A powerful and poignant new play by Sarah Emmott, Stan celebrates the power of play, the joy of communication and the positive force of friendship. Featuring awesome animated dinosaurs, Stan is performed in English and British Sign Language and with creative captions embedded within the set. We got to speak to performer Ross Thompson about the piece which you can see on tour.
How did you get into acting, was there a particular performance you saw that resonated with you?
It’s a funny story, my sister got a postcard through the letter box, when I was about 11, inviting her to a taster session for a theatre school. I complained to my mam and told her I should be allowed to go too. I went and had the best time, I stayed there for 7 years! I knew I wanted to act forever when I was in year 9 and got cast as Billy Elliot. Being able to reduce people to tears and have them roar with laughter a scene later really resonated with me and I knew it’s what I wanted to do.I have seen so much theatre & film over the years, but for the performance that resonated, I would have to say all of the performances in This is England. Seeing working class people on my screen was amazing. For the first time in my life I felt like acting was an option.
Where did you train?
I trained at Salford University doing BA (Hons) Theatre and Performance Practice
Can you tell us about your current project: Stan? What drew you to the piece?
Stan is a beautiful but also heartbreaking story of how a young boy’s friendship with his deaf schoolmate is paramount in coming to terms with the divorce of his mam and dad. I was really interested in the piece because of the use of BSL. I think it’s incredibly important to be educating, not just children, but adults on the importance of learning BSL. This role is a welcome challenge for me and I hope I do the part justice.
Stan is performed in English and British Sign Language and embeds creative captions within the set, how does it feel to be part of a project like this?
It feels almost ground-breaking. Even though some theatres have captioned nights for their shows; it is very rare that a full run of a show is as inclusive as this is. It is certainly something I’ve never come across. I’m am so proud to be a part of this project and I hope that other projects in the future take note of the brilliant work Art with Heart are doing.
Is there a message you would like people to take away from the show?
For me there’s two. The first, I think, is the importance of communication. Whether that be to friends or within your family, it is key to be able to talk about how you feel but also being able to listen to how others feel too. We live in a society that for a long time has repressed its feelings and been told to “man up” or “don’t cry over spilt milk” and it’s simply not good enough. The second being that we need to educate people around the stigma of being deaf. There is so much I’ve learnt just whilst being a part of this project, but many people don’t have the first clue about it. If we could all just show a little compassion and have a little more education after seeing this play then we have made a huge step in the right direction.
Where has been your favourite place to perform and why?
With this tour, I’m looking to finding lots of new favourites! My favourite so far would be The Empty Space in Salford. This is where my theatre company (Farewell Theatre C.I.C) performed our first professional show. This was a huge milestone for me and it’s full of fond memories. We’re back there again in April with another play so I’m hoping we create another brilliant performance.
What is the most rewarding thing about your work?
To be able to emotionally connect with the audience. Whether that’s tv or theatre, the power of the words I say can make people laugh, cry, ponder, empathise and so much more.
Who are your influences and inspirations?
Joseph Gilgun and Jack O’Connell. I’ve admired these lads from when I was growing up and I’ve been lucky enough to meet them both (albeit briefly). The fact that Joe is so open about his mental health is a real testament to his character, he’s proud of being a northern working-class lad who’s “made it” in acting. If I could work with him on something it would be a dream come true. Its people like them that show people like me it’s possible to be in this profession. So often the working class get imposter syndrome in this business, and they are a little light at the end of that tunnel.
Is there a role you would love to play in a show?
I’m obsessed with prison and courtroom dramas. Something like Jimmy McGovern’s TIME is a perfect example of a show that would allow me to play my dream role.
Where can people follow your work on Socials?