From Performer to Director, Owen Smith returns to the KMT

Some of Owen’s Direction credits include ‘Trash the Musical’ Belgium (2016), ‘Santa’s new Sleigh’ The Arts theatre London (2016) ‘The Fall’ Redbridge Drama Centre (2017) and ‘Ishq’ Sadler’s Wells (2017).

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Since the Kenneth More Theatre transferred over to the Vision trust in September, we have been busy putting the right people into place to deliver quality performances to the Redbridge community and beyond.

December saw the opening of our first panto, Sleeping Beauty and the director is none other than local performer and director Owen Smith. We managed to grab some time out of Owen’s busy panto schedule to chat about the path that led him to where he is now…

Owen grew up in Newbury Park and started dancing at the Palmerstone Stage School when he was just two. He says he was home schooled, but uses the term loosely as he told us that his mother would let him play in the garden all day, and dance every evening! It was a pretty chaotic household as the family was obsessed with animals and at one point owned 38 cats!

When asked about the theatre, he said “I was very lucky as I was pretty much brought up in theatre, it’s where I learnt to talk, (having major speech problems till I was 8), learnt to read, and where I made some of my dearest friends.”

Owen’s first encounter with the KMT as a performer was at the age of two, but his first real memory on the KMT stage was when he was about 6 doing a “magic of the musicals” type show.  “I was brought on stage all dressed in blue for Hilder Hooper to sing a song to me” says Owen.  “I loved it, I always thought the applause at the end of her number was for me, part of me still believes this.”

The first panto that Owen took part in at the theatre was when he was ten, it was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and he was Sniffy.  He said that he was always lucky as he had the support of his dance teachers Vicky Palmer and Lorain Stone, who always pushed him, but he says “one of the main people that always believed in me was Mr Vivyen Ellacott, who was the manager of the theatre while I was growing up, he always encouraged me to pursue a career in performing arts, and gave me my first pro job at the KMT when I was 15 as a dancer in that year’s panto, Cinderella, and since then, 21 years on I’m still going.” 

“I think one of the main things I love about theatre is that it doesn’t matter who you are, how old you are or where you’re from, you all walk together and just get on with it.” Owen Smith

When asked about special moments in his career, Owen said “There’s been a few but the one memory that remains firmly etched in my mind  is when I was doing a Sleeping Beauty funnily enough, and the guy playing Muddles broke his Achilles during the show. As I came off stage, the director was waiting there with Muddles hat in his hand and said ‘Do you know the school room scene?’ I said ‘I think so’ he said ‘good’ put the hat on my head and sent me on stage; I loved every moment of it. “

Owen Smith image for blog

We were keen to know how Owen had moved into Directing and he jested that he was always power hungry before going on to say “to tell the truth it’s because I loved every side of theatre, from the performing, the costumes, the building of the sets, but I also loved watching it, I wanted to do it all, and Directing was the way forward for me, I would always have alternative stories in my head of how something could be done.  When I was younger, my friends would hate playing action figures with me because we would spend hours setting stuff up, and then when we did finally start playing there was a certain story arch they had to follow.  Ok so maybe I wasn’t joking that much when I said I was power hungry.” He laughs.

When asked how growing up in Redbridge had impacted on his chosen path into the world of theatre, Owen said “Redbridge has always been a special borough and with three performing venues; The KMT, the Redbridge Drama Centre and Sir James Hawkey Hall, there were always shows and competitions to partake in, I think I spent most of my weekends either performing or competing. I was never in trouble because I was too tired, and I loved everything I did, Dance wise I was lucky enough to have gone to a local stage school that was pretty much full-time training, we use to dance 5 days week from 4.30 till 8pm most days, it was really full on as they say.”

“I whole heartedly believe that the performing arts have so much to give the community, and vice versa, Singing makes you happy, acting makes you connected and dance makes you free.” Owen Smith

When talking about local talent Owen felt that, in the past, there had been so much talent that Redbridge theatre used to cultivate, mentioning the likes of actors Nick Greenshild, Simon Lipkin and Letitia Dean; all still working in the industry now.

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He said “I think it’s time we did that again, that’s why when I was given a chance to open a full time Performing Arts College at the Redbridge Drama Centre, I jumped at the opportunity, to give the mentorship I was so lucky to have received, (I know I keep using the word lucky, but half of life is luck, the other half is hard work, but we must appreciate that being in the right place at the right time has a lot to do with it).

That’s why I am so happy to be back this year directing the pantomime. Having been involved with the KMT panto for ten years, I have always thought how special it is, as for so many children, it is their first experience of theatre.  Standing on that stage and seeing hundreds of kids’ faces looking at you with complete belief in everything you were doing was a real gift, to them you were Buttons or a Prince and I can’t wait to be a part of that magic for the next generation. “

Sleeping Beauty has been playing to packed audiences in the lead up to Christmas and continues at the Kenneth More Theatre until 12 January. There are still limited tickets available for most performances so don’t be disappointed, check the website for availability or call the box office NOW on 020 8708 8803.

 

Post Author: Cathy Pace

 

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