The Journey of a Young Performer and His Mum
We chat with Regan Garcia and his mum, Sharon, about balancing acting with school and playing Nigel in 'The Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾' in the West End.
By Natasha Raymond and Ellie Samuels
Before the show starts... I do this thing where I put my arms up, I tense a lot, pull my trousers up and put my shirt down, and then I’m ready!
Hi Regan! You’re currently at Sylvia Young Theatre School. What did you have to do for your audition to go there?
Regan: For the first audition you didn’t have to prepare anything. I had drama first, where we paired up. It was basically sight-reading a script. We did that, had a little break, and then went into dance. You learnt the dance with the teacher.
I remember in the audition, they asked if anyone could do any tricks. I think a couple of people did aerials, and that was basically when I first got my aerial. I was like, ‘I don’t know if I can do it or not’, so I just did it and it was fine!
Sharon: [For the recall] he did a maths test, an English test, and then he met Sylvia.
Regan: You had to prepare a dance and song, and they sent you two monologues. One was Shakespeare, which was quite difficult, because they’re really long. And then the second one was just a normal kind of comedic monologue.
Sharon: We were asked to wait in the canteen while they decided. We waited downstairs, and then Sylvia came down and said, ‘We’d like you to stay this afternoon for the final.’
Do you feel like it’s the right thing being full time at a stage school and doing your school work?
Regan: Yes, it’s much better!
Sharon: I don’t feel like he would have [done well] at the local school. Even in primary school it was a bit difficult. Just with friendships and stuff. One week he’d be in there, and the next week he wouldn’t, and when he came back again it was difficult to try and be friends with everyone again, because they’d have their own football teams and stuff at lunch time and they’d be like, ‘Well you weren’t here last week so you can’t play.’ It just became more and more difficult to fit in.
Do you still get nervous with auditions, or do you have techniques to help you stay calm?
Regan: Just relax. I was in practise a lot, but when you go in, be positive. [At an audition], you don’t know anyone. You’re just all looking at each other like, ‘Well I don’t know what to do.’ Do you start a conversation?
Your most recent role has been in The Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾. Can you talk us through the process you went through, from first audition to opening night?
Regan: The first audition was at school. There were about 20 boys going for it, just from my school, and [lots of] girls. All the girls learnt Pandora’s song, just a little bit, and all the boys learnt Adrian’s song - Intellectual Boy. You stood up in groups and did it one by one.
They made a cut, a few boys stayed back. I was one of them. They did that at every single audition: they put us into groups, and they made some boys sing Barry’s song. I think they just wanted to see our range, because Adrian’s song is very high.
Sharon: It was only when I got the email about the recall that we got a list of boys and what character they wanted them to come back for. They did separate recalls for each character. That was for about two hours. It felt like a really long afternoon, because sometimes they let them come out for a bit, or they make a cut, but we didn’t hear anything for two hours.
Regan: [In the room with us was] the MD, the director, the assistant director, and the casting director.
Sharon: The final was on the following Tuesday. Our time was 10am and when we got there, they were already having first round auditions again. We ended up going in about 10:30. Some of those children from that first round were kept on, and they made a cut at 1pm. They let some children go, and then they told us to come back at 2pm. They let Regan go about 3:30.
They were testing their voices, which I didn’t find out about till afterwards. They let him and another boy go so I assumed he’d been cut. The agent called me the next day to tell me [he’d got the role]!
Regan: [The rehearsal process] was short. It was about four weeks.
Sharon: The changeover of children is not always the same every six months. It depends whether the new children are ready or not. They have to go to school for fifteen hours a week, and then they were rehearsing the rest of the time.
How do you balance your school work with performing in shows?
Regan: I was at my primary school for Matilda and Mary Poppins. Mary Poppins, because I was on tour, they sent me with work, but for Matilda I missed a lot of school. At Sylvia’s, they have this [online system] called EdFolio, where you see all the class work, all the homework, and you have to catch up on everything!
Sharon: If you can’t keep up with everything then they will not take you out the show, but when the show is finished, they will take you off the agency to make sure you caught up with all your schoolwork at some point.
On tour, children do their schoolwork every day under the supervision of a tutor. During the 10-week rehearsal period for Matilda, Regan did 15-16 hours of schoolwork per week, and made up the rest of the time with the tutor.
There are four different casts for Adrian Mole. Does it affect you at all if you’re not on the team doing the official opening night?
Regan: No, because I did have other opportunities. My team actually started last out of all the four teams, but we did West End Live! Red team did the opening night, we got West End Live, Blue Team got press night, and Yellow Team got the last night.
How do you prepare yourself for a show?
Regan: At Sylvia’s, if you work the night before, you’re allowed to come in at 10am. But the day before the show, you just go to school.
For this character, because he’s really energetic, I did this warm up where I throw myself around the dressing room a bit. Before the show, the whole company does a physical warm up and vocal warm up. And then safeties and everything, if there’s any notes you need to do during the show, you do them, and if an understudy is going on and needs to rehearse, you do that.
And then right before the show starts, when Adrian comes on, I do this thing where I put my arms up, I tense a lot, pull my trousers up and put my shirt down, and then I’m ready! That’s been my main thing for every show that I do, but I’m on the same side as Adrian before we start, and we have this little dance and song. It’s really weird! It makes us forget about what’s about to happen.
What has been your favourite show and why?
Regan: Adrian Mole. The character was me! I liked that.
Sharon: I think the director had said although they’ve got their lines and their character to play, they can kind of...
Regan: ...Interpret it in our own way. Because there were four different Nigels, and we all do it a different way. I was more the dancey person, and the energetic person. Whereas another one was the cool one.
As well as theatre, you’ve also had commercial, modelling and screenwork. Which of these do you prefer and why?
Regan: Theatre. I like work where you can overdo it! I find screenwork harder in a way, because you have to play it more ‘real’. You have a live audience in theatre. When you’re in film, and you try to say a funny line, then everyone has to be quiet and no one laughs, and it’s like, ‘Oh.’ Whereas in theatre, if you say a funny line, everyone laughs. [But] I'd like to get into more screen and films.
You never know when your time is going to come. Just keep practising.
Do you have any tips or advice for other Young Performers?
Regan: Don’t stop!
Sharon: We’ve seen lots and lots of children over the years – the same children at auditions. And then, eventually, they will get something. Well, not everyone does, but you just have to keep going. You never know when your time is going to come. Just keep practising, and even if you don’t make it as a child, if you want to do it as an adult then you’ve got all that audition experience, and all that dance training. Keep it up.
What would you say is the most useful thing you’ve learned from your time at drama school?
Regan: The professionalism. It’s a different feeling. You go into school and there’s a reception desk, you have a vocation office, then you have the agency office. People recognise you and are like, ‘Ooh he goes to Sylvia’s. He must be good.’ It gives you a boost of confidence.
Thank you so much Regan and Sharon for sharing your journey with us!
We have lots of tips and advice for young performers and their parents, or feel free to contact us or Spotlight's Young Performers Consultant, Ellie Samuels, directly if you have any questions.