Living the drama dream

Artists all over the world dream of studying drama professionally in London – but very few actually make it. Here, MaltaToday speaks to nine students who will be performing the musical Grand Hotel back in Malta next week

The cast of Grand Hotel
The cast of Grand Hotel

Any aspiring actor will tell you that London is the place to be. From the bright lights to the incredible education, London has the best of everything – and it’s also the place to chase your dreams all the way to the West End stage. 

The students at Margaret Howard Theatre College (MHTC) know that only too well, as they are under-going some of the best training that the city has to offer. They work rigorously on dance, drama and singing, which helps pave the way for their future careers on the stage – whether that’s the West End itself or at performances anywhere in the world. 

Students come from all over the world to study at MHTC and, among them, are nine Maltese performers currently going through their training. As a result, the college, which also has a number of Maltese alumni, has chosen to bring its end-of-year show to Malta. Grand Hotel – The Musical will play at the St James Cavalier Theatre from June 1 to 3. 

This exciting show takes place in a beautiful hotel in 1928, when the world was between two world wars. The show is inspired by Vicki Baum’s period novel, and deals with issues of life and death, financial ruin, love and murder – all in the lobby of this illustrious venue.

The performers

Here we meet the nine Maltese actors taking part in Grand Hotel, to ask what it’s really like to study drama in London, what’s best to watch in the capital at the moment (if you happen to be there!), and why they think you should come to see Grand Hotel – The Musical. 

Alessio Buhagiar, 19, will be playing the hotel manager Rohna

“After years of taking classes in Malta and being an avid fan of musical theatre, I decided that I wanted to take my training to the next level. Being near the West End is fantastic and I love drawing inspiration from the performers from all over London. I believe that this show has something to touch every single person in the audience in one-way or another. Between the fabulous music and heart-warming text, it’s definitely a show to see.”

Peter Camilleri, 21, is portraying Otto Kringelein

“The main reason I wanted to study in the UK is because, unfortunately, we don’t get the same opportunities in Malta, which is a shame, especially with the growth of the industry currently. The best bit about studying in London is the fact that you can watch current top-notch shows in a heartbeat, only a train ride away! There are also several master classes and workshops available to students from big names in the industry.

“I think it is a must to watch a show whenever possible. I like to spend my days off in London with my friends, watching an evening show and going to one of the various London pubs to enjoy a meal together. Thanks to the box offices and apps like TodayTix, students on a budget find cheap tickets for shows on the day. The must-see show of the moment is definitely Half a Sixpence – it’s spectacular.”

Amy Caruana Dingli, 23, playing the part of Victoria Witt

“I chose to move to the UK in order to train full time as a performer. I wanted to improve my technique, performance skills and teaching skills. I felt that the only way forward would be to invest more time and energy in order to achieve this. As Kevin, our Head of College tells us, it’s all about the amount of hours of purposely practice you put in. Here in the UK I am solely focused on my career. Three years of my life dedicated towards my training. My ultimate dream is to open a performing arts college in Malta, which will allow students to train on a full time basis.”  

Dan Cas, 25, is playing Colonel Doctor Otterschlag

“I have always had a passion for the performing arts and I come from a family that loves musicals and music in general. So, at the age of 21, I decided to take performance a step further by travelling to London to pursue my dream. The best thing about studying in London is that you get to work with so many talented and well-known artists who are experts in their field. Secondly you are close to all the shows and it’s very easy to end up watching a West End show on an unexpected day.

“The energy in this musical is fantastic – it is such a happy musical, bringing smiles to faces. The cast is also brilliant and keeps you engaged throughout.” 

 

Jean Paul Ellul, 19, will take on the role of Erik Litnauer

“The best part of studying drama in London is that there are so many different people with different skills and ideas to learn from that it’s just fascinating. The industry here is much larger, so you get to make more contacts and to meet an interesting mix of people from diverse creative backgrounds.  

“If you’re in London right now, the must-see musical is An American in Paris –George Gershwin’s music, the choreography, the acting and the story itself are just amazing! This show, meanwhile, is very entertaining with exceptional choreography vocals and intense acting.” 

Antoine Farrugia, 19, will play Jimmy

“I always had a passion for the performing arts. Knowing that you can make someone feel different emotions is something I hold to my heart quite closely. Growing up in Malta, I’ve always done everything that I could to better myself within the industry, which then led me to come here to the UK and find the perfect college for me to study professionally in.

“If I had to think of my dream role it would be Boq in Wicked. The character goes through such a journey in the show, with different emotions, different realities and a lot more. Wicked is also such a good show, and it’s a nice twist on a tale from when we were younger that’s been made into one of the greatest musicals of our generation!”

Dan Holland, 21, will be playing Baron

“Going to the UK to study was a big step towards what I wanted to achieve in arts and I am thrilled to have taken the opportunity. Studying drama in London is great because you are always surrounded by incredible things – people you want to work with and shows you want to be in. 

“If you’re in London at the moment, I recommend School of Rock. It’s a musical that can be seen from so many different perspectives and it is inspiring to all ages. The music and songs are great and the cast is brilliant. As for Grand Hotel, it’s wonderful because it’s honest and grand, with lovely music and a variety of emotions.”

Edel Pace, 21, will play Madame Peepee

“I’ve always had a passion for performing and I decided that I want to perform for a living in the future, so I felt that the best way to do that is to study here in the UK. I love being surrounded by theatre, while being able to watch a variety of shows really helps with my training and constantly reminds me why I have chosen to do this. 

“My dream role would be Rafiki from The Lion King! Apart from the fact that The Lion King formed a big part of my childhood, I feel that it is a challenging role and she gets to sing my favourite songs from the whole show.”

Bettina Mattocks, 18, will play Sandor

“The best bit about studying drama in the UK is the fact that you can study and perform in a show and eventually see that same show performed by professionals on the West End. Currently, the best show to watch is Half a Sixpence – it’s a classic and such fun to watch!”

Grand Hotel The Musical will take place at the St James Cavalier Theatre on June 1-3 at 20:00. Bookings:  2122 3200 www.kreattivita.org

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