Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed my old friend, and actor, Robert Stuart-Hudson about his career experiences and what he loves about his work.
Tell me a bit about yourself.
My name’s Rob, I live in Cheshire with my wife and son (another baby on the way!) and I’ve been an actor and various other things since I left university in 2005.
When did you first realise you wanted to be an actor?
I have always had an interest in performing, despite being quite introverted. As a child I would watch a lot of comedy, (Blackadder, Fawlty Towers, The Young Ones etc) and loved the different performance styles of the actors, and how they engaged with a live audience, how they delivered lines, how they used pauses and reactions for comic effect. My mum noticed how much of a pretentious little turd I was getting to be, so she sent me to drama classes on a Friday night to get a bit of peace.
What is your favourite thing about performing?
I’ve always been most interested in performing comedy, and especially in front of live audiences. I think that’s because you get immediate feedback in the form of laughter. You can tell if a show has gone well if the audience has been laughing at it! It’s a nice feeling.
What classes or training sessions have you taken to support your acting career?
As a teenager and into my twenties I went to a drama/acting class in St Helens, Fridays and eventually Saturdays too. I did drama at school and A level, and learned an awful lot from both the evening and school classes in terms of stagecraft and just the basics of ‘doing acting’. At university I did a degree in drama where I learned a lot more theory about kinds of theatre performance and styles of acting. Since then, I have learned a massive amount about the realities of the job simply from years of experience of getting to do it! It’s all very valuable to me and I try to take in as much as I can.
What was your first professional acting job?
I’d done lots and lots of amateur plays and comedy before Uni but technically my first professional acting job (as in, the first one I actually got paid for) was a touring job doing shows in schools in South Wales, with a mad play about road safety. I played a naughty child, a lollipop lady and some sort of seatbelt expert, I think. We did two shows a day, five days a week, from September til December, and I think I got paid about £300 per week. It was a really good experience, nice money and I worked with some very funny and daft people who were all learning on the job just like me.
What was your most recent professional acting job?
I’m currently doing a small tour with a brand new play called ‘All Above Board’, a comedy written by Nigel Planer (yes, that Nigel Planer). It’s with a company called Northern Comedy Theatre who I have been working closely with for a couple of years now, especially during lockdown, when we managed as a group to put on seven or eight live streamed plays on Zoom, which was very exciting! In ‘All Above Board’ I play the lead character (Timothy Upton-Fell) which is a bit new for me as I usually play ‘Mad Comic Relief Character 1’. This part is a lot of fun, because TIm Upton-Fell is a total arse.
Tell me a favourite experience in your career. Something that stands out in your memories and makes you want to find more experiences like it.
I did a play a couple of years ago called ‘We Apologise For The Inconvenience’. It was a small cast, only two actors, and no set. It was a little 45 min play about Douglas Adams, the sci fi writer, who I’ve always been a huge fan of. My brilliant co actor Adam Gardiner played him. The plot is roughly that he finds himself locked in a hotel room, under pressure to finish a book which he has agreed to write and has accepted payment for.
One of the reasons I liked it so much was because I played such an unusual character; I was his rubber duck, which had come to life, and was in turn taunting and encouraging him to finish his work. The play is great; it is really funny, goes fairly dark and has a very sweet ending. We took this show to a few venues and festivals before doing a short run in Edinburgh in 2019, and it was this experience which I enjoyed the most.
We were in a small theatre space which was packed out every day, I was working with a brilliant co-actor, and a top director who allowed us to play to find new things in the show but pulled us back when we tried stuff that didn’t work. We were the only Douglas Adams/Hitchhiker’s Guide show up at the Fringe that year so we got a lot of coverage. A thoroughly enjoyable time.
What was your toughest experience in your acting career?
Anything involving learning a dance routine is always tricky as I have two left feet, both growing out of my knees. But the most difficult thing I have had to do in recent memory was for a commercial for some broadband company or something. I had to drive up to Berwick Upon Tweed, dress as a musketeer, and swim underwater in the icy cold sea. They wanted a shot of me bursting through the surface like a graceful Triton; but by the time I had adjusted to the temperature, waded deep enough in to get under, and found a space with the least amount of jellyfish, my blood had frozen in my arteries and I looked more like a limp corpse with marbles for eyes. They never used the commercial.
Have you family and friends been supportive of your acting career?
Definitely. My wife has a proper job so she earns the real money while I piddle about. My son tells his friends at school that ‘my daddy does a funny show where he sings a song about bananas’ and they nod approvingly before tearing back into their Frubes.
Tell me some career goals. What would you like to achieve?
I’ve worked with children for most of my career; it’s great, they let you be silly but at the same time you can never let your guard down because they will tell you if you do something wrong! I’d like to move into reading children’s literature for audiobooks. It would be nice to know you are being heard in different households, bringing someone’s favourite stories and characters to life for them. I’ve also in recent years done a lot more solo storytelling work (around Halloween and Christmas usually) and I’d like to expand that a little. I’m not hugely ambitious really, I’m happy plodding along. If I had to choose a major goal though, I think I’d love to do a live studio audience sitcom.
Tell me something you were surprised by, something you had never realised about being a professional actor.
Lots of people have said to me after shows, ‘How do you learn so many words?’ But I think learning your lines is absolutely the easiest bit about being an actor. You just keep reading and saying them til you remember them, that’s it. The hard bit is then learning HOW to say them, and crucially, knowing WHY the character is saying them. That takes a bit of work.
What are words of advice you have for other aspiring actors?
Give up immediately. You are my direct competition, and I have a baby on the way.
Give me your social links so people can come and find you!
My next show ‘Doing Shakespeare’ is in London at the Bridewell Theatre, 1st – 13th November. Details here:
ComedySportz profile: Rob Hudson – Comedysportz
Agent email: email@example.com
Tickets for ‘All Above Board’: ALL ABOVE BOARD (northerncomedytheatre.com)