Since leaving the School James has enjoyed a successful career in professional theatre, spanning both the performance and the production side of the industry. In June 2014 James starts rehearsing for the UK tour of the musical Shrek. James remains involved with the School as Creative Director of the School Show each year.
What years were you at the Blue Coat School?
I attended the Blue Coat School from September 2000 until July 2007.
How would you describe your time at the Blue Coat?
My time at Blue Coat was most definitely eventful. I began my time there as an academic, one of the original Gifted and Talented students, achieving in the top per cent on the entrance exam. I worked hard at maths and sciences, towards a career in medicine, but my passion was really in the arts and languages. Although I continued until the end of my seven years studying Biology, Maths and Psychology; I regularly performed in the school plays, taking leading roles from year 8 onwards. As the School doesn’t have a Drama Department I had the opportunity to lead dramatic projects in the school, whether it be performances at PA events or eventually directing the school plays.
Whenever I return to school to work on another show I joke that “I’m like the rash that you can scratch but won’t get rid of”. The truth is Blue Coat is still a huge part of my life that gives me a lot of satisfaction, and I’d like to continue allowing future generations of Blue Coat students to express and find themselves in the ways that I was. I wouldn’t change my experience of the school… not even to switch my A Levels to subjects I like!
What has been your path since leaving the Blue Coat?
As an actor, I have been fortunate enough to join the UK Number One Touring Productions of High School Musical 2: Live On Stage, The Sound of Music and Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 the Musical, as well as appearing in various pantomimes across the country and fringe musicals across London. In November 2013, I filmed on Disney’s new live-action adaptation of Cinderella as the Dance Double for the Prince, directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Derek Jacobi, Lily James and Richard Madden.
On the creative side of theatre, I was the Assistant Director for a London revival of On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, and assisted in the set and costume design process of Babes in Arms, I Love You You’re Perfect Now Change and The Boys from Syracuse, all at the Union Theatre in London. I also worked as a production assistant for the Australian Tour of The Pirates of Penzance, and as a Wigs Assistant and Stylist for the UK touring production of Grease.
I have been teaching, directing and choreographing for schools and colleges across the country for five years. I have also retained my association with Blue Coat as Creative Director of School Productions, returning to the school regularly to direct, choreograph and produce the school plays including Thoroughly Modern Millie, West Side Story, Beauty and the Beast, some consultancy on Les Miserables, and most recently Into the Woods.
What do you do now?
I am currently choreographing for the end of year dance show for the LIPA first year Degree Students. I hope to be back working on the school production next year.
I run my own Social Media Marketing Business, promoting touring theatre and private clients across Social Media Platforms.
In June, I begin rehearsals for the UK Tour of Shrek the Musical.
How did your experience at the Blue Coat prepare you for your career?
I was given the best of both worlds. My studies taught me rational and abstract thinking, time management, the importance of precision and what comes of hard work and dedication. My extra-curricular activities gave me the chance to express myself, built me in confidence and allowed me to exercise the creative side of my brain which I now use every day. Although my chosen A Level subjects do not reflect the career I have chosen, they support me everyday and allow me to approach my work with intelligence and focus.
What would be your advice to students at the Blue Coat today?
My advice to every student I teach is the same. Do what it is you want, and not what you think others want of you. Your path in life should be a blend of what you’re good at but also what you enjoy. I’m lucky enough that I love every minute of my job, and I would plead with young students to pursue what it is they love because it’ll never feel like work if you can do something that gives you joy.
Don’t waste all of your time making a living and forget to make a life!