Thursday, 5 August 2021

COMING HOME: Shak Gabbidon-Williams, currently in The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre

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! 

The Lion King still remains to be one of the top family and tourist favourites not only in London but all around the world. This live theatrical experience of the 1994 Disney film has stood the test of time as it enters into its 22nd year in London this Autumn. With productions worldwide this is one of Disneys true success stories and with its UK tour relaunching in October at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, it's sure to reclaim its position as one of the top shows in the world. 

Shak Gabbidon-Williams is no stranger to the show. Having previously appeared in the production at the Lyceum Theatre as a child playing Young Simba, he returns to the London company now as an adult in the ensemble and also covering the role of Simba. His other credits include Marvin Gaye and covering the role of Berry Gordy in Motown the Musical on tour and playing Seaweed in the touring production of Hairspray. 

Upon returning to performing, Shak tells us that he has had to do a bit of soul searching as his relationship with theatre was a bit shaky, completely understandable and I think we all can relate to that in some way. But he is obviously absolutely buzzing to get back to doing what he does best. “I think these last 12 months have really been about maturing and having a game plan and figuring out how to put these plans into action. The last time I performed on a stage was 6th January 2020, so best believe I’m super excited to get back on stage and give it my all.” 

Theatre has been through it over the pandemic, within our industry many issues have been raised and many of our eyes have been opened to the injustices within our own community. Talking to Shak about this, he says that the pandemic gave people an opportunity to let these problems sit with them, meaning we should now be able to move forward and make these changes. “As long as everything that has been mentioned online via social media has been addressed and worked out to the best of everyone’s ability, we should be able to move forward. Even steps like company-wide Diversity and Equality training is a great platform to start from; Disney has been amazing so far and set us up with a few workshops, I hope every company in the country gets similar opportunities but really it’s down to the producers.” 

Looking to the future, Shak tells us that everybody should perform like it's their last time. “I, for one, spend so much time looking ahead to the future I can sometimes miss out on the beauty of the present, live in the moment and treat every show like it could be your last.” It's very easy to get into a pattern and routine that sometimes we forget how lucky we are, living every moment in the present will allow us to enjoy and relish in those connections we make in theatre so much more. “We’ve all managed to get through the most unprecedented, unpredictable time in living history and if we can get through that (with the lack of support we have had from the government) we can get through anything.” 

Something Shak has missed the most about live theatre is the audience, “Being in front of a live crowd for the first time in well over a year and a half is going to be incredible. I did a filmed concert with Veritas Entertainment and the whole time I imagined what it would’ve felt like with a big crowd.” Telling us about this concert, he tells us it is a tribute to the Temptations for Veritas Entertainment’s Hootenany. “I got to work alongside some of the most talented young black performers in Ashford Campbell, Tremaine Wright, Cameron Bernard Jones and Brian Ronald, all under the tutelage of the great Jason Pennycooke. It was honestly a dream come true to get that opportunity to work with a true inspiration to me, and to be a Temptation for a week! keep your eyes peeled on Facebook!” 

Chatting about what shows he wishes he could have been at the reopening of, he mentions Hamilton which would, of course, be electric and Hairspray, as he has a history with the show and has friends in both the London and touring companies, it would be particularly special. But, of course, the final answer is The Lion King! With that iconic opening number, it's certainly one not to miss, "watching the theatre come to life in that opening number always gave me chills prior to lockdown anyway!” 

The Lion King reopened on the 29th July 2021 and resumes amazing audiences as it once did, Shak and his co-stars can be seen in the show at the Lyceum Theatre, back where the show belongs! 

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