Thursday, 24 June 2021

COMING HOME: Richard Meek, opening in the UK tour of Hairspray

Pocket Size Theatre and Liza Heinrichs (Captured by Liz) have teamed up again and created our new series 'Coming Home'. In this new piece, we look at the reopening of Theatres in London and around the country and celebrate our industry coming back. We got together some performers who will be some of the first to return to theatres and created this piece to bring some positivity to the theatre industry which has been through one of the toughest years in our lifetime. Whilst it is important to acknowledge the hardships we've all gone through, it's important we pull together as a community and celebrate our beloved industry finally coming back! 

We meet Richard fresh from the cast announcement of the UK tour of Hairspray, in which he will be playing the role of Corny Collins, a role and show he says is one of his dream jobs. We met Richard at the Playhouse Theatre, a place he is pretty familiar with! He appeared in The Rocky Horror show playing Eddie/Dr. Scott at the Playhouse, he later went on tour with the show in the same roles before taking over the role of Brad Majors, a role he had played previously. 

With a CV almost as long as my arm, Richard has had a really wonderful career. He’s appeared as Rooster in the UK Tour of Annie, as Trevor Graydon in the UK Tour of Thoroughly Modern Millie, starred as Leo Bloom in the international production of The Producers, played Sir Galahad in the UK Tour of Spamalot, played Dustin and covered Greaseball in the Bochum production of Starlight Express and has played the title role in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, to name but a few of his many credits! 

Richard booked the role of Corny Collins back in February 2020 and after well over a year, is finally starting his journey with the show. “ It has been a real lesson in patience for me and I cannot wait to be back on stage singing and dancing my little heart out. Also, getting out and supporting all my friends living their best lives on stage.” 

We spoke to Richard about what the pandemic was like for him and he tells us about his struggle with anxiety, our industry is very fast-paced and forward-moving on and he describes it as “the rat race”. Suddenly when everything stopped it meant Richard had time to reflect and pause for a moment. “This past year has given me time to reflect on what’s most important in my life; Family, friends, health and well-being. When the first lockdown happened I actually felt immediate relief I think. I was able to stop and step back from the industry and people and it was actually quite cathartic for me.” 

This isn’t to say he hasn’t missed performing; this industry seemed to have shut down quicker than you could snap your fingers but he reflected this when we spoke to him he told us about how this industry is so precious, “I will be taking no moments for granted. Even the never-ending techs and mid-week matinees!” 

During the past year, Richard has been keeping busy. During the first lockdown, he was the primary carer for his sister who has learning difficulties and after that, he took a job as a ‘Manny’. When talking about this he says his sister is “an incredible person, very funny and very dry. I can honestly say it was one of the best experiences of my life.” But on the subject of being a ‘Manny’, he says it was “it was quite an eye-opening experience for me; 12 hour days, 5 days a week. Thankfully, I had a great family who I am still in touch with and the added bonus of connecting with a fellow performer Sabrina Aloeche without whom I more than likely would have had a Goldie Hawn in Overboard “ buh buh buh buh “moment””.  

With time to reflect, this industry has had time to take a step back and see some of the injustices that happen within our own community. When speaking to Richard about this he agrees that this time has given our industry a moment to make some essential changes; “I am pleased to see some real progress happening within casting in terms of representation both in roles for people of colour and also, as we move foreword, with appropriate casting for trans roles and trans representation within the industry. But there is still so much to be done, and moving forward we all have to take an active role in calling attention to matters that need a louder voice.” 

The UK touring production of Hairspray opens on the 24th June 2021 at the Theatre Royal Plymouth and, I think we can all agree, this is a show we all need in our lives right now. With such an important message that is more meaningful today than ever plus some amazing feel-good songs, this is just what this country needs! We cannot wait to see Richard and his fellow cast members in this production. 

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