Interview: Ryan Willis makes his professional debut in Love Birds

Ryan Willis makes his professional debut in Love Birds
Ryan Willis makes his professional debut in Love Birds

Ryan Willis makes his professional debut in Love Birds

After a virus put him in the hospital and out of the show for four days, Ryan Willis, who plays Quack Packer Pewsey, returns to Love Birds today for its final performances at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe – and to conclude our cast interview series. Read more about Ryan on the Love Birds cast page. Follow him on Twitter @Ry_Willis


 

Tell us more about your character, Pewsey.

Pewsey is one of the four penguins from the countryside lured into showbiz by the bright colours and spectacle of Armitage Shanks’ vaudeville show. I’d say he is the most uptight out of the four penguins and doesn’t like to let the others get too carried away. He is also part of a quite sweet Love Birds subplot near the end of the show – but I won’t give too much away!

These penguins may or may not be the penguin waiters from Mary Poppins. Have you learned anything interesting about penguins?

I think collectively we’ve learnt quite a lot about penguins – some completely useless facts that I could have gone a lifetime without knowing but others quite useful that have helped with characters. Especially the way penguins move and interact with each other. Robbie Sherman has also been a fount of knowledge for all things penguin and parrot!

All four penguins in action: George Knapper, Ryan Willis, Rafe Watts and Jonny Purchase

All four penguins in action: George Knapper, Ryan Willis, Rafe Watts and Jonny Purchase

Had you seen the film or musical of Mary Poppins before? How familiar were you with the music of the Sherman Brothers?

Who hadn’t seen the film Mary Poppins as they were growing up?! It’s a Disney classic and loved by all. I was familiar with the more common Sherman Brothers music, such as the music from Mary Poppins as well as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – I saw both the film and stage production of Chitty on tour. But it has been really enjoyable to get to know the family’s music a little better now. I think Robbie’s writing will definitely leave Sherman Brothers fans satisfied – and, who knows, maybe introduce others to the Sherman legacy!

There are a lot of complicated harmonies and choreography in Love Birds. What’s the most challenging number for you in the show?

For me, during the rehearsal process, the most difficult number was definitely Tinpanorama. I would never consider myself a tapper and then having to add a giant tin can and metal spoon into the mix… it’s a recipe for disaster (never mind singing as well). Once it was finally in the brain, thought, it actually become one of the most enjoyable numbers along with Flipper Flap. They both involve really fun gimmicks.

Ryan Willis (left) with fellow Performance Preparation Academy (PPA) alum George Knapper in Love Birds. © Steve Ullathorne

Ryan Willis (left) with fellow Performance Preparation Academy (PPA) alum George Knapper in Love Birds. © Steve Ullathorne

You were at drama school with fellow penguin George Knapper. Did you know each other well there?

We knew each other quite well and always got along. We were in different years but had the opportunity to perform together as part of The PPA Singers, a 25 or so group singing classic and contemporary musical theatre and pop songs at events in-house and elsewhere. So finding out George was also doing this show was amazing – it took a little pressure off those first day of school nerves!

You and all the other penguins – and the rest of the cast – seem to get on well. Do you spend time together offstage?

We all get along amazingly well and haven’t got sick of each other! We spend most of our time together offstage, either seeing shows or having movie nights together. We also had a very lovely day off in North Berwick, eating fish and chips, walking on the beach and sitting on a pub for hours drinking tea and hot chocolate and playing card games. I would describe it as a true Love Birds family!

What other shows have you seen yet that you’d recommend?

I would definitely recommend Showstopper! The Improvised Musical , which I have seen at least three times now. If you don’t manage to catch it up here, though they are doing a run in the West End and it is well worth a watch. Other favourites have been Christina Bianco, whose impersonations are both hilarious and flawless, and Doris, Dolly and the Dressing Room Divas, a camp fun show about stars of the past and present.

The improvising Showstoppers

The improvising Showstoppers

Love Birds marks your professional debut. Describe your feelings auditioning for and getting the job. How did you celebrate your graduation?

When I found out that I’d been offered the part of Pewsey, I was still in college doing rehearsals for bits and pieces, and it all came rather out of the blue so I was very shocked. I couldn’t have been more thrilled to go straight into a job out of college, and I know that I have been very fortunate. I was also very fortunate that Stewart Nicholls, our director, was so understanding and let me have the day off rehearsals for my graduation. I really appreciated that. I spent it with family and friends and saying some goodbyes for now as, very quickly, it was up to Edinburgh for the month.

Any advice for current or aspiring drama school students making the transition into the real world?

Just keep going, whether that be classes or auditions. Sooner or later, someone will appreciate your talent and personality.

LOVE BIRDS RUNS 12.35PM DAILY 5-31 AUGUST (EXCEPT 19 AUGUST) AT THE PLEASANCE COURTYARD DURING THE 2015 EDINBURGH FRINGE. BOOK TICKETS HERE.


 

 

YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY THESE: