Disney, Pinter and Pop School Stage Academy

Emma Brophy Discovers Why Nigel Harmen Can't Seem to Stay Away from Chiswick

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Nigel Harmen with PSSA's Laura Bird

The auditions will take place on Sunday 25th March from 12.00 at Arts Educational School on Bath Road. To take part call 020 8742 129 or email info@pssa.co.uk to register your interest.

For more information about the Pop School and Stage Academy see www.pssa.co.uk.

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Happily for Chiswick, it seems he just can’t keep away. From studying in Arts Ed to auditioning local children Nigel Harman may have made his name as an East End heart throb but his heart belongs west. Or so I’d like to think after spending a rather pleasurable hour to two with him in High Road House.

Life after Eastenders has seen Nigel most recently playing Mick in Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker - the play he wrote whilst living in a flat on the Chiswick High Road. As well as appearing in the West End’s Guys and Dolls, Nigel has also found the time to set up a production company called NorthEight with fellow Eastenders actor and friend Joel Beckett aka Jake Moon.

Disarmingly attractive (I defy anyone not to fall for his boyish charms!), Nigel will be returning to his alumni Arts Ed with Joel Beckett on March 25th to sit on an audition panel for the Pop School & Stage Academy’s forthcoming production of High School Musical.

Other than helping out his good friends Mia and Laura (who run the Academy), I asked Nigel how he came to be involved in nurturing young local talent.

“To be honest it reminds me of my upbringing, going to a part-time drama school. As well as drama being a great stimulant, it’s good grounding, gives children confidence and helps them deal with every day situations.

“I’m really looking forward to these auditions although I guess there’ll inevitably be an element of the X-factor about them. I really hope the children won’t be nervous about having to perform in front of ‘that bloke from the telly’!”

“Also I’m up to my neck in Pinter at the moment will make it a nice change.”

Asked what he’ll be looking for he replied, “I suppose I’ll be looking for potential. These days so many people are judged on the present, on how they look and that can lead to issues in later life. It’s not so much about putting on a polished performance rather than an interesting presentation.”

And considering his current knowledge of High School Musical comes from my condensed synopsis which in turn came from my eight year old daughter’s obsession with the Disney phenomenon – I’d guess the competition is very much an open one! On the other hand I have no idea as to the extent of Joel Beckett’s acquaintance of the production that has been billed this generation’s Grease.

PSSA founder Laura Bird who, with her sister Mia, runs the academy explained how they came to choose High School Musical for their latest production. “We asked the children what they would like to do and they suggested Guys and Dolls, Chicago, Fame and High School Musical. The others were already being done in the West End and I was actually looking into doing Grease when a flashing sign came up about securing the rights to High School Musical. We’re really lucky to get them and we’ll be the first school in West London to put on the production.”

Their commitment to getting the children on stage is commendably creative. “It’s no good being technically perfect if you can’t perform in front of an audience on stage.” She explains. “It’s like teaching a boy to drive a formula one car without him ever being given the chance of actually driving one!” adds Nigel.

“We believe we have created a school, which focuses on each child’s strengths — there is something for everyone. We encourage creativity and interaction with other likeminded children to develop confidence to unveil your child’s true potential. Our main aim is to let children develop naturally through encouragement and lots of fun.” Says Laura.

The auditions will take place on Sunday 25th March from 12.00 at Arts Educational School on Bath Road. To take part call 020 8742 129 or email info@pssa.co.uk to register your interest.

March 9, 2007