Interview lead by Nathan Deane
Fresh out of Mountview, Oscar Conlon-Morrey has burst onto the West End theatre scene playing multiple roles in David Bryan and Joe DiPietro’s hit comedy musical “The Toxic Avenger“.
Oscar plays multiple roles in the show, including Sal The Cop, Lorenzo The Hairdresser and even a Folk Singer. His whopping 13 characters all fall under the umbrella of the character White Dude. I got the chance to talk to Oscar about Toxie as well as his theatre career in general after a performance of the show. Before you read this, however, be sure to check out my 5-star review of The Toxic Avenger!
How did you get into theatre to begin with?
I always say I wasn’t a particularly courageous child, I suppose I was, but my parents always instilled in me from day one that confidence is the main thing. Nothing else matters as long as you’re confident. When you have self-confidence you can do anything you want to achieve in the world. So they signed me up for some classes, like Saturday school things. I went to one called NITS, Nearly Instant Theatre Sessions, and it was amazing. It transformed my life. I ended up teaching for them when I turned 16 and the actual teaching I found incredibly inspiring and motivating to be able to see them all growing confidence as well. That kind of encouraged me to go into theatre. I did loads of am-dram. People always put am-dram down and I think that’s a really sad outlook to have on amateur dramatics. It’s amazing training and a great stomping ground for people to trial who their performance identity is. We all have different “things,” my casting won’t be the same as your casting, but we all have our “things”. Mine is comedy, I love comedy, so am-dram was a great stomping ground for me to be able to learn how to do that, and what works and what doesn’t. So really am-dram and NITS got me interested in theatre.
In the show you play 13 different characters. What would you say is the funnest character to play?
It’s difficult. That’s difficult…probably Sal The Cop. I love Sal. In rehearsal, I’m a bit naughty because I like to work out backstories for each character and I go a bit over the top. Luckily, we’ve got a great director who knows when to reign me in. But Sal The Cop, the backstory I created for him, was that he’s never been a police officer. He’s not a police officer, and he’s pretending, which is why he has the pink fluffy handcuffs from Ann Summers and a plastic gun that shoots water. He’s so much fun. And the Folk Singer, as well. That’s funny because the costume is based on David Bryan, so when David Bryan came for press night and he was sat front row with his white bushy hair and I was playing the Folk Singer with white bushy hair too it was amazing!
In the show you do multiple costume changes, can you give us a run-down of a typical costume change?
We’ve got two amazing dressers called Kelly and Ella and they are incredible. I describe it like a Formula One pit-stop like I’m the car and I drive into the wing and they’re there and they just swamp me like bees and rip things off, everything’s velcro and magnets and poppers. My quickest change is 20 seconds, maybe less…maybe about 10 seconds. That’s hard. It’s crazy!
In the show there’s a lot of audience interaction, what has been the funniest reaction from an audience member?
We had a guy on the front row. I do a bit in the show where I ask a man on the front row if he’s on Grindr and I went down and I said “what’s your name?” and I don’t know if he’d seen the show before or if this was his actual name but he said “My name is Lorenzo.” and I was like ‘oh god’ because my character is Lorenzo, and my line is “Mi amo Lorenzo, you remember that name” and I had to quickly change it to “Me too! That’s gonna be easy to remember!” It was hard. There have been some funny moments. Some guys came to our hundredth performance and sat front row and when the Folk Singer came out, they put Folk Singer wigs on. It was madness. At the end of the Folk Singer’s song, they lifted up an Oscar as I finished. Bless ’em. That was funny.
What are your two dream roles? One rule: one has to be female and the other has to be male.
Ohhhhh! Okay, dream female role is The Witch in Into The Woods. Dream male role is The Trunchbull in Matilda. I would loooove to play the Trunchbull! But the Trunchbull is also a woman so…maybe I need to see a psychiatrist.
What are your words of advice to people who want to pursue musical theatre?
Do what you love. The first question you’ve got to ask yourself is “do you want to do anything else?” If the answer to that is yes, be it journalism or floristry, if you have another passion then always pursue theatre if you love it but don’t make it your main focus. It’s a really hard industry. It’s a really hard thing to do well and there are lots of people that are out of work and even when you are it’s not easy to line up your next job and we all have kind of jobs throughout the day to subsidize it. But if you are resolute that theatre is what you want to do and you don’t want to do anything else, then throw caution to the wind and go for it. Don’t let anyone stop you. You’ll do it. And for people auditioning, never be discouraged or disheartened if you don’t get in the first time. Or the second time. Or third time. If you want it that much, it will happen. It will. Dame Judy Dench was something like seven times before she got something. She’s incredible, she’s the best. Everyone knows her. It’s not a mark of talent if you are not getting in. It’s simply what they’re looking for at that time. Just seize it, enjoy it, and live your life. Get as much experience as you possibly can! Never turn an opportunity down, whether it’s going to another country, or talking to someone about woodwork. Whoever you meet, people are our craft. People are our bread and butter. Me talking to you now, I’m picking up on your mannerisms that may well materialize into a character a year down the line. That’s the heart of it, people are what we do. Being an empath, being empathetic is kind of our trade so never lose sight of who you are.
I’d like to give a special thanks to Oscar Conlon-Morrey for taking time to do this interview with me. You can catch him as White Dude in The Toxic Avenger at the Arts Theatre, London until the 3rd of December. Tickets here!