Is Vlogging Enhancing Our West End Experience?
In the West End world, a number of actors are sharing their lives through vlogging. Heathers the Musical’s Carrie Hope Fletcher is a prime example, publishing The Veronica Vlogs almost every week, keeping fans updated in all aspects of her life as a lead actress.
So does this behind-the-scenes footage help aspiring actors understand the in and outs of the industry? The candid snippets of Carrie’s life captured on her YouTube channel make for not only fun viewing for her fans but serves as a great prospectus of what life on the West End can be like. Having vlogged since 2011, viewers have been able to follow Carrie’s success develop child theatre actor to London’s longest running Eponine (Les Miserables) to the lead in a musical recently transferred to the West End.
West End social media presence can be a great advantage to aspiring thespians being given the opportunity for spontaneous Q&As through Instagram’s new feature. However, this has not always proved advantageous for the actors themselves.
The ability of direct communication from fan to actor can place the actor under more pressure. An increase in social media use in recent years has coincided with an increase in online abuse directed towards those in the limelight; quite often regarding their presence at stage door, something which Dear Evan Hansen actor Ben Platt highlighted in a message tweeted to his followers in 2017. Carrie Hope Fletcher is also open about her experience in receiving this kind of abuse online and has used vlogs to defend fellow actors and the legitimate reasons for their absence (often to do with being able to make every show top quality) in a way which is polite and grateful to fans who travel miles to watch their show. While Carrie and many other actors emphasise the largely positive experiences of meeting fans at stage door, this dialogue is important for the physical and mental wellbeing of those working in the industry.
Is the growth of West End vlogging beneficial to the world of the Arts? First of all it’s worth noting that actors are not the only ones who feature in these vlogs. Many videos are gold dust for aspiring production and technical crew: the stage managers, the orchestra, the light and sound technicians, the unsung heroes of theatre who the audience never usually get to see at work. The weekly Instagram story takeovers at Hamilton West End do just this, having shadowed the front of house team, the lighting team and the swings as well as the lead actors. Not only does this exhibit the other roles for aspiring theatre workers but also shares the magic of the production with fans.
So does this backstage insight ruin the magic of the show? These vlogs act as like a DVD’s special features where the audience gets to see the personalities of the actors and most importantly the passion and fun those in the industry have. Hamilton’s Tarinn Callendar and Cleve September have developed a playful, cheeky chap, duo reputation through their Instagram story videos miming a gunshot twice a show when, ‘I am not throwing away my shot,’ can be overheard from their shared dressing room. They have even started sharing videos of fans doing the same from the audience after the end of a show giving us the chance to interact with those we follow online. The formation of this popular duo has led to them developing their own ‘TCCS’ merchandise, all of which makes watching them on stage all the more endearing.
If our favourite West End actors and productions had not taken vlogging as part of their lives and business, fans would be deprived of seeing the passion, friendship and laughter that develops in these companies, whilst aspiring thespians would lose out on understanding the realities of the industry. The vlogs act as a valuable insight into the day to day workings of a production as well as great advertisement for a potential audience. They create a more interactive sphere between actors and audience and makes theatre-going a more memorable and inspiring experience.
Image credit: bbc.co.uk / Darren Bell