Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Hannah Levane | Interview

Hannah Levane trained at the BRIT School of Performing Arts before going on to train at Arts Educational. Her credits include Keisha in Flashdance, Teacher and Alternate Killer Queen in We Will Rock You, Taylor in Disney's Tour of High School Musical and Annie and covering the roles of Bess and Clara in Porgy and Bess. She is currently about to embark on a UK Tour playing Michelle and covering the lead role of Deloris Van Carter. I was lucky enough to catch up with her before the Tour starts for a chat...

You've been performing for a few years now, but what age did you realise that you wanted to perform?
I was taken to all different types of shows as a kid back in the days when kids went free a lot of the time it was a great way of my mum and I enjoying something together, I saw operas and plays, ballets, concerts and big west end shows as well, I remember being about 6 or 7 and asking my mum after seeing a show once "do people earn money doing that" she said yes, and told me that some people make a great life from doing it and are actors all their lives. I remember thinking yes please that's the life for me and I told her so straight away. "mummy I'm going to do that, I'm going to be an actor".

How did your family react to your decision to be an actress?
With huge support, my mother has always been there for me in so many ways and without being pushy! Theatre was always my thing, she was just there to support. Growing up in a single parent family, mum looked at all my dance and drama classes as a way for me to have childcare that was fun and creative. She'd pick me up from circus space, jazz class and stuff and I'd have an outlet for my energy and creativity. I was also into sports and gymnastics as a kid. I remember the day I decided to focus purely on theatre. I was at the track training for a local relay race and we had scouts in to watch, I remember everyone else was really nervous and I just took it in my stride. After the training the scouts took me and a few other girls aside and told us they were interested in taking our training further. When my mum explained that this would mean getting up at about 6am and having to drop out of dance class I told them thanks but no thanks! So I got my mornings back and I learned show business. My mum has always believed in me at the same time keeps my feet on the ground. She is very proud of me and I do what I do for her and her faith in me, allows me to believe in myself also.
You trained at the BRIT School and Arts Ed, what would you say is the most valuable lesson you learnt from them?
From BRIT I learnt how to follow and hone my creative instincts. I learnt about myself as a performer. I found my voice and my talents. I saw what my strengths and weakness were. I was nurtured and free to create and devise. We had control over ourselves as performers. At Arts Ed I learnt the core techniques it takes to actually do the job. I learnt skills and perfected and stretch what was already there in raw form. Arts Ed taught me discipline and rules; it taught me how to get my foot well and truly into this world I now live in. Without either I'd be no one. They both have made me who I am. I value both equally even though both experiences where worlds apart.
There are a lot of things that these schools can't teach you, but what have you learnt from being in the profession that you didn't learn in training?I learnt diplomacy. I learnt some home truths about the ins and outs and inner working of the business. I learnt how hard it can be. I got to really appreciate how lucky I was with each job I got. I learnt that there is always someone else, always someone thinner and prettier. Always someone who can belt higher or dance better. But I also learnt to value myself. I learnt to believe I have something special to offer. And with each audition I try to convey that. Its not always about being the best it's about convincing people you should be given then job. Auditions are where the real acting happens. I learnt that no matter how much I was told to be, I simply don't have that competitive bone that makes me want to be better than someone else. I have to just trust that I can do it and trust that someone will see that. I have to simply do my best because that's all I can ever do. I've learnt also that this world is a money making business and there are highs and lows that come with that fact that turn a dream life into a very real job. We've all got to make a living at the end of the day.
When you were in training what were your dreams? And have you accomplished any of them?I have always dreamt simply and honestly to be an actor. In any form that that takes I wanted to work and be in shows. I wanted to make people watching those shows feel something I wanted to give the audience something special that they went home and thought about. I wanted to touch people's lives. I feel I will always dream that for myself. And I want more with each show I do. I never get bored of wanting that. Even when you get it. I always say that acting is a lot like a drug, it's overwhelming and it takes over your life, it moulds you as a person and it's highly addictive. There are worst things to be addicted to I say!
So you've just started Sister Act, how is it going?Very well thank you! It's a very different experience than anything I've done before and that makes it hard and exciting at the same time. The cast are all wonderful. I'm working with some old friends which is a total treat! I love the music and I was a fan of the show when it was in town so it's really interesting and fun to be part of this new production.
You're covering the role of Deloris, how does she compare to the other characters you've played?Deloris is a fireball, I've not yet played her on stage yet so I can't really compare. But I can't wait to give it a go; it's a "fabulous" role!
Before Sister Act you played Keisha in Flashdance, obviously the show was very physical but how did you cope with that after alternating the role of Killer Queen in We Will Rock You, which was vocally demanding?Don't be misled Killer queen is also very physically demanding too! The costumes alone weigh a ton and strutting in highs is no joke. Also with a vocally demanding belt like that it's a very physical thing in itself. But I know what you mean, Flashdance was a brilliant show for me because I really got to do a bit of all the disciplines that I'd trained in. I really enjoyed both experiences.
You've worked with many people in your career, but has anyone left a special mark on you?This is a never ending answer because everyone you ever work with teaches you something every day. It's what makes our work so soul enriching. But in terms of people who have really changed me and my view of things well I'll have to start with Trevor (that's Sir Trevor) Nunn, he works with his actors and his company in a way that makes you feel total safe, nurtured and respected. It was a wonderfully natural process working with him on my first job. I realize I was ridiculously lucky to have that as my first really professional experience, Porgy and Bess will always mean everything to me and he is a big part of that. On that job I also got to work with a wonderful man called Cavin Cornwall, to whom I probably owe my career! He was the one when I dislocated my knee on stage sorted me out and insisted I got the care I needed to enable me to be able to not only walk again but to dance again. I was back in the show in 6 weeks! It was a harrowing time for me but without him it would have been a whole lot worse and I think I dancing days would have been over! I will thank him every day! I'm working with him again now and it's an absolute pleasure and honour, he is a remarkable talent. I've also got a first hand master class from 'the' Mazz Murray! There are no words! Just watching her is awe inspiring! More recently I met Victoria Hamilton-Barratt she taught me so much and I found a great friend in the process. She has a CV to die for and talents to match. I admire all that she has done and all that she is. The end.
You have some great credits to your name, but which one would you say you loved the most or valued the experience the most?This is so hard because they are all so important to me for so many different reasons but I suppose if I have to pick one it's got to be Porgy and Bess. It was my first job out of Arts Ed and I learnt so much. I also covered the two female leads which was an amazing experience. So much happened to me during the run of that show that I felt I could handle anything. It was a show I was so honoured and proud to be a part of. It's my own personal triumph.
When you've finished Sister Act, what do you want to do?I want to break away from certain types of musicals for a while, I'll never turn my back of where I've come from but I want to do something completely different, just to prove I can. I want to grow as a varied performer. I would love to do some straight theatre and some Shakespeare. I would love to be a part of a new theatrical creation and go through with a production from the very start. I would like to create something of my own. Work on a scrip and album. I would love to do a period drama or a four part thriller or something. More than anything I just want to keep growing and learning and improving! I want to be the best I can be. I want to see how far I can go.

Follow Hannah on Twitter: @HannahLeMade

Left to Right: as Keisha (Flashdance, Shaftsbury), as Killer Queen (We Will Rock You, Dominion), as Keisha (Flashdance, Shaftsbury)
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