by LAUREN CODLING
AN ASIAN actor has urged young people to engage in the arts as he praised drama for changing his life.
Bally Gill, 25, stars as Romeo in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s (RSC) current production of Romeo And Juliet.
The Coventry-born actor did not have access to a drama department while at school, so he is keen to engage with young people, in order for them to get involved in the arts and reap the benefits.
A shy teenager at school, Gill revealed that drama provided him with the confidence he has carried into adult life. It was an outlet for him to be creative as a teenager and boosted his confidence.
At school, he recalled, he didn’t put his hand up as he was reluctant to draw attention to himself.
“Drama has changed me as a person – I was so shy at school,” the actor said. “If I was ever late for school, I would avoid going in as I didn’t want people to look at me when I came in late.”
Since he discovered his passion for acting at 16, he claimed performing in front of a variety of crowds has helped him to articulate himself as a person.
“[As drama wasn’t available at school,] I had to go and seek it out. I went to the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry and I’m so glad I did as it resulted in this,” he said.
Gill added that the “RAC has affiliated with my old secondary school, President Kennedy School, and we are getting young people to be in the [Romeo and Juliet] show and get involved”.
In total, 56 students from schools in the Midlands will get the chance to perform on stage alongside the professional cast. The pupils, aged between 12-18, broken up in teams of four, will perform each night in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
“Starting at the grassroots level was to say, this is for you. Whether it is acting, drama or Shakespeare…you can do it and it is possible,” Gill explained.
“I knew that if I had the chance…that was always something I wanted to do.”
Romeo and Juliet is one of the most famous plays in the world – it has been adapted numerous times for the screen and stage, including the 1995 Baz Luhrmann adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
In making the iconic character his own, Gill admitted it was a challenge as the role has been portrayed so many times in the past by several high-profile actors.
The idea of portraying the character in a modernised way occurred to Gill during the audition.
“I had a version in my head of what Romeo would be like in 2018,” he said. “In our production, he is a young Indian man with a west Midlands accent who is funny, confident, arrogant, hot-headed and madly in love with Juliet. He’s passionate about everything he does and that gets him in trouble sometimes.”
He added the play, which he cites as “one of the best love stories ever written”, remains popular as people can relate to the highly emotive themes which run throughout. It is relevant to every single age group.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old – it is those emotions and passions and drives that everyone knows or has a feeling of. People know, or want to know, how it feels to be madly in love with someone and it is that which keeps it so timeless.”
On 18 July, the RSC production of Romeo and Juliet will be broadcast live into cinemas throughout the UK and beyond. For more info: https://www.rsc.org.uk/Romeo-and-Juliet/in-cinemas