Young stars perform the Broadway smash hit musical Guys and Dolls

Aspiring young actors brought the bright lights of Broadway to Westminster Kingsway College when they performed the smash hit musical Guys and Dolls.

Performing Arts Level 3 Diploma students starred in the spectacular show for parents, staff and students at the college’s theatre at its King’s Cross Centre.

The musical, which was turned into a 1955 film starring Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons, featured the classic songs Luck Be a Lady, Marry The Man Today, Sue Me, I’ve Never Been in Love Before and Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat.

The show set in New York tells the story of gangster Nathan Detroit, who is engaged to Miss Adelaide, and high roller Sky Masterson, who falls in love with mission worker Sarah Brown.

The WestKing cast included Emilis Jarasius as Nathan Detroit, Dalia Ishak as Miss Adelaide, Demani Marshall as Sky Masterson, and Caprice Dawkins as Sarah Brown.

As part of their preparation the cast went to see a performance of the show, which has been recently revived on the professional stage at the Bridge Theatre in London.

Emilis, 17, said: “I loved how this show brought everyone in. There weren’t really any scenes where there was just one person on stage.

“We got to play around with ideas and were always learning from each other. My class was really good for constructive criticism and sharing what we could do to improve on our characters and performance.

“Playing Nathan brought me out of my comfort zone. I’ve never really played a character who has to skate around so frantically. He’s quite smart but anxiously trying to stay in control despite the pressures being put on him.

“What I love about acting is the way you get to become a whole different person and get to live life through their eyes. Through the power of drama I get to be who I want. It’s like living hundreds of lifetimes in one.”

Dalia, 16, said: “Miss Adelaide is very ditsy but lovable. She’s very funny, easy to please and very gullible but very strong-minded.

“I did a lot of research into the role, watching past productions and the film, and we went to see the new production. The Miss Adelaide I play was very different to the one I saw on stage who was much more aware of what was going on. I took her energy but not her personality.

“My passion is musical theatre and I hope to go on to do a course at university after college. I love dancing, singing and acting and seeing amazing shows with songs that get stuck in your head. It’s such a buzz.”

Demani, 17, said: “Sky’s quite a smooth operator. He’s cool and not afraid and ready to do what he’s got to do as long as it’s calculated and makes sense.

“At first, I didn’t want to play him as I didn’t really want to sing, but my teacher said go for it. Over the couple of months we were rehearsing I developed my singing and the character to the best of my ability.

“I’ve learnt many different performance skills and theatre styles at college and how to use them to be effective. I’ve learnt how to follow a script, take direction, voice projection and articulate myself better. My teachers are brilliant, I’d be lying if I said they weren’t.”

Performing Arts courses at WestKing cover acting techniques, vocal skills, movement, improvisation, production, text analysis, scriptwriting, singing, rehearsals and auditions.

Sarah Slade, Lecturer in Performing Arts, who directed the production, said: “The show went superbly well, and the students rightly deserved the rapturous applause they received from the elated audience.

“They worked incredibly hard to learn their lines and the songs and develop their characters, and showed real commitment throughout the rehearsals to bring the show to life. I am hugely proud of them, as they should be of themselves.”

Find out more about Performing Arts courses and apply here.

Former Performing Arts student returns to CANDI to cast aspiring actors in short film

A former Performing Arts student has returned to City and Islington College (CANDI) to cast two current students in a short film he is directing this summer.

Karl Jackson, 30, turned to the college where he studied more than a decade ago, when looking for two female actors for his new film Independence.

The film has been funded by the British Film Institute and tells the story of the challenges faced by Amba, an 18-year-old who has just left the care system.

It follows her as she adapts to being moved out of her area and living alone in a rundown flat with minimal support apart from her best friend Ciara.

Karl, from Walthamstow, has seen first-hand the impact that coming out of care has on young people, through his work for care provider Lignum Vitae Care & Support.

“Preparing young people for living independently is easier said than done as their needs are all very different,” said Karl.

“Depending on where they are housed the standard of care and support can vary, which can have a drastic effect on their future prospects. I wanted to make a film that shed light on some of the shortcomings.”

Karl held an open audition at CANDI in March when he asked students for their suggestions to the script, improvise different scenarios and make an audition tape.

Joanna Rutagambwa, 19, and Mia Campbell-Fiawoo, 20, who are both studying for an HNC Performing Arts, were cast as Amba and Ciara.

Joanna, from Tower Hamlets, said: “When Karl told me I’d been cast I was very excited and accepted it straightaway. We got the script and had a one to-one and he asked me for my opinion and explained what he wanted from it.”

Joanna hopes to bring to the role her personal experience of having to change and grow up quickly when looking after her younger brother when her mum was at work.

“Amba is very quiet and passive. She is trying to hold everything together and does not want to ask for help because she wants to try and do things herself and not burden other people.

“It’s a lot about the silent moments and the way she behaves than what she says. It’s very powerful in the way it cuts through each scene, which gives it sense of realism.”

Karl studied a Performing Arts Level 3 Diploma from 2008-10 and has gone on to appear in roles on stage and screen including Game of Thrones, Casualty and Doctors. In 2019 he directed and starred in a short film called Relapse about a young father who is struggling to rebuild his life after being released from prison.

Karl was impressed with Joanna’s ability to instinctively encapsulate Amba’s emotions through her eyes and stillness, and Mia’s audition really fitted the character of Ciara.

