Blood Brothers Interview With Craig Anthony-Kelly
CheapTheatreTickets has been lucky enough to secure an interview with one of Blood Brothers newest cast members, Craig Anthony-Kelly. Craig currently plays Neighbour in the show and is an understudy for the lead, Mickey. Craig has also been on stage as Perkins and Bus Conductor in the production.
Before landing a role in Bill Kenwright’s celebrated long running musical, Blood Brothers, Liverpudlian Craig completed a 3 year Musical Theatre course at Millennium Performing Arts school in London. Since then Craig has worked hard to pursue his onstage dreams, landing a role in the International Tour of Mamma Mia. Craig has also performed at various theatres across the UK, including the Menier Chocolate Factory. Craig’s role in Blood Brothers marks his official West End debut.
So Craig, you are one of the newest members to the Blood Brothers team. How are you settling in?
Good! Very well! I have been there for about 6 weeks now. Everyone has been really supportive so that has helped a lot. I was the only one going in and it’s quite tedious when you think everyone has got on with what they are doing and I’m coming in. Everyone was so nice – it has been really easy to fit in.
It was one of the biggest cast changes that they have done. The Mrs Johnstone and the Narrator remained but Mickey and Eddie were new. The whole cast has a fresh approach to the show.
What was it like finding out you got the part?
Well I was in the Cinema and I was expecting a phone call from my agent. I saw I had a missed call near the end of the film so I just waited because I knew if I hadn’t got it I wouldn’t have carried on watching the film. So I waited, I came out and listened to it. It was just one of those moments. I was like “ahhh I got the job”.
You had previously auditioned for Blood Brothers before hadn’t you?
Yeah – it was the fourth time I had auditioned for it. I guess the casting wasn’t right at those times. It was this time! Before it was like a year and a half of rejection. I got little jobs but it’s almost like they say – once you start taking it easier rather than stressing about the audition it starts happening. Being too eager or trying too hard really comes across in the audition and it’s not a good quality for casting directors to see. Obviously this time, my fourth time, I knew what the material was about and so relaxed a bit more and I guess I showed them me rather than me trying to be something else.
Before Blood Brothers you were working as a Theatre Usher at the London Palladium – is it nice to be back on the performing side of the stage?
Of course. As a performer that is what you want to do. Although that is not really what is happening at the moment. You are lucky if you are continuously working. It can be tough as there is not always much going on. Working at the front of house, especially at the Palladium, every one is in the same position as you so it’s not demoralising. I never thought of it like that. I had fun.
What is it like to have finally made your West End debut?
Because it happened so fast from the audition to getting the job, then I was straight into rehearsals it gave me no time to think about it. Now I can reflect and look at it now and be like wow. This is only my second big job and I would consider Blood Brothers to be a show I have always wanted to be in. For this to be my second job…it’s amazing for me! It’s crazy to see my name outside. I took a picture and showed it to my dad! I put a lot of work in and I feel proud to have got there.
What do you like most about playing the Neighbour in the show?
It’s fun. They call it ‘Neighbour’ but I do other things as well. I am a schoolboy, a police officer etc. I cover Mickey, Perkins and also the Bus conductor/Postman.
You have already gone on stage as Bus Conductor and Perkins – tell us a bit about your experience in these roles?
When I was bus conductor, as one of the youngest members of the cast it felt a bit strange to play one of the older, authority characters… It was strange at first playing someone that’s not really my age. Perkins I enjoyed more because I can connect more to the geeky character with the glasses. That is more a fun role. I’ve yet to go on as Mickey but I imagine it will be fun.
Will it be daunting to go onstage as Mickey, one of the lead roles?
Oh yeah. Ahh. So much. I am a perfectionist, so when I make the slightest mistake it affects me quite a bit. But I am learning as I go not to let it effect me because I know what I am doing. I think going on for Mickey the first time will be really scary but what I like about it is that I feel so connected to that character that hopefully that will take over… We’re both from Liverpool. I know the suffering he has had in his life – I’ve got friends like that. I think I can do it justice. But it will be scary when I first go on.
Have you rehearsed Mickey much?
Yeah, when I got there we had four days solid of Mickey rehearsals and only half an afternoon for my actual track. We have a rehearsal a week for covers which help us keep on top of it. I might be thrown on last minute but I’m used to it from my time as a Swing in Mamma Mia.
