Step Forward: An Interview with Gregor Duthie
Of Glasgow Music Theatre's founding members, it is performer, Musical Director and soon-to-be Director Gregor Duthie that has found himself on stage most. A multitude of roles in the company's debut production I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change soon made way to anti-hero Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, before Company saw Gregor take on Manhattan WASP Harry. Thanks to his affinity for music and comedic flare, each part has seen a different side to the 32-year-old's funny bone that has entertained audiences and earned him significant critical praise from sources like The Skinny. A year and a half on, though, and Gregor is returning to the stage with an entirely different kind of character under his skin: Paul, in GMT's production of A Chorus Line. Secretive and mysterious, it is clear from the outset that, whatever Paul's story, it is far more tragic a portrayal than we're used to seeing from the redhead. And he's going to break your heart. Hey Gregor.
Gregor: Buenos dias. Could you please start by introducing your character to us (the way he would introduce himself)? G: That’s easy. Paul wouldn’t introduce himself. He’d wait for you introduce yourself first - then he’d be funny and charming and you’d wish he were your best friend. But he’d never draw attention to himself. He desperately needs to feel accepted, so he’ll never put himself out on that limb. Once he feels safe with you, he’ll open up and you’ll get to see the real Paul. What sort of relationships does he have with the other dancers in this audition? G: Paul loves to dance and he’s desperately focussed on his work. Because he learned on the job and he’s not a trained dancer like some of the others, he won’t let his guard down during an audition. He’s concentrating on the task at hand rather than making friends. That said, he’s 28 and he’s been dancing for a while now, so he’s worked with some of these people before. It’s inevitable that you start to make some connections. He’s the guy that everyone loves, but maybe nobody really knows. You’re very well known for being a redhead, and Paul (as much as he “doesn’t look it”) is Puerto Rican. What’s the plan for bringing the two together? G: It’s a closely guarded secret. I have standby aeroplane tickets to Bermuda to top up my tan if needs be. Beyond that, it’s not so hard - redheads, Hispanics, straight men in musicals: everyone’s a minority if you look hard enough. Paul has a monologue in the second act which deals with the effects of his sexuality on his upbringing, and it’s arguably one of the most challenging parts of the script to act. How are you preparing for it? What is influencing your performance? G: Every character in this show has a different story to tell. What makes Paul’s story unique is that it’s utterly real. The other characters drip-feed their stories through or reveal one key thing about themselves. When Paul finally opens up, his soul is laid bare. You have to give yourself a break from it every now and again to keep it fresh because it’s such a concentrated burst of emotion you can’t maintain it at the right level all the time. A lot of his story centres on his relationship with his family and I think that’s something everyone can relate to, so it’s hard not to be influenced by your own family in that sort of situation: “What would I do if it were me?”
As one of the few founding members of Glasgow Music Theatre, what do you hope this production means for the company? G: In our very first show (I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change), four actors played fifty-eight different parts. We don’t rehearse in my living room any more, but that show set the standard for how we’ve operated ever since: everyone mucks in, and no one is pigeon-holed or typecast in any one role. From my point of view: I can do a full day at the office; then go straight to a three-hour rehearsal where I could be singing, acting, dancing, conducting or playing the piano; then go home to edit a press release; then process 100+ ticket orders (sleep is overrated) - everything we do is geared up to thinking about things from a different perspective. From the point of view of watching others: it’s been incredibly rewarding watching other people learn and grow; getting the chance to play roles they’d never have cast themselves in; realising they had what it takes all along. It’s part of the GMT mentality to think “outside the box” and we’re building on that with every show we do. I’m not just excited for what A Chorus Line means for GMT. I’m excited for what GMT means for A Chorus Line.
What will Paul do if he doesn’t make the final cut? G: That’s not something Paul can let himself think about. He had a tough start in life. From the age of 14 onwards, he’s been constantly re-inventing himself and pushing himself forward. Paul never looks back. He knows he’ll make the cut eventually - whether it’s this show or the next one, Paul will never stand still. After A CHORUS LINE, you are making your directorial debut with the company for INTO THE WOODS. Looking forward to it? G: Absolutely. It’s actually the next logical step after playing Paul. So much of who he is centres on his relationship with his parents, and parenthood is one of the key themes of Into The Woods. It covers the whole cycle of the parent/child relationship - growing up, escaping your parents, losing your parents, becoming a parent yourself. But at the same time, it’s just such enormous fun to take these fairy tale characters who everyone thinks they know and to ask what they’re really like. There’s such a huge pool of talented performers in Glasgow, too, that we’ve barely scratched the surface and I’m hoping to discover plenty more. I can’t wait.