Performer Mark Willshire talked to students about his career after landing the lead role in a hit musical. Mark plays the part of Ash Sherwood in 'Never Forget' about a Take That tribute band. The show, which features many of the band's early classics, has been touring the UK since March and finishes in February next year.
Mark is currently performing at Northampton's Derngate and so came to Brooke Weston to talk to the GCSE performing arts students about his experiences. It is the first time he has visited a school to give a talk and the students posed questions about popular talent shows such as the X Factor and the realities of life as a performer.
He said: 'It's hard work because I'm the leading character so I'm not off stage that much. If I am I'm mainly changing into my next costume. It's been really challenging for me but I'm doing a job that I love to do and I can't picture myself doing anything else. This is a breakthrough role for me; it's the first time I've had a big part, let alone the lead.'
Mark and the rest of the cast put on seven performances each week and it can be physically demanding: 'I'm constantly being challenged by everything on stage because I'm interacting with so many people. It is physically tiring though it's not the most physically tiring show I've ever done but it's quite mentally tiring; you do have to be constantly switched on.'
The show, which has also had a West End run, is a definite crowd-pleaser: 'Every night the audience are up on their feet dancing at the end of the show. This show thrives on how receptive the audience are. It offers a good night out, it's not trying to be the most complex musical in the whole world but everyone comes away on a high.'
Although the acting profession is notoriously unpredictable, Mark can't envisage himself in any other career: 'I started when I was seven and have never looked back since. I knew around 14 that's that what I wanted to do. I knew I didn't want to go and sit behind a desk for another two years and do A Levels. There was nothing else I could picture myself doing. Not many people are fortunate enough to do a job that they love. I trained for three years at Laine Theatre Arts in Surrey and I was lucky enough before I graduated to know that I was going into a job.'
Mark dances, sings and acts, but his dream role would be in a blockbuster Hollywood action film although he describes himself as a performer rather than categorises himself solely into one discipline: 'I'd love to be in a film, maybe a fantasy one like Lord of the Rings, something like that. I want to do everything. I'd love to have an album out of songs that I've written. I'd love to be acting in a film…'
His advice for anyone who wants to have a career in performing arts is to take a long-term view, regardless of any negative comments you may receive: 'I look back now and can smile at it and I knew then I was going to make something of myself. That would be my advice, to persevere.'
Mr Duguid said: 'It was great to welcome Mark to Brooke Weston, he gave the students the inside-track on what it's like to work in the industry and was happy to answer their questions. That, coupled with the fact that the students will see Mark performing on stage when we go to see the production will really prove inspirational.'