Artist of the Month-May-Andrew Swift

This month's artist of the month is Andrew Swift. Andrew is a local performer who you can see in Glorious! this month at the Sheung Wan Civic Center. His background is mainly in musicals but he's also got some serious comedic chops! Get to know a little more about him.

1. Name, Birthplace, Age

Andrew Swift, United Kingdom, 33

2. How does where you were raised affect your work?
In the UK we are lucky in that we have very good local repertory theatres. Not all the good theatre happens in London. I was brought up in Leicester and the Leicester Haymarket Theatre (as it was then called) was one of the best repertory theatres in the country. We were spoilt with the quantity and variety of theatre presented there. That I later went on to train in musical theatre was a direct result of the musicals that I saw at the Haymarket - particularly the Sondheims - for which the theatre became particularly renown. The theatre also had excellent community outreach projects that I actively participated in. It certainly was highly influential in me opting to pursue theatre as a career.

3. Where did you train?
As a child at the National Youth Music Theatre of Great Britain and then at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts.

4. What is your favorite style of theatre? Why? (Can be style of film or of theatre depending on your preference of role.)
Done well, my favourite theatre style is, without doubt, musical theatre. Not necessarily the big commercial successes (although I do enjoy many of those too), but music theatre that strives to break down the often unfair stigma attached to it. I'm an extremely passionate fan of Stephen Sondheim and later composers who have been inspired by his work. I enjoy smart, witty and efficient theatre that packs a punch at the correct moment and doesn't attempt to cheaply manipulate the audience's emotions.

5. What was the best show you EVER saw?
Merrily We Roll Along at the Donmar Warehouse in London.

6. What was the best show in HK you EVER saw? (You cannot say your own.)
For some really high-quality local theatre in Hong Kong - the Hong Kong Repertory Theatre is fantastic. They have a really diverse season and some excellent local actors. All the plays are in Chinese with English surtitles. The best play that I've seen in Hong Kong was HKRep's production of Love You Forever at the Arts Centre.

7.What piece of work are you the most proud of? (please include photo, if possible.)
Actually it's Sleuth that I did also with Candice and Barry. It was a two-hander. It was very challenging, not least because of the amount of lines that needed to be learnt. It required a lot of physical and mental energy and I often would come off stage feeling totally exhausted - but also with a feeling a having achieved something great. It was a play that I had loved for a long time, so the opportunity to be in it was fantastic. 

8. What is your process like?
For a start, I am not 'method'. Noel Coward said, "You ask my advice about acting? Speak clearly, don't bump into the furniture and if you must have a motivation, think of your pay packet on Friday." I love this! It cuts through so much of the rubbish that we hear about how to be a 'great actor'. It's obviously an extreme, but I really think there is some truth in it. I am a huge fan of the American dramatist David Mamet. He talks about the lost art of acting. The role play that we enjoy endlessly as children is in essence - acting. I think often we can forget the incredible enjoyment that pretending to be someone else gives us. But let's not get pious about - as many of the followers of Stanislavski do. As actors none of us are saving the world or pioneering scientific feats..... we are just pretending. But how wonderful that we have the opportunity to indulge these childish whims. AND people actually pay to watch!! 

9. What is your dream project?
To play George in 'Sunday in the Park with George' - My favourite musical of all time.

10. If you could change one thing about the art scene in HK, what would it be?
Well for non-Chinese speakers it's largely an amateur scene. There are some fantastic foreign actors in this city, but the money doesn't seem to exist to mount and promote productions that reward the participants in accordance with the sacrifice involved in devoting your life to your art. There are some productions recently that are proving that it is possible to raise money and mount professional local English language theatre. This is something I would love to see continue. When artists in this city are recognised as professionals and worthy of a salary then the English language theatre scene in Hong Kong will truly flourish.


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