An interview with Stuart Boother of LightSeeker
The battle perennial between good and evil. Seems like a very "been there done that" type of plot doesn't it? Not when you throw in fantasy worlds, enchanting music, intense fight sequences and acrobatic feats. Now there's something you don't see everyday.
LightSeeker sees the General on a quest to find the Light, an energy that will keep his Emperor strong. His journey leads him to Nova, a beautiful girl who seems to be able to create the Light. What follows is a battle between light and dark but more importantly within the General himself, as the only world he has ever known comes into question.
I don't know about you but I was very intrigued to learn more about Resorts World Sentosa's attempt at pulling off such an incredible show and what better way to do so than to chat with the star of the show, Stuart Boother (Jesus Christ Superstar) from England, who plays The General.
We managed to catch up with him for a quick interview just before the show.
Q: Do you get nervous before shows or have you done it so many times that its just become muscle memory?
There's probably some nerves that kick in, but no, not like a jittery nervousness.
Q: The first day? First performance?
No, probably not. But then again, I come down with a big helmet on in the first scene so in a way its like its not me, its the character. So, its a bit odd but it really helps.
Q: What's your favourite part about playing the General?
Like a favourite moment in the show kind of thing? Favourite moment in the show, probably the fight. Just because its the only chance I get to do everything at once. And its my favourite song as well.
Q: The musical has so many different aspects like fighting, singing, dancing and acting of course. Is it hard to juggle everything?
Yeah, I suppose. As they probably discovered its quite a rare mix of skills but because I've been doing all three for so long its not something I have to think about too much.
When I study the fighting it wasn't just the martial arts, it was a lot of stage and screen combat as well. So in order to do all of that, you have to take what's called an FPT, a Fight Performance Test, and there's a minimum of 60 hours you do per test and you do 12 tests with a particular federation like the British Academy of Stage and Screen Combat.
So I've done all 12 tests with them so that's 60 hours for each one and that's for each different weapon and each test isn't just a fight, it's a scene, a duologue between 2 people. So its all about acting the fight. You could be the best fighter in the world but if the scene isn't convincing you wouldn't pass, if you see what I mean. I managed to get a distinction with each exam I did.
Then I did all 12 systems with the BADC, the British Academy of Dramatic Combat, and then I did all 12 systems with the SAFD, the Society of American Fight Directors, and I've got distinction in each one. So I've done every single one out there and its all acting through the fight so that's the important part because that's what a lot of the time doesn't happen in a fight. There's just attack, block, attack, block, and I'm thinking "no, no, there's a big sharp thing coming at you, it has to make sense."
So acting through the fight and then the only thing I suppose that was different is singing and fighting but I don't actually sing and fight at the same time. I stop, fight, and then sing so it's kind of okay, yeah.
Q: The General starts out as having a lot of darkness within him. How'd you find getting into character for that?
Oh, there's plenty of darkness within me. (Laughs)
There was a lot of time to prepare for the character. Especially myself and Vivienne, we had a lot of time together just running over things and trying to sort of feel our own way through the show and through the character.
You know the shows change so much and originally there were some scenes that weren't there that we felt were missing or that had been cut down that we felt shouldn't have been cut down because he is very dark and angry as everyone keeps on saying at the start, and then all of a sudden, changed at the end.
Originally there was no catalyst for that change and it was 3 lines long and I kept on saying it doesn't feel right because there's no reason for me to change. The audience needs to see why I change. And when the new director came, that's been developed and expanded so it makes a lot more sense now.
Q: Speaking of your fellow actors, what was it like finding chemistry?
I've been very lucky. I met Vivienne, who plays Usha, in Sofia's Steakhouse in London and she treated me just how my sister treats me, straight away. And she felt very comfortable with me as well. She'd have no problem just slapping me around the face for no reason and then laughing about it.
And that's the kind of thing my sister would do, the kind of thing I wouldn't put up with from anyone else except for my sister and it was the same thing with Vivienne, I think she has actually done that a couple of times before. So we got on great from the start and just enjoyed working together and so on.
The stunt guys I interact with an awful lot because we created the fights together. That's another thing. When I first turned up, I said "Oh great who's the fight director?" And the head of the stunt team said "I don't know I thought he was going to be here." And I go "Oh so who's directing the fights?" and he goes "I guess... me?" and I was like "Oh cool, alright. What experience have you got?" and he was like "Well, I've done the ??? show."
So it turns out, in terms of combat stunts, I've got more training and experience than anyone else. So I thought "That's fine, we can work together." And we've done a fantastic job. So James has said, "I want a punch here, he's going to run in here, he's going to run in here and I'll leave it to you to make it look martial, to give it like a martial art feel." Obviously its not a Wushu performance, which I thought it was before I started the job. I had been living in China for five months, I'd spent all this time training in Wushu performance and stuff. None of it was needed here.
But I had no idea because they'd sent me a video of the kind of thing they might want me to do and it was all Wushu but when I got here it was just stage combat. So I hung out with the stunt guys an awful lot cos they're a separate team. I don't think anybody realised, Vivienne is often complaining, "I'm so tired, we're in so much." And I'm like,"You had yesterday off !" She goes, "Yea, but I'm in all afternoon today." And I'm like, "Do you realise I'm in all day, every day, fighting with the stunt guys? "So we got on really really well. I'm very close to the stunt guys, to Vivienne, and to Nova as well.
