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Bermuda Sun... Beyond the Headlines

Actor bows out of Bda with Animal Farm
Star performer Rowan Vickers accepted into several world class drama schools

Sarah Lagan
Writer/Sub-editor

Friday, February 25, 2011

 

Rising star: Rowan Vickers, pictured rehearsing for Animal Farm, is about to leave Bermuda having been accepted into some of the best drama schools in the world. *Photo supplied
 
Threesome: From left, Jenny Burrell, Gary Skelton and Rowan Vickers, who play the three pigs in the latest Gilbert & Sullivan production, Animal Farm. *Photo supplied
Animal Farm
Where: City Hall Theatre
Time: 8pm, except closing night when it shows at 4pm.
Tickets: http://www.gands.bm/
Price: Opening night $30 then $35.

A world of opportunity lies on the horizon for rising star Rowan Vickers, as one by one, he receives letters of acceptance from some of the world’s top drama schools.

What’s more, the young actor has beaten more than 2,000 hopefuls by making it to the final interview stage for The Juilliard School in New York. It is one of the most prestigious drama schools in the world, boasting such alumni as Kevin Spacey, Robin Williams and Val Kilmer.

The Warwick Academy graduate is carefully juggling his time impressing drama school faculty heads while rehearsing for the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Bermuda’s latest production — George Orwell’s Animal Farm. It will be his last performance in Bermuda before he furthers his acting education overseas.

“I really want to live in London but if I get accepted into Juilliard, a part of me says I’d be stupid to turn it down. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it,” he told the Bermuda Sun.

“It’s been awesome going to all these different drama schools. It was so much fun auditioning for Juilliard but it was a stressful experience — this is one of the best places in the world to do what I want to do and I was being directed by people who are the best at what they do. I thought — this is so awesome”.

Rowan has already been accepted into London schools Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, where Dame Judy Dench is president, and the Central School of Speech and Drama and he is about to audition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He goes to the final round of Juilliard auditions on March 12 and 13 where he has made it to the last 40 — 18 will be chosen.

His final show here is a classic tale in which he plays one of the most prominent roles. Animal Farm is based on Orwell’s 1945 novel of the same title that mocks Stalin’s communist Russia and other such despotic regimes. It shows at City Hall Theatre from March 23 to 26 and will be directed by former Warwick Academy head of Drama, Matt McGowan — a personal friend, mentor and former tutor of Rowan’s.

Drunken farmer Mr. Jones (played by Rowan’s real life father, Ken) is ejected from the farm by all the animals who came to realize they had been taken advantage of their whole lives.

Common goal

The residents of the newly named Animal Farm announce that all animals are equal and form a plan to work towards the common goal of making their lives more efficient and enjoyable. However, certain species, most prominently the pigs, become power hungry and the animals’ dream of utopia begins to fall apart.

Rowan plays the second pig in command, Squealer who, taking orders from head pig Napoleon (played by the Bermuda Sun’s photo editor, Gary Skelton), plays a crucial role in winning the hearts and minds of the animals.

“I was given a choice and it had to be Squealer — he’s the one with the brain,” said Rowan. “Napoleon’s the bigger, imposing, scary one who is a brute but Squealer is the smiling villain and he’s very manipulative with his words. That’s often worse if you have a bully who says ‘I’m going to isolate you from everyone’.”

Other roles include Old Major (Mike Jones, History Boys), Boxer the work horse (Malachai Simmons, History Boys) runaway pig Snowball (Jenny Burrell, Missing Celia Rose), with narration by India Wilson (Railway Children) and Phillip Mathias, (Blood Brothers).

This is the first time Rowan has acted with his father Ken, whose critical opinion of his own acting he treasures. Perhaps Ken, who minored in Drama, gets some of his cultural acumen from his own father — the world-renowned opera singer Jon Vickers. “My dad’s got a really good eye,” Rowan said. “I really trust his judgement. Growing up with his dad being who he was, he can see through all the rubbish out there.”

Rowan’s family is full of creative talent — his mother Jane, for one, is on the board of G&S and is a well-respected producer here. Rowan says he was spurred into acting by his own love of film and theatre from a very young age.

He explains: “When I first got into acting I wasn’t pushed. I remember I saw Airforce One with Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman when I was nine and I was just like, ‘wow — I want to do that!’ It’s never really been a conscious thing to want to be an actor. I just do.”

Rowan was born in Canada where he played roles at the prestigious Grand Theatre and at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival before moving to Bermuda aged 11.

Here, he started doing the shows at Warwick Academy which led to performances with the Bermuda Musical and Dramatic Society, G&S and the Bermuda Festival. In 2008 he read a passage from Frankenstein at the Premier’s Concert and was invited to read a longer passage the following year, a highlight in his budding career.

The actor whom Rowan most admires right now is Derek Jacobi, a protégé of Laurence Olivier who is currently playing King Lear in a U.K. production that will end up on Broadway this Spring.

“His Hamlet will never be touched,” Rowan said. “He is a huge influence on me.”

But theatre is his first love: “My heart is really in the theatre,” he said.

“My ultimate role would be Hamlet at the National Theatre — that would be it — I’d retire!”

 

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