working on drafts for a London run of her play.

Twickenham and Hampton Hill casts

Production Photos 

We are delighted to share the beautiful production photos from The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe.

Please click here to view.

To order photos please contact Bomi Cooper by emailing bomicooperphotography@yahoo.com with the file numbers you would like to order.

Digital copies are priced at £4.