We’re starting a new series here on the HADS Facebook page, part of #meetusmonday where we’ll be introducing you to familiar faces at HADS. First up is Alexander Edwards, who is playing Freddy Eynsford-Hill in Pygmalion. Alex has been with the society since 2010 and is well known for his commitment and his wonderful sense of humour. Here’s what Alex had to say about his love for theatre and why he enjoys being part of the HADS team….
What made you interested in AmDram, and why did you join HADS?
-I was first aware of the society when my aunt and uncle took me and my mother to the HADS production of Cause Célèbre. While I can’t remember the exact reason, my aunt and uncle presented the idea of me joining an amateur dramatic society and, I dare say, took me to this production hoping that it would inspire me. I was certainly impressed with the production. However, I would not join the society until a year later. What I do remember is that prior to joining the society, I had gained an immense interest in Charlie Chaplin. This would culminate in my purchasing a cheap Chaplin costume which I would wear around the house on occasion. Mimicking his movement, mannerisms and so forth. Chaplin would not be the first or last in this regard as I would always pick up mannerisms from people and replicate them. The most notable of these would be Eric Morecambe and Tom Baker, much to the annoyance of others. I can vaguely remember father deciding there was no other option than for me to join the society. Or, have me institutionalised. Now, as you may be aware I’m not the most sociable of people and, as a consequence, it was left to father to make the first contact and I joined the society during the rehearsals for ‘Fur Coat and No Knickers’.
In retrospect, it was undoubtedly the best decision made for me at the time. Prior to this, I had little interest in acting. My previous experience in school plays was not engaging, which was ultimately a consequence of various social difficulties I had at school. However, ever since joining I have found that acting might very well be my first love in life. I have only realised this recently as, in retrospect, during those first few years I would get incredibly frustrated if I wasn’t cast. Almost inconsolable. I realise now what that meant, was that I really care about acting and being on the stage. It is not uncommon for actors to hear from audience members about how impressed they are with our ability to get on stage and perform. Saying that they don’t think that they would be able to do it as they would be too nervous, too embarrassed, would forget what to say, not know what to do. What must be understood is that this is what I feel when I’m off stage, not on. On stage, it’s hard to articulate but, I know where I am, who I am, what I’m doing and what to say. I’m more confident with myself and others on stage than off. It’s off stage where I struggle most, not on. While I feel I have difficulties communicating with people, to go on stage and hear a reaction to something I say or do, whether it be a laugh, a gasp, or a cry is the most wonderful feeling to me. I don’t know how many people will be aware but, a few years ago I was diagnosed with Autism, which explained a great deal with regards to my social anxiety, depression, anger and frustration. The stage has provided me with so much that it is something that I never want to leave. At times the thought of not being able to be involved has proven difficult for me to contemplate. Since my diagnosis, I have had difficulties coming to terms with it which has caused me some difficulties socially and academically. However, when I posted on Facebook regarding my frustration with my condition, it was mostly people from the society who reached out to me, and I think that says enough about what it’s like to be a member of the society.
What’s your favourite HADS production that you’ve been in?
-‘Allo ‘Allo because it was the most enjoyable time both on and off stage. It had one of the strongest casts we have assembled, where everyone was at their best in terms of performance. Also, the chance to replicate something provided a great challenge which I feel everybody lived up to.
Who is your favourite character that you’ve played?
-Herr Otto Flick because it is probably the largest role I’ve had thus far, and while I was probably too young to play the role, it felt good knowing I was being trusted to fill Herr Flick’s jackboots. The role also gave me a lot to work with as I had to pretend to play the violin, perform a solo tango and speak with a German accent. I had five scenes in total, all of which were the most enjoyable to perform. It also gave me the chance to work with Karen as my Helga. What I thought was astounding is that we never rehearsed or practiced any of our scenes off stage. We simply got on stage and everything simply came together and worked well. Also, I felt greatly supported in the role, as other members of the cast were helping me to figure out certain aspects, most specifically the tango which I had no concept of how to approach. Herr Flick also presented the challenge of having to replicate a performance which is well known to our audience, who know this character and are expecting to see me reenact it. I don’t know if I was able to measure up to Richard Gibson’s performance, and I in retrospect feel that there were a few things I could have done better, but I certainly enjoyed trying. Prior to this, my best role would have been the Punk in ‘It Runs in the Family’ as it was the first lengthy role I was given on stage and I got great reactions from the audience for it.
What is your favourite non-acting activity you like to do within HADS?
-I probably enjoyed doing the sounds effects in ‘Pullin’ the Wool’ the most, as it was easy enough for me to understand and was, in a way, just another form of acting where timing and precision were key, so I was able to engage with it as an extension of acting. I’ve always tried to be open within the society and willing to do whatever is most needed of me, whether I am on or off stage, in order to keep a production moving forward.
What character would you most like to play from any stage play or film and why?
-John Merrick in Bernard Pomerance’s ‘The Elephant Man’ because from an acting stand point it presents a great challenge, in having to create the character without make-up or prosthetics to make me look disfigured. The script is also superbly well written. On a personal level, I do feel a strong emotional connection to The Elephant Man and several of the scenes within the play, I feel, reflect me personally. I am also conscious that I am only a year younger than Merrick was when he passed away. Beyond that, Hamlet I think would test me greatly and is a role I hope to play before I get too old.