Pathways to Shakespeare

Jake Fairbrother

February 18, 2013

Jake Fairbrother in The Orphan of ZhaoJake is an actor in the A World Elsewhere season.

Although both his parents were actors, Jake had no ambition to follow in their footsteps. He was determined to be a professional footballer and went a good way down the road to become one.

He was always aware of theatre,being backstage with his mum when very young and he was the kid on loan as a flute-playing angel in a production. But she more than repaid him by ferrying him across London to various football venues before he won a Sports' Scholarship to a residential school.

He played for England in Schools Football under 16 and under 19 and was in boys' teams for Tottenham and Fulham. At 18 he was on trial for Wrexham but when he did not secure a contract he reviewed his options.

As a semi-professional footballer he was able to part-finance his degree in Management Sciences at Loughborough and having graduated he worked in property for 18 months. He hated office work and it was not long before he made a conscious decision to opt for Drama School.

He secured a place at Guildhall and through voice coach and director Patsy Rodenburg he discovered Shakespeare. In school he remembers reading Romeo and Juliet but he never had to study Shakespeare for exam purposes and so came to it fresh and unprejudiced.

In the second year he performed in Macbeth, sharing and alternating the roles of Macbeth and Duncan. There was lots of presentation work: Leontes in The Winter's Tale he played and Henry V and he worked on The Sonnets.

In his final year,2008-9, he won the Michael Bryant Award, performing at The National Sonnet 138: When my love swears that she is made of truth, and the tennis balls speech from Henry V. The judges were director Nicholas Hytner and actor Zoe Wannamaker.

His first job was with theatre company Cheek By Jowl, touring Macbeth to eight countries so he found himself in Paris understudying Macbeth. He came back to audition for Nicholas Hytner's Hamlet at The National but his commitments abroad meant he could not return for the second round. Nevertheless he got the role of Fortinbras and just being in the company at The National was a great experience.

Now he is at The RSC for The World Elsewhere season working directors: Greg Doran, Michael Boyd and Roxana Silbert. The plays he is in reflect the times of Shakespeare elsewhere in the world so Jake is widening his experience of world drama.

Working on The Orphan of Zhao, one of the challenges has been the nature of the heightened language. You can't treat it naturalistically, he tells me, any more than you can Shakespeare's. And he is working on the thrust stage for the first time-inclusive, intimate, bringing the audience dynamically into the performance, he says.

The greatest performance he has seen on stage was Chiwetel Ejiofor as Othello at The Donmar Warehouse in 2008. This was an important moment for him in confirming his commitment to Shakespeare.

The role of Macbeth still seems his favourite, but he would like to play Iago or Mercutio.

I found Jake's performance as the Orphan outstanding. Entering the play just before the interval he brings with him a freshness,an innocence that we will see destroyed. It is a tragic role that he has to develop in just over one hour's playing time.

There is an epic,almost Greek feel to the end of the play with its tragic ironies. Jake, I feel, is a fine Shakespearean actor in the making.

by Viv Graver  |  No comments yet

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