Meet Haydn Oakley

Haydn Oakley

Haydn is currently playing the role of Henri in the West End Premiere of An American in Paris at the Dominion Theatre. 

What course did you study at GSA, Haydn?         

Post Graduate Diploma in Musical Theatre 2002  

Can you explain your current role within the theatre industry ?

Currently I am playing the role of Henri in the West End Premiere of An American in Paris based on the MGM movie. I am a self-employed actor who currently works mainly in Theatre, but has also been in adverts and audio work. I also work for a corporate act called ‘The Three Waiters’ when I am between contract work.

Had you always wanted to pursue this career? How did your interest begin?

Yes, although I was always mindful to get an education first (just in case) and hence went to Birmingham University to do a History Degree prior to going to GSA. Needless to say I’ve never really used the degree, but I’m sure it set me in good stead for my current career. I met lots of good contacts at University and learnt how to manage my time and to motivate myself while there.  I have always performed though – firstly through improvisation and drama groups, then with Youth Theatre, University societies, and now professionally.

In your opinion, what are the most important skills to have in your chosen genre?

An ability to act through song, and also to make choices in your characterisation. There’s nothing worse than being bland in an audition or role. Better to make a choice and have some sort of effect on people. I’d much rather see someone act a song than sing it beautifully – but preferably they’d do both.

What do you consider to be the most exciting part of your work?

I remember telling the head of my course on my first day at GSA that what excited me most was the lack of clear path or direction. I genuinely find the idea that I could be in New York or Salisbury or Hanoi this time next year very exciting. I enjoy the lack of certainty – it’s both the best and worst part of the job. Personally I’d hate to be doing the same show or part for 15 years, it’s not why I got into this career. Also, who wouldn’t enjoy performing to 2000 people 8 times a week? My current job/role is an absolute joy, and I never dreamed I’d get this kind of opportunity 20 years ago.

What attracted you to choose the GSA?

I always had a huge desire to go to GSA. In fact I didn’t audition to any other school. I decided it for GSA or nothing. Thank goodness someone liked me in the audition. GSA has always had a great reputation for Actor-Singers like myself, and I wanted to same training and opportunities that they had enjoyed.

What is your strongest or happiest memory of your time at GSA?

I remember a few, but my graduate show at The Polesden Lacey Open Air Theatre (Bill Snibson in Me & My Girl) was a highlight. Not even the rain could stop the fun. But I also remember really enjoying the shows that other students performed in. I saw other students at the start of their journey in Songs For a New World, and there was also a really well directed version of the Maltby & Shire show Starting Here, Starting Now set in an Institution. The shows and the performances definitely inspired me.

What were the best things about your training?

I believe my training gave me the best skill set for the career I have followed. I left with confidence in my own voice and a willingness to continue to improve. Plus the staff and students really did make the whole experience a joy. I had an excellent time at GSA and left much more sure of my future.

How did you change as a person during your time as GSA student?

I believe I became more professional. I had always wanted to do this but the training made me realise that you have to work hard and be professional about the work. Audition prep, play reading, exercise, accountancy, networking, it all needs to be worked at.

What one piece of advice would you give to people considering GSA?

Come with patience, a willingness to learn and be realistic about your strengths and weaknesses. And also be ready to embrace being part of a community and enjoy it all.

What are your top tips for students aspiring to work in your profession?

Have patience? The teaching will work but I think you have to be able to play the long game. Some people get success quickly, but for others it takes time. Don’t judge yourself by others. You also have to be realistic about your own strengths and weaknesses as a performer. But most of all enjoy what you do,  and always try to learn from it.