Tom Kanji is a former Pump House Children and Youth Theatre group member and is currently starring in Julius Caesar at Shakespeare’s Globe, as the soothsayer, He will also be appearing there again soon as Corporal Clancy/Lieutenant Jones in Dr Scroggy’s War. Rosy Moorhead catches up with the 29-year-old former Northwood resident and chats about his time at the Pump House (PH), the Famous Five and following your dreams.
How are you enjoying being at the Globe?
I’m loving it. It’s a great company to work with and a wonderful building to be working in. Not just the theatre itself (which is one of the most extraordinary places to play) but the building itself, including all the backstage and office staff. It’s a very creative and exiting place to be.
When were you at the Pump House?
I joined when I was eight, which would have been around 1992, and I left in 2003 when I was 19.
What is your overriding memory of your time there? What did you like best?
It’s hard to say. It was such an important part of my life, the whole period holds many memories, but I’d guess something that stands out is that fact that it was a place that wasn’t school, where I could be with friends and get a chance to act, which very soon after joining the PH I realised I adored. I’m dyslexic and dyspraxic and hated school, and the friends I made at the PH I am still friends with now.
Just before I left, in my last year, we took a show up to the Edinburgh Fringe. The cast was made up of friends all about the same age and a production team who had been working with us and watching us grow up over the last ten or so years – that was pretty special.
What did you learn that you have taken on into your career?
The basics. And that is not a small thing at all. How to find a light, the difference in projection and shouting, diction etc. These are all so important and give you a great grounding to enter the profession.
I also left with a love and interest in all areas of putting on a piece of theatre and knowing that I’m not the only person with a job to do.
Can you remember your first production?
It was an adaptation of a Famous Five story, as far as I can remember. I played a boy in a prison or some sort of cage. It was also when I started to consider acting as a career, when I watched Lee Farman (now the chairman of the PH centre and long time facilitator, producer, director of the Children and Youth theatre) in a production of A Soldier’s Tale.
When did acting become the full-time profession?
I guess it was when I graduated from RADA, but it can be hard to believe, when you are working in a shop, bar or call centre waiting for the next job!
What’s coming up next for you?
I start rehearsing for Dr Scroggy’s War next week and I will be working at the Globe until mid October.
What advice would you give the current members of the Pump House who are hoping to make a career in acting?
Although boring, if you can, get a trade or skill that you can utilise during the quiet times between acting work, I cannot emphasise that enough.
Read – plays, fiction, non-fiction, news and current affairs. Even if you find it difficult, take your time, in the end it will help your reading, and all you absorb will inform your work throughout.
Go to the theatre; it is difficult sometimes, the price of the theatre can be very expensive, thanks to an underfunded industry that the current government has decided needs cutting even further, continually forcing up the price of theatre all around the country. However, many theatres try to offer a number of cheaper tickets for under 16’s or some kind of discount day, for example ’pay what you can’ nights at places like the Arcola in Dalston.
The main point is whenever you can, go, and look not at just the bigger mainstream theatres but the fringe theatres as well. The wider your experience, the better and more interesting.
- Tom Kanji is in Julius Caesar at Shakespeare’s Globe, Bankside, London until October 11 and in Dr Scroggy’s War from September 12. Details: shakespearesglobe.com