Star studded quartet set up new Swansea-based theatre company
A new Swansea based theatre company with ‘grand ambitions’ is launching today under the experienced guiding hands of a team of accomplished Welsh practitioners.
Grand Ambition aims to create and produce bold and ambitious theatre drawing from the talents of Swansea based creatives and tapping into the cultural heritage and history of the area.
The project is the brainchild of Richard Mylan, Michelle McTernan, Steve Balsamo and Christian Patterson, combining their various and prolific talents in acting on stage and screen, writing, song writing, and educating to create work in the heart of Swansea on the stage of the city’s Grand Theatre.
Born from a desire to provide work and opportunities for artists and performers in the Swansea area, the team say that the impact of the pandemic on the artistic community brought their plans into sharp focus, highlighting the need for homegrown but culturally ambitious theatre, which not only showcases existing talent but provides a platform for emerging creatives.
Each member of the team grew up in Swansea and have always had close links to the Grand Theatre and feel like it is the natural place to base the new venture. Recalling the ‘firsts’ that inspired them to even think that life on the stage was a possibility, the common thread amongst them all was chance.
Richard, known for his role in Coupling and with a long list of TV credits, used to hang around at his Nana’s café as a youngster, which was alongside the old Grand, where his fascination began.
He recalls: “When I was about six years old, Northern Ballet Theatre Company came to Swansea with a Midsummer’s Night Dream, and they needed a small boy to play The Egyptian Prince. I got chosen to do it…and that was my first ever experience on the stage at this incredible theatre…it was an experience that completely changed my life”.
Steve Balsamo, who shot to fame in Jesus Christ Superstar in the West End, and has since accrued an impressive music CV, recalls how a chance good deed gave him his first glimpse of the view from a stage, after finding a wallet outside the Grand belonging to the actor Melvyn Hayes. By way of thanks, Hayes rewarded him and two friends with tickets to the Panto, and a backstage tour.
Steve said: “It was the first time I had stepped foot into any theatre. We had a backstage tour, and I was mesmerised at all the unseen work that goes on, but when we went onto the stage and looked out into the beautiful auditorium, I had what felt like an electric shock.
Michelle’s CV includes such highlights as Stella and The Crown on TV and an Olivier nomination for her role in the powerful play The Revlon Girl, and she has run her own children’s drama group Jamba Drama as well as being artistic director for Rising Stars Theatre and acting tutor for HIJINX academy.
Again, for her, an invitation up on to the stage after watching Godspell as a child was a moment that she would never forget, and it led her into youth and operatic theatre initially and then onto professional work, through which she met her husband, Christian in a production of The Oystercatchers at the Grand.
She said: “When I first stood on that stage it was such an incredible feeling and one that I wanted to have again and again. This building holds so many reasons as to why I do what I do. It feels as though I’ve come full circle. It’s very exciting”.
Christian has performed with many well-known theatre companies including Theatr Clwyd, the National Theatre, and Royal Shakespeare Company as well as appearing in television series including Mr Selfridge. He has become legendary in the Panto world, writing and directing award winning shows for venues like Regent’s Theatre Stoke and Theatr Clwyd, as well as donning the flamboyant garb of the Dame on a regular basis.
His first taste of the theatre was at the Grand pantomime with his Nan from up in the ‘gods’.
He said: “I will never forget seeing that pantomime! It was bright and colourful and hilarious and quite literally life changing for me because I didn’t know that theatres even existed let alone what happened inside them! A few weeks later I started Ballroom and Latin dance lessons and I was hooked… The Grand feels as much a part of me as my bones do”.
It is this recognition of the importance of chance and opportunity that sits at the heart of the team’s ambition now. They say they want to produce new work through the Swansea lens by focussing on its cultural and diverse communities and championing previously unheard voices.
As well as having the backing of industry figures such as the writer Gary Owen, Rachel O’Riordan, the artistic director of the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, and Sherman Executive Director, Julia Barry, the company is being welcomed by Swansea council’s Cultural Services team, headed up by Tracey McNulty.
She said: “Grand Ambition will contribute to our cultural strategy for the city and region, helping us and all our partners, engage with new audiences and help deliver a vibrant cultural offer now and for our future generations.
“We’re so pleased to have been able to work together to create this partnership. It’s an exciting time to get involved in the arts in Swansea and we hope many will take the opportunities to participate in the work, as they develop”.
For more information follow @GrandAmbition__ on Twitter
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