Simon Riley, senior wealth manager at Gecko Wealth in Beverley, talks about his passion for the theatre.
It’s like having two jobs – practising as a wealth adviser, specialising in mortgages and investments for both business and personal clients and in my spare time I am a member of Hessle Theatre Company and have been in musical theatre since 1986.
I always had a yearning to perform and was always doing impressions as a kid and when I realised I could do it in front of an appreciative audience as a hobby I joined my first theatre company and caught the bug.
I now spend half my life rehearsing and performing with my musical theatre colleagues.
Each show takes six months of rehearsal, plus we do plays in the summer. From September to Christmas we just meet once per week then from January to March we meet three nights plus Sunday afternoons. It is very time consuming and not a half-baked hobby, you have to love it passionately like I do. I once did a play and my dialogue was forty minutes in total but I learn lines by recording my voice then reading it back whilst listening to it, then I mime it and then it’s locked in my memory.
We are currently rehearsing Curtains by Kander and Ebb, the pair who also wrote Chicago. This will be by my 16th show with Hessle Theatre Company and we perform at Hull New Theatre. I always get stage fright but that’s normal for everyone and it’s the adrenaline which enhances the performance.
Theatre companies are always looking for new talent. It provides an opportunity to meet new friends. Taking part in the productions is a great escape from reality. It gives greater confidence and can reveal traits about a person they never knew existed. The best thing for me, though, is the atmosphere in the dressing room between acts. It is so precious because a theatre company works like a huge machine and each person is a cog in that machine. Should one person not be where they are supposed to be then the whole thing might collapse.
It is the producer’s role to ensure we are all doing what we’re supposed to and with 120 members that’s a lot to hold together.
We’ve had props fall over, people fluffing lines and once I fired a fake pistol which wouldn’t go off so someone backstage shouted ‘BANG’, luckily the audience thought it was part of the comedy act. But the most memorable moment was receiving five standing ovations in a row for Titanic in 2007. We have a great number of fans who come along to every production as they are guaranteed an outstanding performance. The last play at Hull Truck Theatre drew in 98 per cent capacity.
In the future I would like to be an extra in TV soaps but this might be something for retirement as it requires a lot of waiting around.