Growing up as an aspiring artist in a world with an extremely narrow mind of what success in the theatre industry looks like does bring its challenges. I can imagine that many of us aspiring thespians out there have experienced similar emotions as we sat across from our parents announcing our plans for drama school… I think we all know how that went. Let’s hope time does really heal and those crushing conversations are stripped from memory.
However, it is in fact possible to empathise with these concerned parents. Having built a reputation of being an extremely harsh, unwelcoming environment, entering a creative industry is daunting. For all the West End and Broadway stars that have made it into the limelight, there are a plethora of those who have not. We often mistake the limelight for success and forget there are theatre-makers establishing their careers in all sorts of communities. Becoming a household name is not the only way to be successful on the stage. Local theatres need set designers, essential to the Edinburgh Fringe are inventive writers and where would we all be without our beloved Christmas pantos? No production has ever been created by a single being. It’s impossible. As a cohesive endeavour, there are a number of jobs available and us theatre lovers have the extreme fortune of the possibility of being paid to do something we love. As Palatinate celebrates its 75th anniversary, let’s take a look back at some Durham alumni who have achieved success in the theatre world and taken advantage of the wider industry that could offer us more opportunities than we think.
Tim FitzHigham is a comedian and also a world record holder, although self-confessed daredevil might be a more appropriate description! Having been a part of St Chad’s College, Fitzhigam went on the comedians’ pilgrimage to the Edinburgh Fringe and it was here in 1999 that he was nominated for the Perrier Comedy Award for Best Newcomer. His success at the Fringe continued in 2000 when he won a Spirit of the Fringe Award. Having worked with the BBC, presenting on CBBC and continued performances at the Fringe, FitzHigham has rocked the theatre world. As far as world records go, he possibly has the best world record title ever. FitzHigham paddled a paper boat down 257.5km of the River Thames raising £10,000 for comic relief! He has also rowed a bathtub across the English Channel and inflated the world’s largest man-inflated balloon.
Kristen Buckmaster became a stage manager after having studied English and History at Durham. She went on to complete an MA in Stage and Event Management at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. In her career, Buckmaster has worked on a wide range of shows from Legally Blonde the Musical to Our Town. Some of the many theatres she has worked in include the Bristol Old Vic Theatre, Old Vic, and Aldwych Theatre. Her passions lie in piecing together collaborative work and new drama. A prime example that work does actually go on behind the scenes, Buckmaster has tackled an insane amount of productions and is an inspiration to us all with her clear passion for the arts.
Having studied English at St Mary’s, Ambika Mod was part of the Durham Revue and was also president. This is where she discovered her love for comedy! With the Revue, she went to the Fringe. She recently starred in the BBC’s This is Going to Hurt, her first major role in television. A devoted comedian, she started out doing comedy by night, after her day job as a personal assistant for Condé Nast. As a regular performer at The Free Association in London and having established herself as a performer at Durham, Mod shows us a career as a performer is something that is within reach.
Naz Osmanoglu graduated from Durham in 2008 from Van Mildert College. Another comedian who started out in the Durham Revue, Osmanoglu is a member of the sketch trio ‘WitTank’, who have featured on BBC Three. Osmanoglu is Anglo-Turkish and visited Turkey in 2015 where he performed some stand-up shows. He has also performed at the Fringe and appeared in a BBC Three series called Flat TV. Taking his hilarity international, he is an inspiration for aspiring comedians.
Opportunity is out there! The stars that line our newspaper headlines are not the only people in the world of theatre. Unexpected opportunities are there and remind us that we should strive to be the best theatre-maker we can be. Strive to inspire, even just one individual, as that can hold more power than any level of fame can.
Image credit: Jonatan Moerman Via Unsplash