We Are AAM - Andy

We've had the pleasure of working with Andy for a long time now on some of our famous Hands & Voices productions. Andy helps us make sure our shows are inclusive and he brings the best out in everyone he works with. We were lucky to catch up with Andy this week during a rehearsal for our Cabaret of Dreams production and we got to ask him all about working with AAM. 

How long have you been involved with AAM?

I first worked with AAM around 20 years ago now on their production, A Midsummers Night Dream. Kate, who directed Hands and Voices at the time, saw me perform as part of The Lawnmowers Theatre Company I act with. She spoke to Rose and they invited me down to come and co-direct the production with them. I’ve worked with AAM off and on since then and have helped co-direct other performances including Sleeping Beauty, Go Down Moses, Knights & Angels and Ruff Doublet and the Queen. I remember in Sleeping Beauty she chose not to go with her prince and to ride off into the night with Ted on the Motorbike in full leathers. This all took place in the Guild Hall it was so loud the audience were all turning around and going ‘what the?!’.

How did you start working in community arts, and what area of the arts do you specialise in?

I used to attend a day centre in Gateshead and one day a group called Them Wifies came down to help in a production with another group called The Wheelbarrows. I joined The Wheelbarrows and that’s what got me started with acting. Then one day one of The Lawnmowers group had to go into hospital and they were looking for a replacement and they asked me to join after seeing me with The Wheelbarrows. Alan never rejoined the group and so I’ve been acting with The Lawnmowers for 30 years now. I specialise in Forum Theatre pioneered by Brazilian director Augusto Boal. In this type of performance, the audience plays an active role in shaping the play, swapping places with the actors to provide their take on that characters’ role. The audience are known as the Spec-actors.

What's been your favourite AAM production and why?

I’ve really enjoyed all the performances but my favourites are probably Knights & Angels and Ruff Doublet and the Queen. In the Knights & Angels the founding Artistic Director of the Lawnmowers, Geraldine, came down to see the show. We got her on stage, made her wear a long red wig then put her in the tower where she had to stay until she was freed by the knights. And in Ruff Doublet I got to play two characters. In the first half, I was Ruff Doublet and another actress was Queen Elizabeth, then in the second half we swapped over and I was Queen Elizabeth and she was Ruff Doublet. I had to wear this huge Elizabethan style dress and have my face whited up with Fucus.

What do you enjoy most about the work you help AAM create?

Just how much the guys give, they give 100% all the time in whatever they do. They don’t go around going "oh I can’t do this", or "I can’t do that". They enjoy everything and they have such fun working together and trying new things in a safe place.

Tell us one random fact about yourself! 

I got stabbed in the back by a toy sword and ended up going into hospital because I had a big lump where I was stabbed. That’s when I ended up being diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis at the age of 40!