Actor and voiceover artist Christopher Tester takes a thoughtful trip through his 10 questions
With his indecently listenable voice, Christopher Tester is the kind of actor who makes you sit up when he starts talking and I’ve enjoyed many of his performances over the last few years. Up at the top though is probably The Picture of John Gray.
“In many ways it was the ideal fringe experience – beautiful new writing, with a generous and talented company, which felt like it was really offering something important in a room above a pub. I think it sits up there with The White Rose as a show that prompted a huge response from its audience which I was very aware of while performing it. And the fact that it was based on little known real characters gave it an extra weight – a feeling that these people’s lives were resonating beyond their own time. It also gave me a scene where I just had to pour my guts out a little bit, and however much it’s “never about you”, that I had that opportunity coupled with writing deft enough to (hopefully) avoid indulgence was pretty special. You do it because you want to offer your heart.
And maybe kiss an actor as pretty as Patrick Walsh McBride.”
Where were you 10 years ago?
Preparing to take my one man version of Gogol’s Diary of a Madman to Edinburgh, while learning five different understudy roles for a production of The Hypochondriac with the English Touring Theatre that came just after.
Best show you’ve seen in the last 10 years?
Ivo Van Hove’s A View From A Bridge is always up there.
What has been your professional highlight of the last 10 years?
Making my profession financially viable – mainly due to voice work – in the last three of them! As to roles – I’d say playing Raskolnikov in Arrows & Traps’ Crime & Punishment was probably most rewarding to me personally. A character searching for forgiveness – I think we can all relate to that!
Top flavour of interval ice-cream?
What show do you wish theatres would give a rest for a few years?
Romeo & Juliet. Been in it twice, so I’m part of the problem.
Name someone who you think is a really underappreciated talent (in the world of theatre)?
I’ll embrace my bias and say Ross McGregor – a fantastic person and director, whose writing in the last few years is nothing short of extraordinary. Theatres should be falling over themselves to stage some of the projects he’s come up with.
Elphaba or Glinda?
Having to google them before answering tells you all you need to know. Wikipedia suggests Elphaba would definitely be the more natural fit.
What is one thing that you think would help theatre survive and/or thrive the next ten years?
A fundamental change in the make-up of who is running those buildings. It’s slowly begun to happen in the last few years, and the sector as a whole is seeing more diverse voices come to the fore – but it’s still early stages. And I think a growing willingness to talk openly about the practicalities of staging work, especially on the margins, is essential. There’s (rightfully) been a push for performers to create their own work, to reclaim a certain level of autonomy – but that has to be combined with a practical knowledge of how things work and what they cost. Otherwise you end up very poor and very disenchanted very quickly.
Which is your favourite theatre?
I’ll always treasure the intimacy of the Almeida – and having worked there FOH, in box office and on its stage, it has a particular resonance with me.
Can you say anything about what’s to come for you, (in the next ten years or otherwise)?
I’ve never been in a position where I’ve been auditioning with any regularity for paid work, so increasingly I’m looking at different strategies to enable such opportunities for myself. So I’m starting to dip into a little bit of producing as part of a future tour of Jekyll & Hyde that I’ll be acting in, and hope that I can help create a more sustainable model for myself and the company as a result. And yes, I’m also writing something – but whether that turns into something I’ll ever be brave/crazy enough to share is another question entirely.