Shan Ako was starring as Éponine within the West Finish’s Les Misérables earlier than theatres have been closed down. Now, everybody can take pleasure in her efficiency within the filmed model of final 12 months’s staged live performance, so we caught up along with her to listen to all about her favorite music, how she discovered her personal Éponine, and her super-positive pre-show ritual.
How are you doing throughout these loopy instances?
I am doing nicely, thanks! It was the sudden cease that was shocking. I am all the time actually grateful for being nicely, however on the identical time it is a bit unhappy that we won’t work and carry out. I simply need to return to that room and that vibe, really feel that ambiance once more. But it surely’s all for a great cause.
Music has all the time been an enormous a part of your life – what do you hearken to?
I really like this query. I hearken to a variety of genres, from gospel to soul to reggae.
Do you’ve got a favorite track?
That is a troublesome one. I do not know. It depends upon what temper I am in. If I am in a calming temper, Gregory Porter. I really like a little bit of Beyoncé too, if I am in that temper. Then, India Arie… It is actually powerful – these days, there’s a lot you’re keen on! And generally I am studying songs too, so I might be taught songs that I am actually having fun with, however as soon as I’ve learnt it and achieved the quilt, I might transfer on to a different track.
What about theatre? Did you develop up going to exhibits?
I grew up performing, undoubtedly, however I used to be by no means actually in theatre – I used to be extra on stage performing as myself. After I went to the BRIT Faculty, I knew that there was a musical theatre strand and I used to be near making use of to that, however I did not. It was when my sister began to enter theatre that I did too. She’s very a lot into performing and she or he began a tour performing Motown songs in a tribute present in theatres across the UK, so I received into placing one other character on stage too. I used to be about 17 or 18.
My first official, correct performing job was with Les Mis. I’ve all the time been into performing generally, and when it got here down to highschool productions there was a little bit of performing concerned too. I performed Annie as soon as in a college play, however I might by no means considered it as a factor and I might by no means seen myself as an actress. It was all the time extra in regards to the songs for me.
Les Mis additionally marked your West Finish debut – how did it really feel to try this in such an enormous present?
I received blessed, very blessed. It was good to know that folks believed in me though I felt so new into the position. And it was the live performance too, in order that they selected all the celebrities of Les Mis and I used to be very new to it, so I assumed I’d be the odd one out, in a means, since I used to be additionally very new to the business. It was nerve-racking however I felt very supported, essentially the most I’ve ever felt.
How does singing musical theatre examine to singing different genres?
It is totally different, that is deeper than simply singing and representing your self and sharing your expertise. That is about telling a narrative, and there is a lot extra depth to the character than simply the track. It goes a lot deeper – you need to act by means of it. There are such a lot of extra methods to connect with this character, as a result of it is somebody aside from your self. It’s extremely attention-grabbing, and, because you’re portraying another person, you need to do it correctly.
How do you just remember to keep “within the zone” eight instances per week? Do you’ve got any pre-show rituals?
The women within the dressing room and I’ve this factor that I have been doing since my early twenties. It is ritual that we name the “Shantra”: we are saying affirmations like “I’m blissful, I’m wholesome, I’m cherished, I’m profitable”. We are saying that thrice, encouraging one another to go forth and have an amazing present.
We remind ourselves that we’re right here for a function, for a cause, that we’re able to placing on a great present, and we simply go forward and hope that the viewers are blessed by what we placed on that day. Day-after-day might be barely totally different, though you are doing the identical present, so it is vital to place your self in that headspace. It is vital to floor your self and return to the centre and the true that means of why you are truly there and be pleased about it.
There have to be such a optimistic ambiance in your dressing room!
I’ve labored with many alternative folks and I believe it is so vital to set the scene once you’re working collectively day by day, to make it optimistic, and to make it a secure area for everybody. It will get actually private being there day by day pouring your coronary heart out. You get weak and also you need to be sure that it is a secure area. Getting alongside is essential to me anyway.
How do you place your personal spin on an iconic position like Éponine, and make it really feel private?
The particular factor about Éponine is that she’s relatable and real looking, she’s uncooked and actual. She is your rawest self: you with out make-up, you with out being glammed up, stripped away of every thing that makes someone glorified. She’s that individual. She’s the nitty gritty of your self. As soon as I strip away every thing that I used to be or that I have been taught by way of being on stage and a pop singer, that is the place I discovered my Éponine.
It’s important to keep in mind her story; if you cannot discover something to narrate to her personally, you simply should concentrate on that. She comes from such a troublesome background that you would be able to put your self in her sneakers. Her story will not be essentially unhappy – it is a story of survival, in addition to selflessness and love. She represents so many alternative issues. It’s important to faucet into them every evening. That is what makes her particular.
Do you’ve got a favorite second within the present?
If I have been to take one thing from Éponine I might say singing “On My Personal” and “A Little Fall of Rain” – they’re each great. With “On My Personal”, you are taken on a journey and it is a good looking track, whereas “A Little Fall of Rain” is so heartbreaking from the beginning.
Apart from Éponine, I might decide “Valjean’s Soliloquy” when he talks in regards to the bishop and says “He informed me that I’ve a soul, how does he know?”. It is so highly effective. When somebody can take a look at you and say that you’ve a soul they usually remind you of that, of who you’re, they let you know to imagine in your self and to show your life round… That is a strong factor.
Do you’ve got a favorite character moreover your personal?
I might say Valjean and Thénardier – he is so humorous. Clearly the issues he does are loopy and terrible, however I really like that character in the way in which he is portrayed within the present. And Mme Thénardier too. I would decide her over him, truly, she’s humorous.
When you have been to tackle a male position in one other musical, who would you select?
In Les Mis, it will be Valjean for positive. In one other present… I’ve seen a couple of and I need to see much more, however I’d say Aaron Burr from Hamilton. I really like Jamie from Everyone’s Speaking About Jamie. However generally, I might additionally like to play Juliet in & Juliet. It is an amazing musical.
What’s been one of the best a part of being in Les Mis to date?
I might say with the ability to inform such a timeless, highly effective, heartfelt story. Being part of that. Additionally having the privilege of being in three totally different variations! I did the previous manufacturing within the former Queen’s Theatre for 3 weeks earlier than we did the live performance, after which now I am within the new Sondheim one. With the ability to be a part of all of them has felt very particular – I will cherish it without end. To have the ability to inform such a narrative and be within the present by no means will get previous. One other factor is being a part of such nice casts, and getting the chance to discover and develop my performing expertise in such an amazing present is a privilege.
You should buy Les Misérables: The Staged Live performance right here
Shan additionally has a YouTube channel the place she uploads beautiful covers and vlogs whereas she’s engaged on her upcoming album – you will discover it right here
Picture credit score: Michael Le Poer Trench