IT’S NOT EVERY day a bona fide luminary of the London stage pops in to lead your drama class in Dubai, but perhaps more surprising are the circumstances by which West End actor Tarinn Callender ended up at the GEMS Wellington Academy – Silicon Oasis (WSO) to complete his student engagement and mentorship programme. The British artist’s series of classes and talks, that will undoubtedly enhance the institute’s already sterling Centre of Excellence for Performance and Theatre Technologies, will continue until Thursday though their very inception innocuously began on a Zoom quiz with Arts Educational Schools London associates.
“It was the end of lockdown, we’d all been teaching from home and Andrew Lee who is our link with ArtsEd International set up a musical theatre quiz for all the ArtsEd partners,” WSO’s Acting and Production Arts Programme Manager Jodie Quirke told us of the partnership. “I was our representative and I ended up winning. I expected the prize to be a box of chocolates or something but he said ‘you’ve won a West End star!’”
Initially worried Callender’s tour would not be possible given the UK’s current pandemic climate, WSO’s rigorous safety measures and premier professional teaching facilities have enabled the successful courses to take place whereas in Callender’s hometown they may not have been possible; an element not lost on the actor.
“Being out of work at the moment, it’s a brilliant opportunity for me to come to Dubai,” Callender said when talking of Britain’s latest theatre shutdown. “We are usually doing eight shows a week, but now we have more time on our hands to get together with these kids and inspire them to one day join us on that stage.”
During our meeting the ArtsEd-trained thesp guided a set of eight pupils in a classic repetition warm-up exercise utilising lyrics sung by his best-known role to date, James Madison in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton.
“It’s young and fresh and people love it. A lot of the kids already know the words,” Callender said in response to whether he’d noticed the play’s stellar reputation had spread to the UAE. “Some of their parents have come over and seen me in the play as well, so it is easy because it’s familiar.”
Having held lessons for a week already, the newly inducted visiting teacher is impressed by the acting quality his mentees have displayed.
“I was lucky enough that I grew up in London and was able to see loads of shows which inspired me. Here there aren’t the same number of plays to go see, so the standard and level they’re at, I was blown away. It’s really inspiring for me.”
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