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Aladdin

Qasim Mahmood, Aladdin, Aladdin, Lyric Hammersmith

Why did you want to be an actor? 

I just enjoyed the imagination, the chance to play and it’s just fun and exciting!

What is the best thing about your job?  

Just the amount we get to play and have fun. It’s quite easy compared to other jobs – I didn’t say that! – and getting the chance to have fun and play in a room and explore. I get to meet different people and entertain people. I think that’s the best bit. 

What’s the best thing about theatre generally? 

That is a big question! I would say how it helps us to connect and how it helps us to laugh and understand life a bit more, and just see things in a different light.  

What was the journey for you like from theatres closing to theatres reopening? 

We were literally just about to open a show and then, everything closed and thought it would be only a few weeks. And then six months go by! 

So, then I was like, OK, like what else can I do? I started working with in a school – which was really fun – for six months; best time of my life. And then I started up some Arts Council funding to be a trainee theatre director, which was really good. I only finished that in September, and then slowly things have started picking up. 

How does it feel to be back in theatre and what’s the energy like? 

It’s going to be really fun and exciting, I’m really looking forward to it. And even just doing the poster and stuff like that has been fun, because you get an insight into the world of what you’re going to do for the next ten weeks. 

What’s the one thing you missed about live performances? 

Reaction. Just the energy you get from the audience and how different they can be. I think that’s what I missed the most. 

Gracie McGonigal, Wishy, Aladdin, Lyric Hammersmith

Is this a contemporary take on panto?  

Yeah, the Lyric is a very, very cool panto. It’s an amazing, amazing panto. It’s probably one of the coolest that we have in London. Because it’s a bit alternative; we don’t do things traditionally here, which is why I love the project so much because I get to wear fun sparkly tutus. And we’ve got a super diverse cast, so it’s going to be a good time, I’m sure. 

Why did you get into acting?  

I’m 19 years old, so I’ve just finished school. I’m still a child, in in the acting world. But I’ve always loved it.

I thought I’d give it a crack, because I’m a disabled person and there hasn’t been a huge amount disabled representation in the theatre community, but I think there’s some on the horizon, so I’d like to be out and working when it does. 

What’s the best thing about your job? 

It is probably getting in these really lovely costumes. And for me as a 19-year-old, working with a lot of people who are really seasoned professionals and learning through them.

Some of the people that are working on this project, I’m absolutely in awe of. It’s really nice to work in an environment with absolutely amazing professionals! 

Would you say you’re like learning on the job? 

Yeah, I think we’re always learning, really. I don’t think you ever stop learning, but there’s definitely something new to learn with each job and this is my first ever stage job. There’s so much to learn, but I’m loving every minute. 

Were you in drama school when lockdown happened? 

Yes, I was doing my A-Levels at the BRIT School when lockdown came and crashed upon us. Which was tough, because I was one of the many students across the country doing Zoom dance and singing.

Yeah, I’m a Musical Theatre girl but Zoom dance is definitely not the best. It wasn’t easy, but it’s why it’s so great to be back doing it in a real theatre with real people. 

What was the BRIT School like? 

Oh, I had an amazing, amazing time at BRIT. And I did foundation year at Mountview as well afterwards. But I always talk amazing stuff about BRIT, they really were an amazing, amazing institution to be in.

I think it’s the only free place you can study musical theatre in the country, I think, at that level. And they still support me now. They still call me up and go “you want a job?”. I just couldn’t ask for anything more, they were just so supportive. 

Is it like Fame? 

It is a bit like Fame, yeah! Because not only do you have musical theatre, you also have fashion and photography. It was a great melting pot of people, I still ask people to come and do jobs and stuff with me.

What’s the most, number one unique thing about live performance? 

It’s just the feedback you get, that feeling of response from the audience. It’s not the same as working in film or TV where it’s you, just you and the work. You’re doing it for that person in front of you; that family, those kids where it’s their first time. That’s what I love so much about panto, because for a lot of kids it’s their first ever experience of theatre. And you can’t take that away. It’s amazing. 

For you, what are your long-term ambitions? 

I’m still quite young at the moment, but I love theatre, I’ve always wanted to work in theatre and musical theatre. So, as long as they’ll have me, I’d love to do it. I love working creatively and I’d like to do it for as long as I possibly can.