I don't know if you know but we have, obviously a different Nova now as well and I've got on fine with both of them. There's less interaction with us in the show. In a way, I quite like, I mean I studied method acting in LA for along time but I like the idea that as long as you know what you're doing, even a scene with someone you haven't met before, I like the idea that you haven't practised it too much because it keeps it fresh.
Q: Tell us about your time in China, that's crazy! You were staying with Shaolin Monks!
Yes, that was cool! Its like a little boy's dream. I won some competition in England and then I got the opportunity. It was with the Elite Fight Unit of the Independent Drama. Its like a company that provides fighters for films and they had a competition to find the best martial fighter and I won that and got the opportunity to go live with the Shaolin and I was like "Yes!"
Went to the Hunan province which is where they originated and I found it quite commercial so I travelled around a bit and found a really nice traditional kind of place, academy in the Shandong province near Yantai. It was for 6 months just getting up at 5 in the morning everyday, going for the mountain run, then you start you Tai Chi and Chi Gung, then you have breakfast then you go and do your morning training which is either Shaolin or Mantis Boxing.
Then you have your second session which will either be Bagua or Baji then you have dinner then you go back and do like Shaolin acrobatics or Sanshou Kickboxing and then you have another break and then you do a bit of Mandarin, Chinese massage, Calligraphy and things like that and then lights out at half nine every day. And then you just did that every day. On Friday we would spar together. We'd have like a little boxing rink and every week we would have all sorts of injuries. And on Saturday we did a proper mountain run, from the base of the mountain, the Shaolin temple to the top, where there was a small Buddhist cave at the very top. We had to it four times so it took about 3 hours.
I remember they said to us if you bear crawl down, it counts as 2 runs and I was quite a bit bigger then as well so I remember thinking "Oh, I can do that, no problem." It was hell. I was there for a good half an hour, forty minutes after everyone else had finished, trying to crawl down steep steep steps. But it was a good experience.
Q: So you've been in Singapore for a while now, what's your favourite thing about it?
Favourite thing about Singapore... I like the weather. I like um... the safety. Like its not something you really think about, you take it for granted. It was only when I was walking around at night and I suddenly thought "hmm.. I'd probably feel slightly different walking around at night back at home." Yeah, and it occurred to me it was very safe in Singapore.
I like a lot of the scenery. But that's just probably where I'm working, its not like the scenery back in England as well. And I've loved a lot of the people that I've met so far. Previously I was staying in Geylang and I got really friendly with a lot of the locals there.
I'm big on local food cos I lived in China for a long time- I was in Shanghai before here- and they all got, I can't remember why, I used to come in after training or something and they would be like "oh what you been doing?" and I said "Oh, I do Kung fu" then I started speaking a bit of Mandarin and they're like "Oh!" and every time I come in they're like "Its Kung fu!" and they sort of got a little nick-name for me. And I got quite a few regular places so I enjoyed mixing with a lot of local people.
Q: You've done a lot of different work, theatre and film and radio. Which is your favourite? Or which one comes more naturally to you?
I started out in theatre but I was always told I'm too film-ic when I was doing theatre and I was sitting there intensely doing all this stuff with my face, all this acting and no one could see it. And they were always saying "Oh, you have to be big with big gestures" and that sort of thing, which felt very unnatural to me. And then you'd work with a different director who'd want it done completely differently. Or you'd then do film and they'd go "oh, its a bit theatrical."
In terms of enjoyment, there's something about live performance that is really really enjoyable - if you're on the ball. That's the only annoying thing, if you're feeling slightly under par and you've got to sing, especially a big scene. People don't always realise, you spend years and thousands of pounds and thousands of hours training to make something very difficult seem very easy which is great but at the same time people don't realise its difficult, and they don't really appreciate it.
But when you're feeling on the ball, and when you're rested and so on, there's a real thrill to live stuff that you don't get anywhere else.
Q: Immediate satisfaction, from the audience.
Yeah, and if you've got a really vocal audience. It varies hugely here. Sometimes you'll get an audience that will really enjoy the whole thing but they won't clap which is incredibly frustrating for a performer cos you feel like you're working your guts out for something and then... nothing in return. But when they do, its a nice pay off especially at the end of the fight and stuff because you really work hard doing that and when people give you that clap you're like "oh yes thank you, that was difficult."
I was thinking in terms of fighting cos doing specifically Pirates of the Caribbean, that was a real kind of thrilling on screen fight to do. Quite dangerous, quite scary. But at the same time, there was no pat on the back afterwards, there was no applause afterwards, there was just "Cut! Go and wait for five minutes with your wet shoes and do it again." We were fighting in water, so we got soaking wet. So yeah, maybe live theatre but film work as well.
Q: Alright, thank you! Looking forward to seeing the show.
Yeah, hope you enjoy it!
Check out Lightseeker!
If you're as intrigued by the latest production by RWS as I was then fret not because you still have a couple chances to check it out.
- Date: Now to Sun, 23 March 2014
- Duration: 1 h 30 min (20 min interval)
- Venue: Resorts World Theatre, Resorts World Sentosa
- Ticket Prices: $48, $78, $88, $98, $148
Purchase tickets from sistic here.