“From my own experience I’ve always been aware of the high standards at CANDI, but to come back over a decade later and see the same enthusiasm, devotion and care was inspiring,” said Karl.

“From the start of the audition process with CANDI the calibre of talent and the attitude of the students was incredible.

Relapse (2019) – A short film by Karl Jackson

Joanna admitted to being quite shy when she first came to CANDI but she is now starting to realise her talent and getting the part of Amba had further boosted her confidence.

“The opportunities created at CANDI are amazing,” she said.

“When you look at people like Karl and see them thrive, not only as a former student but as a person of colour, it gives you hope that there are opportunities out there. It makes me feel there are endless things I can do.”

Tim Chaundy, Curriculum Leader for Performing Arts, said: “It was amazing having Karl back at CANDI and giving opportunities to our students to act at a professional level. The industry experience and skills Karl possesses have been a huge inspiration for our students.

“It’s even more thrilling that Karl decided to audition our students and cast Joanna and Mia in his new film. Both are creative students with innovative ideas and approaches to performance, and have developed excellent acting and theatre skills. This is such a fantastic experience for them.”

Independence is expected to be released later this year.

Apply now for Performing Arts courses.

Our Performing Arts Students Prove that the Show does go on

With no lights and no camera, can there be action? Without a stage to perform on and an audience to receive it, can live performance exist? This is the dilemma facing the performing arts industry across the globe during the Coronavirus pandemic. At WestKing, lecturers are tackling this challenge head on by finding new and experimental ways to allow students to hone their craft whilst in lockdown.

The end of year performance of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream turned in to a nightmare for Year 2 Performing Arts students when the Coronavirus hit the UK. The perfect location at the Story Garden in central London had been found, and since early January hours of rehearsals had been put in. But with theatres and stages across the UK sitting in the dark, and end of year exams cancelled, it all seemed futile.

Positive that there will be light after lockdown, lecturer Rob Alexander regrouped and found a revolutionary way to allow students to perform. Through the camera lens on laptops and tablets, students are now performing a socially-distanced version of the Shakespeare play from their homes via Zoom. Each day an act is practiced, performed and recorded with the entire play being completed within a week. Once restrictions are lifted, the recorded performances will be edited together by our technicians at WestKing’s Creative Arts Studio to produce one seamless performance.

Student Gabriela Madalina said: “Of course, watching your plans fall away is not a pleasant way to finish college. However, as I thought more about it, there’s nothing new here that an actor shouldn’t be ready for and maybe this is the final challenge college will bring upon us. The online meetings turned out to be the perfect solution and allowed us to continue with the performance. Radio theatre has been around for a long time but somehow it is overshadowed by all the performances meant to impress the eye. Now we get to impress the ear. Sure, it’s not what we were preparing for, but that’s what actors do: we improvise.”

Rob Alexander said: “Like playing an instrument, acting is a skill which has to be practised, and exams being cancelled was no reason to become complacent. In fact, it drove our students to dig deeper and much like a radio performance, learn to perform in isolation. They have had to adapt quickly, for example, getting their timing right and waiting for different cues so there isn’t a lag. This is an experience that they would not have had without the lockdown.”

Our Year 1 students have been working hard too. In conjunction with film and theatre company Broken Hearted Youth, they were set the challenge of writing and performing a monologue which could be unrelated to the lockdown but has the underlying theme of isolation. Artistic Director at Broken Hearted Youth , Michael van der Put said: “For a number of years we have had a rewarding collaboration with Westminster Kingsway College. We were in the early stages of planning a theatrical production around the theme of mental health when the lockdown arrived.

“Luckily for us, being a film and theatre company affords us some flexibility in our approach. In planning what comes next, we’re able to look to Rob and the team to see the adaptations they make in teaching and evaluating their students. This in turn informs our approach to the creation of future work. It’s early days in this period of change, but we know the passion and enthusiasm from both Rob and his students will weather the storm.”

Students have come up trumps with a rich tapestry of stories and will perform and record the final piece from their homes. One student, Nami Olivia, centred her monologue on the faults in the American justice system and racism in the 1920’s – 1950’s. She said: “It is focused on a woman called Aubrey Browne who grew up in downtown Detroit and moved to New Orleans where she got caught up in a murder investigation. Despite the fact she was 17 years old and the evidence was in her favour, she was tried as an adult, found guilty and spent 25 years in jail. The monologue is set the day before she’s due to die by lethal injection and she’s reflecting back on her life.”

Another Year 1 student Alexandra-Stefania Chiran said: “I really enjoyed working on this project I think that it’s really exciting that we get to write our own script from scratch. I’ve been working on a monologue about a girl that is isolating herself from all of her friends and family and everyone is starting to get worried about her. They try and get her to talk to someone about how she feels.”

With Patrick Stewart reading a Shakespeare Sonnet a day on Twitter and the Royal Shakespeare Company enlisting help from the likes of David Tennant with homework, performing artists are very much fighting back. The adaptability at WestKing is the perfect illustration that even though we are locked down, things are very much looking up.

Although the regions also have thriving theatre scenes, London is still the UK’s performing arts hub, as it’s home to West End theatres, TV studios and more. Learn with us and your career options after college include TV and film, radio and theatre in areas such as acting, dance, direction and choreography. Please click here to find out more about studying Performing Arts at Westminster Kingsway College.

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