Sunday, 1 August 2021

COMING HOME: Oli Higginson, who will be starring in The Last Five Years at the Garrick Theatre in September

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! 

If there's one name in Musical Theatre, that has popped up and made everyone aware of who they are very quickly, it's Oli Higginson. Having actually trained as an actor at Guildhall, rather than in musical theatre, he made an absolute splash playing Jamie in The Last Five Years at the Southwark Playhouse. The show was playing before the lockdown and was actually one of the few shows that got to play its final performance on the evening of the 16th March 2020. But this wasn’t the end of the road for the show. After rave reviews, the show returned in October 2020 and was also filmed and streamed at the beginning of 2021. It has also recently been announced that Oli and his co-star Molly Lynch will reprise their roles for a West End transfer. The Last Five Years will play at the Garrick Theatre from the 17th of September to the 17th of October 2021. 

For his role in The Last Five Years, Oli was nominated for the Stage Debut Award for Best Performer in a Musical and also for an Offie Award for Best Lead Performance in a Musical. But even though he is a new name on the scene, he’s certainly been busy! As well as his performance in The Last Five Years, Oli has appeared in The Haystack at the Hampstead Theatre, Maggie & Ted at the White Bear Theatre, has played John in the hit Netflix show Bridgerton (in which he his reprising his role for its second season), layed Colin in The Pursuit of Love for the BBC and will be playing Saul in This Sceptered Isle for Sky Atlantic which is due for release in 2022. 

Having only left drama school in 2019, talking to Oli you can see he already has a good grasp on the industry. Chatting about the changes we need to make with theatre reopening he talks about how it pays off to be a kind person, “I’ve witnessed some toxic and degrading behaviour but I’ve also worked with professionals who bring so much generosity, respect, and warmth into the room. I think we need to champion kindness more - at times it feels like the most underrated of qualities in this industry. Being a great actor and being a respectful co-worker should be synonymous. What’s so ‘cool’ and ‘creative’ about being an asshole? It doesn’t do it for me.” 

Talking to Oli, you can see how open and honest he is as a person and this definitely reflects in his work. We spoke about how he feels he’s changed as a person over the past 12 months, “I’m a little more anxious, a little more scared, I feel a little more vulnerable but that’s okay, it’s beautiful and human. I’m looking forward to letting all these bits spill out in a rehearsal room and assembling them into something that looks like acting.” 

Oli is also the co-founder of the production company ‘3 Hearts Canvas’, the company crosses over mediums in Theatre, TV and film with a focus on actors and creatives being paid fairly and treated with respect, diversity awareness across the casting and creating of projects and focuses on boundary-pushing work that brings something definitively new to the table. Recently Oli, along with his co-founder and partner Meaghan Martin, starred in a workshop production of SMOKE, a modern adaptation of August Strindberg's classic play Miss Julie, set at a BDSM sex party in New York. Oli describes the show as “a play that challenges our preconceptions of sexuality and consent” and he shares with us that they’re planning the London premiere for 2022 whichis certainly something to look forward to! 

When speaking to Oli, he mentions how seeing friends succeed in this industry fills him up with so much pride, “I’m looking forward to sitting in a theatre, gazing up at another actor and thinking ‘my god they’re good'. Even better if it’s a fellow actor from my time at Guildhall - I find it so moving to see a friend discover something profound in their work when you know the journey they have been on.” It's a reminder that we must, more than ever, be supportive of each other and make sure we let people know how proud they make us because if this last year has taught us anything, it's that it can all be taken away from you almost instantly. 

We asked Oli what he’d most like to see when the theatres reopen and his response was Leopoldstadt, perfect timing too because the show had, at the time, just announced its return to the West End, opening on the 7th August 2021 at the Wyndham’s Theatre. “I was on the verge of seeing it pre-Covid, had heard amazing things. I’ve always admired Stoppard’s writing. I often find myself waking up a year after seeing a play of his still thinking about ‘that line in Act 2’.” 

Oli Higginson is certainly someone to keep your eye on because we can imagine him going very far in this industry, but make sure you get your tickets to see him reprise his role in The Last Five Years when it transfers to the Garrick Theatre in September. We know we’ll definitely be there to experience this amazing production of the Jason Robert Brown classic! 

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