Mid rehearsal for their debut show as Dundee Rep Ensemble members, I caught up with actors Rebekah Lumsden and Laurie Scott who have been accepted onto a 9 month programme running exclusively at Dundee Repertory Theatre. Every year the ensemble welcomes two drama school graduates to embark upon a year's worth of training and professional work; this comes as being the pairs first endeavour into life as a working actor.
Dundee Repertory Theatre; Tay Square, Dundee, DD1 1PB
Backstage at Dundee Rep
"Being in Scotland is pretty important. Being a Scottish girl, I think it's really important for me to try and be a part of that scene."
"I don't think I've ever walked into a building and felt more at home within the first week of me being here." Rebekah Lumsden says, addressing our surroundings as we sit in the upstairs bar of Dundee Repertory Theatre. The room is laced with youth theatre members, and Lumsden's little sister sits behind us, "She's only visiting" she reassures, firmly. "I've lived in Scotland my whole life. In terms of me creating theatre, seeing theatre, being a part of theatre - being in Scotland is pretty important. Being a Scottish girl, I think it's really important for me to try and be a part of that scene and I think that now, more than ever, Scottish theatre is thriving." Prior to graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree, Lumsden faced a past of precarious labour and rejection. Beginning at Edinburgh Telford College, as recommended to her by RCS acting lecturer Ali de Souza, her fiery spirit has yet to be dampened. "I've never had a horrible experience of being rejected. I never really take it personally. I tend to just say 'Okay, well, that's cool. I wasn't right for that job, I went in and did my best, and hopefully they'll keep me in mind for something else that I am right for.'"
Actor Rebekah Lumsden
She continues, "When I was 16, I didn't even get through the first round at the Royal Academy of Music and Drama. I kind of knew that was going to happen because I was really nervous, and I was shaking, and I think I forgot every single line." Lumsden laughs, turning to long-term friend, classmate and co-star Laurie Scott. The pair graduated this year, having trained together on the BA Acting course.
Rebekah Lumsden and Laurie Scott getting notes during a rehearsal
"Same year, same class." Scott interjects. "On average there's about twenty-four students on the BA Acting course and we get split straight down the middle, so it's twelve and twelve." Lumsden finishes, "You get dance classes, movement classes, voice classes, acting classes and obviously because twenty-four people is a lot for one tutor, or two tutors to take on, you're apart for different classes than the other half of the year." "But we're all one class." Scott adds, "We all do classes together at some point."
Born in Yorkshire, Laurie Scott found himself upon Scottish terrain aged eleven. "I wouldn't say that everything I want to do is inspired by being in Scotland, but I made an explicit decision to stay and try and work in Scotland rather than going to England. I feel like the scene is more tightly knit and more interesting in that sense." "I think it's fair to say that both of us would definitely like to [work outside of Scotland] at some point," pipes Lumsden, cautious of sounding reclusive. " – I've been to quite a lot of theatre festivals, taking my own devised work I made while I was at drama school, and I think that the level of talent and discipline and interest in pieces that are put on further afield, not in Britain, are unbelievably – it's just mind blowing. It's really interesting because when you're in Britain, in Scotland and London especially, you get stuck in this kind of bubble of 'this is what theatre is' and then you go places like Prague or Russia or Spain and you realize that theatre is so broad and there's just so much room for exciting ideas and forms, so that's definitely something that I'd like to be involved with as well."
"To be involved with international theatre is really important; to build those bridges between there and here." - Rebekah Lumsden
Lumsden says life prior to her first professional season at Dundee Rep wasn't always idealistic, working weekends at a beautician for just £20 a day. If there's one thing I learnt from meeting Lumsden, it's that the sheer determination she possesses for her self-preservation as a striving individual has driven her to her current pursuit. Her success has not come half earnt. "I took a gap year between doing my HND in Edinburgh and going to drama school and I worked for Lloyds Bank in the corporate sector, so I was a loans administrator, which is so boring. I sat at a desk and balanced numbers, and rolled over loans for people, and answered calls." I see the colour drain from her face as her eyes remain fixated on the hustle of the restaurant below.
Detailing the crippling anguish of her former self, she reins it in, wary of sounding unappreciative, "It was not where I wanted to be. But I earnt money, and it was good to do something different."
Scott follows, having had an equally frivolous career history, "My first job was on a golf course. I went in right at the top with St. Andrews Links, I think my title was 'Club House Assistant'. My job involved far more responsibility than I should've been given for a first time job at 17. I drove golfers to and from the club house, gave out clubs, dealt with the locker rooms; it was basically customer service for golfers. Which was cool because I do like just chatting to folk and what not, which is why I quite liked the waiting jobs, they're kind of fun in that sense, but yeah, wasn't mad keen on staying in hospitality, that was while I was still at school. But then I went back the second season and reapplied for the job I was doing and didn't get it, so I don't know what that says."
Actor Laurie Scott
"You're with a bunch of people that you'll be in lots of shows with and so you get to build a rapport, you get to build a relationship."
