BWW Interview: Actor Steffan Lloyd-Evans On THE COMEDY ABOUT A BANK ROBBERY
Steffan Lloyd-Evans's work includes Into The Woods at Menier Chocolate Factory, The 306: Dawn at the National Theatre of Scotland, Beyond the Fence at the Arts Theatre, and the UK tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He's currently starring in Mischief Theatre's latest West End hit The Comedy About A Bank Robbery.
What was your first theatre experience?
My dad is an opera singer, so from a very young age I was exposed to life in the theatre! I think the first play that really affected me was The Crucible by Arthur Miller: I remember seeing a production with school when I was young and being blown away. As for musicals, Miss Saigon was an important one for me - I saw the touring production many, many years ago. Madame Butterfly was one of the first operas I saw as well, and the connection was not lost on me!
Did you do much acting and/or singing at school?
I certainly did. In Wales we have these amazing festivals for the Arts called Eisteddfods every year, which encourage young people to take part and compete in all sorts of different artistic disciplines: poetry, art, singing, dance etc. They were an important part of my time at school and helped cultivate my love of performing. There were great school shows and concerts too - we were lucky to have a fantastic drama department, and I was also off school quite a lot touring the UK with various professional productions.
When did you realise it might be a career, and were your family supportive?
Thanks to my dad, I had always considered it a career so I don't remember a realisation moment, and despite him being very fortunate he was very open with me about the challenges (and long spells of potential unemployment!) I could face were I to choose this profession. Despite both my parents knowing the potential pitfalls, they were incredibly supportive and I feel extremely lucky to have their backing.
Where did you train?
I trained at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.
What was your first paid acting job?
Gosh, that's tough to remember, I worked a lot professionally as a child. My first paid acting job after graduating was a spell on the Welsh soap Pobol y Cwm, which was just great - my family had watched it since I was little!
Do you find it easy switching between musicals and plays, or is it a challenge to be seen for some roles?
Everyone's experience of this is different of course. I've been very lucky in recent years, but when I first graduated I did a big commercial musical straight after finishing in Pobol y Cwm and I found it very difficult to get seen for any plays after that. It took some time and the right opportunities had to come up, but I've just about managed to bridge that gap in the last two years. I wouldn't say it was easy by any means.
Had you seen any of Mischief's shows before coming into this one?
Terribly, I actually hadn't! I've been away from London with various jobs for quite some time, so while I was desperate to see The Play That Goes Wrong, I simply hadn't had the chance. I managed to catch Peter Pan Goes Wrong before I started rehearsal for this one and it was so funny that I was crying with laughter.
Tell us about your character Sam and what you have to deal with
Sam is a pickpocket in Minneapolis whose mum works at the city bank. He ends up wrapped up in a plot to rob the bank through a hilarious series of events. It's an incredibly physical show and I have to deal with excellently written scenes of patter and some serious physical challenges! I don't want to say too much - you'll have to come and see it...
Have you had any real life onstage disasters, either in this show or others?
Haha yes - just a few! The worst was probably slipping on a piece of material and landing neck first on a steel post in a musical. That seriously affected my singing that day!
How difficult is it to get the slapstick spot on?
It's a unique challenge I think. Comedy is never-ending, I think about it constantly and you end up driving yourself mad if you think too much about the beats or comic rhythms to make things funny. If ever get lost in that (which I think happens to us all!), I just have to take it back to the truth of the scene and the objectives, and the laughs will come...I hope!
Do your castmates ever make you crack up on stage?
All the time - they're the funniest bunch of people I've had the pleasure of working with. Obviously I have to hold it together until I'm offstage, but it's a great extra challenge!
Did you recognise the work Bank Robbery references?
I do! I researched a lot of things for the show, from the Marx Brothers to Monty Python. Any classic comedians who have patter scenes or physical comedy as prevalent parts of their shows or sketches. Their influence is definitely present in the writing, so it was important to immerse myself in the style.
Why do you think audiences have so embraced Mischief's work?
I think comedy becomes unbelievably important as times get tougher in the world we live in. I won't get political here, as I'll never stop talking about it! Simply, people need an escape and Mischief is providing that to people at the highest level of quality.
Which comedians or comic plays make you howl?
Oh, the list is endless. Lee Evans was the first, followed by Jim Carrey, then Peter Kay. I spend a lot of my time watching stand-up. I saw Nish Kumar earlier this year and he was incredible. As for comic plays, other than Mischief's work, One Man, Two Guvnors was laugh-out-loud funny.
Any future dream roles or collaborators?
So many! I don't actually set myself goals for who to work with or what job to aim for though, as the industry is so fluid I could end up disappointed. I try and look forward and keep myself open to anything that might come my way.
Finally, any advice for budding performers?
Listen to as much advice as possible, keep the stuff that's useful to you and discard the rest. Work out if it's the right thing for you and if it is...stick at it!
Photo credit: Darren Bell