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.