"If someone had said to me in second year at drama school 'you could have a year with a Rep theatre company when you leave, if you want' that would've been a dream scenario." gushes Scott. "You'd be silly not to do it." Rebekah Lumsden says, speaking of what it means to be an ensemble member "– I think this is such a good place to learn, to continue to learn because you're with a bunch of people that you'll be in lots of shows with and so you get to build a rapport, you get to build a relationship." I notice Lumsden is keen to highlight to importance of networking throughout our meeting, an asset I can only presume she's extensively utilized throughout the entirety of her ascent into theatrics. " – I honestly owe my personal process to John Kazek because I, the way that he taught us, and the way that he directed us, was just so influential and so understandable and so, pardon my French, not bullshit. I think that he's definitely influential to me and he has been a big part of the excitement for theatre and how he views it, he sees it in such simple terms, which it should be, it's people having a conversation on stage and listening to each other."
John Kazek is a Glaswegian actor and guest director at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, recently appearing in Matthew Lenton's 'Interiors' at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. A director who solely works with students, Kazek taught Scott and Lumsden during their first year at RCS, directing the pair in Terrence McNally's 'Frankie and Johnny'. "That first show we did with him, I would say I learnt more in those seven weeks than I did in the remainder of the three years." says Scott, boldly punctuating the conversation. Period.
The pair are currently starring in John McCann's 'Spoiling' which they've been rehearsing for the past week before opening at the Douglas Community Centre next Tuesday. Witnessing them in the rehearsal room together, their playful personalities exude charisma. I see they are already fitted with costume; Lumsden's baby bump protrudes as she wobbles upon an inflatable ball, while Scott's character frantically clambers around the space at the hand of Lumsden's every demand. The pair replicate that of a slapstick comedy duo; the scornful idiocy of Scott's character comes echoed by fits of laughter. The set is dressed with crumpled paper and Scottish memorabilia, with its near transparent walls backlit purple by tech Daniel Hippisley. "I'm excited, I'm just really excited." chirps director Joe Douglas, as an eagle eyed Lumsden scours for notes.
Unprompted, she tells me of her admiration towards having fellow Dundee Rep Ensemble member Ann Louise Ross as assistant director. Recently starring in Ross Dunsmore's 'Milk' at the Traverse Theatre, Louise Ross proves to be a lifeline for the actors, coaching them through her own experiences on stage. "We could go and audition for the show that we're doing now and possibly not even get a look in." Scott tells me remorsefully. "Because we're part of the Rep - you get to play such a broad range of parts in one year that it is like an extra year of training, but it's professional and you're being paid for it."
Work placement student Erasmus Mackenna having fun on set
"You're auditioning them, they're not just auditioning you."
I ask the pair of their feelings towards young people in the arts having both started early themselves, Scott gaining a place at drama school aged just eighteen. "I know how difficult it is. Because I've done it." concludes Lumsden, chewing on a sausage roll. "Drama schools are not as big and as scary as you think they are, and sometimes the reason that you don't get through, or the reason that you don't get a recall isn't necessarily because of you personally. It's because you're either not ready at that time, or they've just taken someone that looks exactly like you, or you need a bit more life experience, and to just, as much as you can because I know it's really hard, to not ever let it get you down or take it too personally. If you really want it and you continue to look for the outlets that you can and be involved in theatre, then you will absolutely manage to do it one day."
She continues, "Drama schools as well, remember you're auditioning them, they're not just auditioning you. It has to be the right place for you to study as well, and just have fun with it. Keep going if you want to do it, don't give up because it will happen." Not to deter from her concrete exterior, Lumsden follows with a stern "Go and see theatre if you want to be involved in theatre."
Dir. Joe Douglas and Assistant Director Ann Louise Ross
"The thing that's probably made me leave a theatre most like 'holy fuck, my life has just been turned around' was actually not a play at all, it was contemporary ballet show," Scott tells me, speaking of his most influential theatre viewing. "I can't remember what it was called, I can't remember who it was but it was at the Byre theatre. I went to see it having never seen any sort of ballet before and was literally dumbstruck by it. It was awesome." "I don't think acting can survive without movement and dance and singing." Adds Lumsden. "I think they're all really combined and I think it's really important as well, as an actor, to go and see other art forms and not just be confined to going to see plays all the time."
Rebekah Lumsden playing around during a break
With their debut looming, I asked them of their plans beyond Dundee Rep and how they will prepare for their departure come June 2017. "You don't just sit back and wait for the phone to ring, because that'll never happen." "I think being proactive is a plan that we both have. Being proactive is something that you have to be. But also just planning to keep in touch with people that you know in the industry, making sure you know what seasons are on at which places, and putting yourself forward for absolutely everything is pretty much the plan until someone says yes."
"You know, there's a very good chance that come July, we won't have something else lined up, so we'll just keep doing the same thing. I think if you then sort of slip, the hardest thing is to get back in the loop, so if I could make a plan it would be to go straight into another play at a theatre in, I don't know, Edinburgh or somewhere in England, but I'll take what they give me."
"It's hard to have a plan because in a lot of ways, it's completely out of our hands."
Catch Rebekah Lumsden and Laurie Scott as part of Dundee Rep Ensemble in 'Spoiling' touring Dundee and Fife this October. Contact your nearest community centre or hall for tickets. Details found at: http://www.dundeerep.co.uk/event/spoiling
Special thanks to Gemma Nicol for facilitating this interview.