BWW Interview: Damian Humbley Talks SPAMILTON
Australian actor Damian Humbley's past work includes Merrily We Roll Along, The Woman in White and The Last 5 Years. He's currently starring in Spamilton, an affectionate spoof of the all-conquering Hamilton, at Menier Chocolate Factory.
What was your first experience of musicals?
My mum used to take me to the theatre a lot when I was a kid. I think my first show was Anything Goes.
Did you do a lot of theatre growing up?
Since I was about 11. I'd gone to see a Christmas production, and came home with a leaflet about the theatre school attached to it asking if I could do it. My mum leapt at the chance to have a couple of nights a week off.
When did you realise it might be a career?
The year 2019, when I became a household name synonymous with proclamations like Awesome! Extraordinary! Damian!
Where did you train?
West Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA - like the burger), Perth.
What was your first professional job?
I played a prisoner named 'Moondyne Joe', who told his ghostly story to all tourists of Fremantle Prison.
What made you want to come and work in London, and how does it compare with your experience of theatre in Australia?
I didn't want to, but my girlfriend at the time wanted to. I was very fortunate to get some work soon after arriving (The Woman In White).
I haven't worked in Australia since leaving, so I wouldn't really know. But, when I was there, the only shows I was ever really asked to meet for were shows that had originated from somewhere else. That was the nature (for me) of commercial theatre at the time. There was never an opportunity for me work in anything like I'd work in over here.
What draws you to a musical?
There's an assumption that there's a choice - there's very little. I'm not a film, TV, X-Factor etc. celebrity. So when a production doesn't need to worry about that (which is rare) for a role I'm suitable for... I may have an opportunity to meet for it. I'm very lucky that the shows I've worked on are shows I'm proud to have been a part of.
What did you take from working on Merrily We Roll Along? Was that a special experience?
Apart from the obvious (the incredible, kind, talented, beautiful Clare Foster), I had the opportunity to work on that show from the beginning at the Menier Chocolate Factory, through to the Harold Pinter, and last year to Boston (Huntington Theatre).
A show about friendship and legacy, and what you're willing to sacrifice and compromise to be successful and famous. Themes we are STILL struggling with. It was/is a very special show, and every incarnation I've done of it has been a very special experience.
Is it easy to switch over to 'straight' drama and back to musicals, or do you have to keep proving yourself?
The only switch is structure. Telling a story is telling a story... And yes, I'm always having to prove myself.
When did you first see Hamilton, and what was your immediate response?
I first saw Hamilton two weeks ago, and enjoyed it. I saw Hamilton, Translations (National Theatre) and Fun Home (Young Vic) in three days. A town where three pieces like those run is a pretty good thing.
Tell us a bit about Spamilton
It follows the story of Lin-Manuel Miranda as he tries to make theatre better. It does this through the music of Hamilton and many other shows. It's a wonderful love letter to theatre. If you want to know more... come see it!
Is it fun doing an industry spoof? Have you drawn on particular experiences of past shows (or people!)?
It's very fun. That's all you're getting.
Do you need to be a proper musicals geek to get it, or is it accessible to everyone?
I think you'll enjoy it no matter, but like all good satire, if you know the source material you'll get more out of it.
Do you have any future dream roles or collaborators?
Yeah, I'd like to work with kind and skilled people.
Finally, any advice for aspiring performers?
Start moisturising now.
Photo credit: Johan Persson