Harry Potter star Sam Clemmett on the West End show and returning to Norfolk to support his drama teacher’s latest production
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017
From Harry Potter to A Clockwork Orange - West End star Sam Clemmett has returned to his East Anglian roots to support his former drama teacher's latest show. He talks to arts correspondent Emma Knights.
Harry Potter actor Sam Clemmett landed one of the most coveted roles in the West End when he was cast in the stage play of JK Rowling's magical wizarding world that has captured the imaginations of countless people around the world.
His journey to becoming the first-ever actor to play the famous wizard's son, Albus Severus, in the award-winning shows Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two first began in Norfolk, and Miche Montague, his former teacher at the Norwich Theatre Royal arts course, is among those he especially credits with helping him on his way.
Miche is currently working on a production of A Clockwork Orange with her new Norwich theatre company for aspiring performers, MoCo, and this week Sam joined them at the Shoe Factory Social Club for rehearsals ahead of a work-in-progress performance.
Sam, who is patron of MoCo, said: 'I owe Miche so, so much. She allowed me space to feel very, very safe and to fail and to be creative and to be bold and dangerous and that's what a lot of people don't get, and if you can't explore those boundaries I think that really limits you as an actor. She went over, above and beyond what she had to do for me, did things well out of hours, helping me with speeches, different texts and auditions and she's also the most wonderful, humble, warm, generous human being...She's just got a heart of gold and it's so important someone with the creativity and passion for the arts that she's got is absolutely doing stuff like this [MoCo] in Norwich, allowing young performers the opportunity to play and be bold, and giving them that space. She's amazing.'
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The feeling is clearly mutual, with Miche speaking of how proud she was when she saw Sam in the Harry Potter show, and how as a student it was always clear he had great potential.
'Sam had an enormous amount of raw talent, but he also had the work ethic,' she said.
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'To watch Sam in the Harry Potter show, and to get a text just before it started saying, 'hope you enjoy it,' was special. It's the most amazing production.'
It was Miche who worked with Sam on his audition pieces for what was to become his first professional stage role - Bill in a Lord of the Flies production by Regent's Park Open Air Theatre. A number of other roles followed, and then Sam won the part in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child that was to put him firmly in the West End spotlight.
'I didn't quite believe the part was mine until we had the first day of rehearsals,' said Sam, who is from Brundall.
'I will always remember the first preview. We walked out into the Palace Theatre which is this beautiful theatre, it's got this very gothic feel to it and it is just like walking into Hogwarts, and there was so much suspense and tension riding on this first show. No-one knew what the story was, the play wasn't out there, and then the play began and it was like a rock concert. The audience were with us every step of the way and hung our every single word.'
Ten months on, the 23-year-old former Thorpe St Andrew School pupil said he and the whole cast continue to 'love the buzz and every single minute' of being involved in the two shows, describing the magic on stage as 'amazing,' although in keeping with the show's famous #KeepTheSecret campaign he does not go into details.
He said it was actually the storytelling and the audience reaction that he finds the most spellbinding.
'As much as there is spectacle, it always goes back to the story for Potter,' he said.
'JK Rowling has created such rich characters and has created this fantasy universe full of so much humanity... yes we do magic on stage and the magic is amazing but it goes back to the characters and the storytelling...and this fantasy world affecting people's lives so deeply, it's just the most amazing thing.'
One thing he especially loves is how the two shows are encouraging many people to go to the theatre for the very first time.
'Hopefully it will inspire them to explore more theatre,' he said.
However it will soon be time for Sam to bid farewell to the West End show as he has decided to leave the cast in May.
'It was a tough decision but I think the right decision, I'm ready to pass the baton on to the next actor playing Albus,' said Sam.
When asked about his future plans, he replied: 'Who knows? It's all happening! Things are happening, so we will see.'
For now he is enjoying his final weeks on the Palace Theatre stage, and also working with his former teacher and sharing his West End experience with the cast of aspiring actors in MoCo Theatre Company's production of A Clockwork Orange, the dystopian classic by Anthony Burgess.
'I cannot wait to see how this is going to develop. It's a brilliant play, very, very bold and daring. It's about the inner demons within us all,' he said, adding that he was impressed by what he had seen from the performers so far.
'They have got a wonderful, physical language for the show and a great physical presence.'
Miche said it was great to have her former student on board with MoCo Theatre Company, which she set up because she felt more support was needed in Norwich for aspiring actors after they turned 18.
'I am passionate that all these young people, who have all those ambitions that Sam had, have somewhere to help them flourish,' she said.
'It means so much to me that Sam has agreed to be a patron of MoCo, and not just an 'on-paper' patron.
'It's really valuable support for the young people because he's recently been through it all himself, the working hard to afford to go to auditions and keeping going despite all the letters that said no, no, no.'
A Clockwork Orange is a world away from Harry Potter, but is it the type of show that Sam himself would like to perform in in the future?
'Absolutely, it's immersive theatre, when this play was first out it was incredibly controversial and ground-breaking, and for an actor to be part of anything that's ground-breaking, and anything that is still very relevant today, is incredibly exciting, so absolutely, I would love to do stuff like this.'
A Clockwork Orange is at Shoe Factory Social Club from May 11 to 15. Tickets £12 (£10 students). Visit www.mocotheatre.com
For more about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, including ticket availability and prices, visit www.harrypottertheplay.com