The Rob Guest Endowment commemorates the life and achievements of one of Australia’s most respected musical theatre performers, Rob Guest, who passed away suddenly in 2008.
Now in it’s 10th year, the six finalists compete for a prize of $20,000 intended to help them gain the performance experience, media training, guidance and a public image to become a leading artist in the Australian musical theatre industry.
Previous winners have included Georgina Hopson, Daniel Assetta, Joshua Robson, Samantha Leigh Dodemaide, Glenn Hill, Blake Bowden, Francine Cain and Danielle Matthews.
Over the next two weeks, in the lead up to the November 19th final, we will be getting to know each of the six finalists a little better. First up, meet Joel Granger.
A 2015 WAAPA Graduate, Joel has appeared as Arpad in She Loves Me (Hayes Theatre), Baldwin in Cry-Baby (Hayes Theatre), Daniel in the Lola Montez Anniversary Concert (The Follies Company), Harry Beaton in The Production Company’s Brigadoon, Zacky Price in Big Fish (RPG Productions), Tobias in Sweeney Todd (New Zealand Opera), Warren in Ordinary Days for Pursued by Bear (Green Room Award nomination for Best Lead Male in a Musical), Tom in The Gathering (Vic Theatre Company), Bride in Titanic (StageArt), and Bernstein in Dogfight (Doorstep Arts). Television credits include Jack in Channel Nine’s True Story with Hamish and Andy and Mark in Please Like Me for ABC/Pivot.
Tell us about yourself
I have freckled skin, I avoid long walks on the beach, and I find self deprecating ginger jokes the easiest way to make people laugh.
When did you know you wanted to be a performer?
The home videos of me using a walking stick as a microphone and singing “Master of the House: comforter, philosopher and lifelong ‘bit’” will attest to the fact that dream was already established by age four. From there, I was very lucky to grow up doing a lot of theatre at school and in amateur communities. However, in my final year of high school, I was invited to London to sing for Andrew Lloyd Webber, and that was the moment that I finally gained the confidence to pursue this as a profession.
What is your training background?
My formal training includes the three year WAAPA Bachelor of Arts Music Theatre course, where I graduated in 2015. I had the absolute best time and was lucky enough to study with an incredible group of people, including fellow finalists, Ashleigh Rubenach and Lyndon Watts. Since then, I have been mostly Melbourne based for the last three years, learning informally from such wonderful teachers as Chris Nolan, Natalya Bobenko and Danielle Carter (basically I tried to be greedy and get a VCA training as well).
What does Rob Guest’s legacy mean to you?
One of the things I admire most about the Endowment are the incredible artists and creatives who donate their time and experience in honour of this man, and in honour of cultivating our Music Theatre industry. I believe the people involved year after year are a testament to how well-loved Rob was, and ultimately shows that anyone’s professional success in this business always seems to be supported by their ability to be a great human being.
This can be a tough industry. What keeps you going?
Having a life and a self worth outside of the industry. It’s still very much an ongoing process, but I am so lucky to be surrounded by an incredible group of people (inside and outside of the industry) that keep me grounded and supported. I’m also a believer in that everything happens for a reason, and I have absolutely found that to be the case in my career so far. I also love this art form sick. I am the biggest music theatre nerd, and I believe this industry is too tough if the artistry of it doesn’t bring you joy.
What is the best advice you have been given?
To be fascinating, you need to be fascinated. While this was given to me in a performance context, I believe it works more generally too. If you have a genuine love for performing, then you’ll never stop learning from what you’re doing and from the people around you. I always try to be curious about what makes great work and what makes great people, and naturally find myself wanting to explore this on a training basis and a psychological basis.
You recently appeared in She Loves Me at The Hayes. What is your favourite thing about independent theatre in Australia?
I love the creative control you get over your character. There is usually so much freedom to discover and solve and make things your own. I also believe it teaches actors humility. You learn that you’re not better than presetting your own costumes or helping out with the set, because everyone is usually coming together with the best intentions and for the love of it. I believe independent theatre plays a really important part in our industry and only feeds commercial, professional theatre in a positive way. Saying that, I strongly believe that actors musn’t be exploited, and their time and contribution should always be treated with respect and professionalism.
You have worked in both TV and Theatre. Is your creative process different for each?
I’ve found that in screenwork I’ve had to let my perfectionism go a little bit, seeing as you don’t necessarily have a rehearsal period to ‘get it right.’ You have less time to prep (in situ), there are often less research avenues (because the scripts are original), and you need to make quick, instinctual choices. Saying that, I love the world because it is so different and you just have to click your creative brain into a different gear.
Congratulations on your Green Room nomination for Ordinary Days. What was the experience in that show like?
One of the loveliest theatrical experiences I’ve ever had. I got to tap into the most dorky version of myself (I promise it wasn’t hard) and run around being fun and silly. Ordinary Days is only a four hander, and I think the success of the piece really rode on what a close group of actors we were: Matthew Hamilton, Brittanie Shipway, Nicola Bowman, and myself. Most of my stage time was with Nicola, and working opposite her encouraged me to listen, to be playful, and ultimately to be a better actor. I’ll be forever grateful for that experience with her. The awards night itself was so much fun, and Tyran Parke’s deserved win as our director was such a special moment. My category ended up being awarded to Charles Edwards, who I have watched on Downton Abbey for years, so I’d never been so happy to lose before.