BWW Interview: Martin Fenton Talks Playing The Title Role In THE SNOWMAN
It wouldn't be Christmas without Birmingham Repertory Theatre's family favourite The Snowman, now in its 22nd consecutive year. This beloved dance adaptation of Raymond Briggs' tale returns to Sadler's Wells' Peacock Theatre this week as part of its UK tour.
Martin Fenton talks to BroadwayWorld about taking on the all-important title role.
What was the first theatre or dance show you saw that inspired you?
West Side Story. The movie really inspired me as a new dancer. I loved the fast, sharp, masculine movements; they weren't movements I would have associated with dance at that time.
Where did you train?
I trained at Dancepoint Musical Theatre School in Glasgow, moving onto the English National Ballet School, and finally Broadway Dance School in New York City.
What was your first professional job?
My first professional job was as Robbie Williams' body double and dancer in his "You Know Me" music video.
What different things do you enjoy about the theatre and dance worlds?
I came to dance very late and had comprehensive training in a variety of styles. I like the variation of opportunity and work available to my broad skillset. I get bored easily, and so the variation really keeps me engaged and motivated.
Had you seen The Snowman before joining the show?
I had grown up watching the animated film, but had never seen the stage production.
For those who don't know it, tell us a bit about the premise of the show
A little boy builds a snowman, which comes to life. After taking him on a tour of his home, they both fly north to spend time with Santa and some snow friends.
What do you think you bring to the character, and how did you prepare for the production?
With the close coaching and guidance provided by the choreographers and director, I feel that I'm able to bring an innocence and naivety to the character, which I think is important to the project. With such a physically challenging role, I always have to ensure that my body is in peak condition to cope with the intensity.
How would you characterise the movement and type of storytelling?
The movement is very classical. The entire narrative of the show is communicated through movement alone, so I would describe a large part of the show as physical theatre.
Does performing for young audiences change your process at all?
Performing to young audiences really forces you to analyse each movement, ensuring that every step tells the story that is directed in rehearsals. When the kids respond well, it becomes very gratifying to perform.
How fun is it to get to fly, and can you tell us a bit about what that involves logistically?
Flying in the show is fun, however it takes a lot of work to project calm and smoothness!
Any other favourite moments from the show?
I love to perform the pas de deux in Act II. My partner Emanuela [Atzeni] is a joy to dance with, and we always finish the duet happy.
The Snowman is now such an institution - why do you think it's lasted all these years?
The story is so classic and ageless. It appeals to children as much nowadays as it ever did. The beautiful music and the magic of the characters and story will keep it running for years to come I'm sure.
Do you have any (young?) family or friends coming to see it, and is it a fun show to do during the festive season?
My niece will see the show again this year. She is seven and she loves it; it's so enjoyable performing to family.
Is it meaningful to bring the show to different regional audiences? And what are your three must-haves on tour?
It's lovely performing all around in different theatres; not everyone can get all the way to London, and I think it's great that we get to take the show to them. My three must-haves on tour are: 1) my ebook reader, 2) my massager, and 3) a big warm winter coat!
Finally, why should audiences come see it - either again or for the first time?
The show is magical - there's no better way to get in the Christmas spirit!
Read our interview with The Snowman choreographer Robert North here
Photo credit: Tristram Kenton