INTERVIEW: TV Star Karl Collins
Central TV Workshop alumni Karl Collins is currently known as family-man Louis Loveday in Chester-based Hollyoaks. But Clifton-born Karl is due to return to his hometown when he takes on the lead role in the award-winning play Shebeen, which has its world premiere at Nottingham Playhouse.
The soap-star tells us why he’s proud to be part of a play with such local links…
Tell us a little bit about the show
Shebeen is set to be a brilliant show; it’s a fictional story, but based on historical facts – not many people seem to realise that some of the largest race riots outside of London happened in Nottingham.
Set in 1950s St Ann’s, a Jamaican couple Pearl and George are helping Caribbean migrants to cut loose by hosting a forbidden party at their ‘Shebeen’ – tempers are flaring and Teddy Boys are on the march!
What is a ‘Shebeen’?
A Shebeen is an illegal bar set up in someone’s home that sells illicit alcohol – many immigrants weren’t welcome in the local pubs, so set up their own venues to have fun and relax.
What drew you to the play?
Although it’s set in the ‘50s, a lot of the messages of race and immigration are very relevant today and it’s something most people have an opinion on and can relate to in some way – particularly with the current Windrush Scandal.
It’s also close to home for me; my family moved to the UK in the ‘60s, so I’ll be catching up with my mum about her memories as part of my research for the show. Sadly my Dad is no longer with us, but I remember him mention fighting off Teddy Boys once – so I’m intrigued about the details of what people went through.
You’re well-known for your appearances in popular soaps, but what makes performing on stage so different?
It’s been four years since my last theatre role and there is no feeling like it. When you are working on TV shows, you’re often not recording things in order and you get the chance to do another take if you or the director isn’t happy with the performance. On stage, you only get one chance to convince the audience of who you are portraying and your performance is constantly shifting and moving to reflect the person playing opposite you and to respond to the audience’s reactions.
Together you, the cast and audience go on a journey, and the adrenaline is immense – it’s really exciting!
How did you get into acting?
Growing up I was always into drama – I loved doing plays at school and when the Central TV Workshop came along I thought it looked really interesting so a friend and I signed up as some of its first members.
I actually always wanted to be a joiner – acting was just a hobby – it wasn’t until one of the tutors at the Workshop explained that acting could be a career, that I realised I could actually do it as a job. I’d naturally assumed that kids on TV needed to be posh, and from a rich family, but if you have drive and ambition it’s possible for anyone to make it.
By 14, I was on a show on ITV called Dramarama, but the real turning point for me was when I went on a school trip to see an RSC performance of Romeo and Juliet. I remember it so vividly. Hugh Quarshie played Tybalt and, as a young black kid from a council estate, seeing a black actor playing such an amazing role so magnificently, and in such an important theatre, I realised: wow, I could do this too!
What do you love about Nottingham?
Nottingham is such a young, vibrant city with an amazing creative and energetic feel.
What’s next for you?
After the run in Nottingham, we’re taking the show to Theatre Royal Stratford East, and then I’ll be back to the set of Hollyoaks!
The story, written by Nottingham-based author Mufaro Makubika, shines a light on a community under siege and the sacrifices made for love.