Hailed “a gut-busting hit” by the New York Times, The Play That Goes Wrong is now in its seventh year in the West End and is currently on tour around the UK. Starring as Trevor, I had the honour of chatting with actor Gabriel Paul last week ahead of the show coming to The Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham.
How is everything going so far?
It’s been going great – we’ve been selling out! We starting in Bath on April 20th, we have been up to North Wales, back down to South End, and then to Leicester.
What can the Birmingham audience expect from the The Play That Goes Wrong?
It’s a play about the Cornley Drama Society who are a bunch of amateur actors and they are putting on a 1920s murder mystery. As the title of the show suggests, everything that can go wrong, does go wrong.
There’s a lot of slapstick and because so many things go wrong everything has to be timed so perfectly, what preparation have you had to do for your role?
I’m lucky because I’ve been involved in this show since 2017, and that can be said for the majority of the cast too – we’ve all had experience of performing in the show – so I’m familiar with the role. We do have to be rehearsed to within an inch of our lives – there’s lots of slapstick, big physical stunts, impeccable timing, because if we don’t we might get hit on the head with a piece of scenery. The script is well-written and because we know it so well people can bring their own flavours and touches to their roles, and without giving too much away there is some audience interaction. No two shows are the same with The Play That Goes Wrong.
What does your typical day look like?
It depends. When we have only one show in the evening and we’re in a city that I’ve never been to before I like to get out and explore that city. Sometimes on a day off it is nice to relax – for for a swim, go to the gym, sit back and watch TV, go to the cinema. It’s nice to relax because the tour can be quite demanding.
How do you manage to wind down after a show?
We sometimes wind down after the show with a drink – the adrenaline can be pumping after a great show, especially when you get a great audience and great reaction.
You’ve been in the show for a long time – what have been your favourite memories from the show so far?
I’ve been very lucky since coming onto this show in particular because it has been a hit worldwide. Playing massive audiences and venues with this show, it can sometimes feel like you’re playing Wembley Stadium and it’s such a rush!
You trained at the Birmingham School of Acting. How does it feel being back in Brum?
It’s great! I joined in 2008 and then I lived in South Birmingham for seven years, so coming back to Birmingham is almost coming home – I’ve got lots of friends and family that live here and we’ve always had fantastic audiences when we have visited previously with the show.
How did you get into acting?
I had always liked performing and I had done stuff at school, school plays and into college as well. When I was about 18, my mum, on the back of a Persil packet, saw that the BBC were holding open auditions around the country for new actors. I entered it and I was one of the winners! Once I had done that I thought I was going to be a superstar, then realised it wasn’t the case and that I had to go back and train and learn my craft, and that’s what I did when I trained at the Birmingham School of Acting. When I graduated in 2008 I have been a jobbing actor – I’ve worked in television, theatre, film, educational and medical settings, audio books… I consider myself very lucky.
What have been your favourite memories from your career so far?
I’ve been lucky enough to do some Shakespeare. Last year I was also doing a one-man show at the Hull Truck Theatre during the pandemic. Having to command the audience by yourself for 75 minutes is a real achievement. It’s a beautiful play as well. It’s fulfilling as an actor.
A friend of mine went to stage school and he made a comment once about being asked to pretend to be an egg frying in a pan during a workshop. What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever been asked to do either during a rehearsal, at drama school or on stage itself?
The strangest thing I’ve ever had to do? I have had to do a lot of character studies where we pretend to be an animal – trying to find out what animal your character would be – so I’ve had times where I have played an Orangutan, grooming my partner and picking fleas off them and things like that. It’s all great fun and that’s the beauty of acting – you get to play most of the time which you don’t get to do much as an adult!
In Birmingham we have lots of talented young performers. What is your advice to those who want to have a successful career on stage and screen?
You’re going to have to work hard in this industry and growing a thick skin to put up with the rejection that you might face along the way. My main tip is to enjoy what you do. Watch as much as you can an appreciate the performances of the people that you like to what and take note of what it is about them that appeals to you. Try to enjoy everything you do and do everything with a smile – this industry can be tough but it can also be really rewarding if you’ve got the staying power.
You’re an inspiration to a young performer who wants to be on stage, but who are your inspirations?
I have lots! Lenny James is a British actor, I’ve followed him since he started out many years ago, and he just seems so natural and down to earth. There’s real heart and emotion in his performances and I think he’s a really understated actor. Stephen Graham is another one, who I think is incredible in everything they he does. They’re so real in everything that they do – it doesn’t seem like acting, it’s very natural. That’s the style that I want to bring to all my roles, being natural and real.
The audience for a Play That Goes Wrong What will be filled with people who like to watch comedic performances. What types of shows do you like to watch?
I like seeing Shakespeare performed really well, particularly with regional accents. I just saw a production of Macbeth and it was really firmly set in the north. When Shakespeare is done well and people are able to use their own accent I think that’s really a great thing to watch. If I’m going to the theatre I like to see things that are based on real events and made up of stories about real people, that’s what really attracts me.
Watch Gabriel in The Play That Goes Wrong on stage at The Alexandra Theatre from Mon 16th May – Sat 21st May. Purchase your tickets here