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Isolation Interviews: Beth Hinton-Lever

Next up I have the brilliant Beth Hinton-Lever. Beth was recently in the Curve production of West Side Story. Her previous credits include As You Like It (National Theatre and Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch), Hadestown (National Theatre) and Spring Awakening (Hope Mill Theatre).

Q - What was the first show that you remember seeing?
A - I was extremely lucky that my mum loves the theatre and so I remember growing up watching videos of musicals. I loved watching Cats and I still remember badly singing along to the overture while watching those cat eyes come into view on the tv -which used to scare me actually hahaha- nevertheless, I was hooked!

Q - What inspired you to get into theatre?
A - I was a theatre kid. Pretty much in every sense of the word... When we were about 14 my best friend and I spent every weekend for a month travelling from Liverpool to Manchester to watch We Will Rock You at the Palace. So, as I say, I was a fan of theatre hahahaha.

However, it was a while before I did end up becoming an actor and I was ridiculously lucky to get my first job!

I was at the National Student Drama Festival (NSDF) with Parade by Jason Robert Brown which I had choreographed during my final year of my BA when I was very unexpectedly awarded the Best Choreography Award. I then had a few discussions with the wonderful Lucy Hind who was working at the festival as an expert in Movement Direction and choreography, she bolstered me up to realise that I could forge a career for myself if I worked hard and also gave me a lot of wonderful companies to look up and get in contact with, like Graeae, who I luckily have ended up working with too!
Lucy then offered me a job over the summer in a show she was working on called Dancehall which was at CAST in 2015. I said yes, and that started my professional career! So, sometimes it’s just right place at the right time, and WOW I’m happy I met Lucy and got given the chance I did!

Q - Whose performance/s have had the biggest impact on you?
A - There are so many people who inspire me within the industry and I am SO lucky to personally know a few of them. However, the person I’ll talk about is a director and activist rather than a fellow performer.

Jenny Sealey is a true love of mine. Jenny is the Artistic Director of Graeae Theatre Company, a company who I am very lucky to have worked with multiple times and people who I consider family.
Jenny gave me my first job after I finished my MA at Mountview in an Ian Dury and The Blockheads musical called Reasons to be Cheerful where I played a romantic lead, which I didn’t ever think would be possible because of my disability. I was very green and didn’t truly know where I would go within the industry as a physically disabled performer; Jenny made sure that I was equipped with the knowledge, confidence, and skill to go into the industry after Reasons to be Cheerful and create the career I have now.

Jenny taught me everything I needed to know about being political about myself. I’m passionate and punchy. My pace is fast and fricative. She, as well as that entire company of wonderful people, taught me I can be all of these things, but also how to be open and kind so that it’s a conversation, not an argument, when talking about disability.

I will always be indebted to Jenny for her kindness, skill, and love. If I could navigate this industry with even half the intelligence, humour, and craft that she does, I’ll be very happy.

Q -What is your favourite musical movie?
A - Ohhhh... it’s a tough one! I grew up watching RENT with my friends where we would cast each other and then sing and perform along with the film! Rock of Ages is so much fun and the songs are SO catchy! However, Across The Universe takes the top spot for the glorious story and stunning new versions of The Beatles classics. It has real soul and love interwoven with a strong political narrative, as well as gorgeous performances throughout.

Q - What are your favourite show tunes?
A - AHHH!!! It changes daily… it’s so hard to pick! But here are a few:

1.) Wait For Me II- Hadestown
I still can’t quite believe I got to sing this song every night for a few months. Well, the ENTIRE show. It is some of the most beautiful poetry I’ve ever heard and is one of my favourite shows. When the song drop down to the vocals and we could feel the love and energy pouring out of everyone. It was hugely special.

“The meanest dog you’ll ever meet - It ain’t the hound dog in the street. He bares his teeth and tears your skin. But brother, that’s the worst of him. The dog you really got to dread is the one that howls inside your head. It's him whose howling drives men mad, and a mind to its undoing.”

2.) The Old Red Hills of Home - Parade
The finale of this show is one of the most emotive pieces of music in the world. I mean, the whole show is stunning, but the last two minutes of the show when the acapella vocals come in. GOOSEBUMPS EVERY TIME. I will always hold Parade dear to my heart as the show that kick-started my professional career. Also, it’s SO GOOD.

3.) While My Guitar Gently Weeps- Across the Universe
Just listen to this version. Trust me.
While My Guitar Gently Weeps is my favourite Beatles song and this version is heartachingly beautiful with these gorgeous harmonies that just have such pain and joy and beauty in them.

I couldn’t not mention Stand Up from Harriet sung by the incredible Cynthia Erivo, she sings with everything she has, the lyrics are poetry, and every time I hear the song it makes me realise that I have strength to stand up for what I believe in and makes me hopeful for what will happen if we do push for change. I can’t stop listening to it.

Q - What's the best piece of advice you've been given/If you could tell your younger self something what would you tell them?
A - I’m going to combine these questions, if that’s okay? I think the answer works for both! And… It’s definitely not the best advice I’ve been given…as it’s actually something I tell myself when I have a wobble, but it helps me!

If you don’t see yourself represented in the industry or you don’t see your story or hear your voice: do it yourself. Create that space and be that change. Change has to come from a place of kindness and positivity; as opposed to breaking the industry, breaking the mould. It’s actually about widening the industry, opening it, and showing that we’re capable of anything we set our minds to.

Q -You were recently part of the Curve production of West Side Story. How do you reflect on the experience?
A - West Side was a very special show. I will always remember the final scene. Every night the cast would hold each other and I always knew that everyone was right there in the moment with me holding me up and giving me love. The show was a labour of love for everyone who helped mould it. The cast, crew, and the Curve will forever hold a big place in my heart.

Beth with Ryan Anderson in West Side Story at Curve.
Photo by Ellie Kurttz

Q - If you could have dinner with 3 theatre-related guests (doesn't have to just be performers). Who would you invite and why?
A - Tennessee Williams is one of my favourite playwrights and I would utterly adore talking to him about his writing and just to be in his presence for a little while.

Emilia Bassano is the central figure of one of my favourite shows I have ever seen, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s Emilia, it would be a joy to hear her side of the story and witness her genius in the flesh.

Sian Tickle is my high school drama and theatre studies teacher who fostered my love of theatre into a real tangible thing. She cared so deeply about theatre and her love and positive attitude was infectious to me and my best friend, Alice Merivale (who is also an actor!). Unfortunately, she passed away in 2017 and I would be honoured to have a few hours to tell her about the fact I’m now an actor and how appreciative I am to her for her love and support.

Q - Away from the theatre what are your other favourite hobbies?
A - WELL!!! My BA is in Classical Archaeology and Classical Civilisations! So, unsurprisingly one of my favourite things to do is go to museums! Wandering around and everywhere you look and everything you read will teach you something new and show you something you may have never seen before. I know it sounds cheesy but getting lost in the past really helps me remain present in my wider life.

Q - Can you tell us something we might not know about you?
A - In between acting jobs I work in a wonderful yachting chandlers called Arthur Beale. It’s on Shaftesbury Avenue and I love walking to work every day past the theatres to my other love: sailing!
I have always sailed and so I feel very lucky to be able to have another passion; I love working manually and working with hardware, ropes, and technical equipment- it’s such a fun change from performing and always a great challenge!

Arthur Beale’s is a beautiful old shop and I recommend popping your head in if you’re around and about- and be sure to say hi if you see me!!

I'd like to thank Beth for her time and her wonderful responses. You can follow Beth over on Twitter

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