One of the most defining features of Blood Brothers is that the actors play Mickey and Eddie from the ages of around six well into adulthood. Is it difficult to capture boyhood, teenage years and manhood whilst still playing the same character?
I think the child stuff comes more naturally to me. I can play that with ease. I spent a lot of rehearsals trying to figure out the older stuff as there is more substance to it. In the first half of the show Mickey is one age, he’s 7. Then in the second half you exit and then return two years older. It’s like getting that across in your head…trying to figure out how he has aged. The older stuff, there is more meaning and back-story. Going from an early age up until the end, it helps the ending as you have travelled through Mickey’s journey. By the end he is messed up in the head.
What is your favourite scene of the show and why?
For Mickey – the poem. It’s the magic of the show the audience are totally involved in the show because he is aware of them being there. I have been told in rehearsal to let them in and work off their reaction. The dialogue is great as there is rhyme there. There is pace. It shows what Mickey is really about.
What is your favourite song of the show and why?
‘A Bright New Day’ at the end of Act One. [Following that] Mickey gets married and then he gets sacked. It’s a really important bit of the show that just distinguishes class. There it is, a hard working guy then out of his control he loses his job. That is just what happens. The song shows the survival that happens in people.
Blood Brothers was born on the West End in 1983 and has been running at the Phoenix Theatre for almost 22 years – What is it about the show that you think makes it so successful?
I think the idea of class – it is an example of what does happen. Maybe this is an extreme case, but the play is something that everyone can relate to and identify with. Someone will know a Mrs J in their own family and friends. You can actually relate to it. The story has a strong element of truth. It’s not like these Jukebox musicals. You can totally connect to it. [Also] the show doesn’t have any flashy staging. There has never been a show stop because of technical reasons. The set is basic and pushed on. It just shows that the story is so powerful and so compelling and has a lot of heart. It doesn’t need more.
Blood Brothers is also on tour in the UK, have you met anyone doing the tour?
Yeah they sometimes come into rehearsal. They’re cool.
Do you think the Blood Brothers on tour is the same as in the West End?
Yeah because of the simple set, it’s a simple show. You are basically seeing the same show.
If you could have any other role in a musical what would it be?
I’d like to play Boq in Wicked. I don’t think I am the Hero, I’m more of the poorper… and I am happy with that!
What do you do on your day off?
Well I either chill or see my friends.. but In my spare time I do little designs. I thrive on getting inspiration from different things. And I like cooking…I like to gather ingredients and cook.
We asked a few Blood Brothers fans if they had any questions for you. We picked one at random, which is from Angie Hetherington. Angie would like to know: Are you more nervous or excited to be part of such a long running and amazing musical, and what do you think you can bring to it, that hasn’t been done before?
Wow. Okay. Of course I was extremely nervous before I started. Nerves are a good thing in a way as it makes you up your game. For instance I was on for one of my covers on Saturday and it wasn’t scheduled, you get nervous but it’s great. Am I more nervous than excited? If I am being honest, more nervous, but that isn’t a bad thing nerves can fuel you.
And…what hasn’t been done before…haha well I’m guessing not a lot as it has been running for ages. But I am a young guy, full of energy and that is what the role of Mickey needs, especially as a child. I am from Liverpool; I can use my life experiences to put into my performance. I find that would be rare in any other job. So yeah, I can bring a lot of myself and what I am about, what my family is about and what is Liverpool is about. I’m not sure if that hasn’t been done before, but that is what I can bring.
Finally Craig, what message of hope would you give to aspiring actors out there?
I would just say to keep going. There will be lots of times you will have to deal with rejection. If you are lucky enough to be working job after job that’s fine, but I’m glad that I had the period where I didn’t get a job. It makes you consider whether you are actually for this industry – do you have the passion? Although it is not the be all and the end all. Life still goes on. I told myself that if I got a job I’d be the happiest person in the world, but it’s not like I wouldn’t be happy until that day. You have to strive and try your best but still enjoy every single day. The rejection doesn’t mean you’re not good, it just means you’re not right for that day. The universe works in mysterious ways and there will be a time that it is right for you. I would say just keep going.
Thank you very much Craig, it has been a pleasure!
No, thank you!