The popular theatre company Oddsocks is back in the area with a production of The Jungle Book at Derby’s Guildhall Theatre, running from January 31-February 4.
Here, Derbyshire actor Jora Singh, who plays Mowgli in the new adaptation, tells us more about the production.
Tell us a bit about yourself, Jora?
My name is Jora Singh and I’m from Littleover in Derby. I went to Littleover Community School and had a great five years there. That was where I first got into theatre. After that, I went to study Performing Arts at Joseph Wright College where I started to learn more about dance and music. I stayed locally to continue my training and did three-year course at Sheffield Hallam University called Performance for Stage and Screen.
I learnt a lot during my time at Sheffield Hallam, a lot about life too! I then applied for MA courses and went to study at Guilford School of Acting for a year. I learnt a lot of skills there and that’s where I feel I really developed into a strong, much more confident and hopefully inspiring person. I really want to fly the flag for the midlands and encourage other local artists to go for whatever their dreams might be.
Has their been a particular individual who has inspired you?
Undoubtedly, my Mum and my Dad. They were both born in India and moved to Derby when they were young. My Mum wanted to be a Nurse and that was her dream when she came to this country. After having four children, she went to study again to increase her skills and learn more; what I find inspiring is that she went above and beyond her dream. She’s a Sister now. My Dad has worked locally for Rolls-Royce for over 40 years and I think their approach to work and their dedication has certainly rubbed off on me!
Do you think your parents taught you the value of hard work, which is so important in this industry?
Yes definitively. Also, coming from an Indian family, acting isn’t a “normal” or “traditional” career path. So, although I wasn’t wholly supported at the start, when they realised how passionate I was, they understood that this was what I wanted to achieve and have supported me ever since.
You’ve mentioned the challenges coming from an Indian family, do you think there are certain challenges wanting to persue a career coming from the East Midlands?
I think there are challenges but the bottom line is if you’re willing to work hard and investigate then there are loads of opportunities out there in Derby. There’s loads of really great theatre to see and plenty of local theatre companies to gain experience with.
I was really proud and learnt lots during my time in Derby LIVE Youth Theatre when I was at college and accessing your local network is really important. You never know, you might end up touring there in the future! I’m really looking forward to being at the Guildhall this February and being back at Derby LIVE.
When did this all start? What was your first experience of theatre?
In year nine, I went on a school trip to see Wicked in the West End. The show completely blew me away: the effects, the performances, everything! The storytelling was really strong and that really stuck with me. That was a significant moment when I thought ‘yes, this is what I want to do one day.’
What advice would you give to someone from Derbyshire who wants to pursue a career in acting?
I don’t think you can underestimate the power of continually developing your skills. When I was at university rehearsing in my final year, I managed to fit in a volunteer position working with young people developing their outdoor theatre skills with Grow Theatre as well as working with The Croft which is a day service provided for adults who have or are recovering from mental health issues. You never know when skills might be required and life experiences like these are so valuable. I don’t think you can be “just an actor” so having as many strings to your bow as possible is a huge asset. I’d also say to try to train your mind to always think of the positives too as rejection is part of the job.
And this is your first professional production since graduating, what are you most looking forward too about the tour?
This may sound a little cheesy… but it’s all about the performances! I can’t wait to be doing what I love and sharing the story with audiences. I’m really looking forward to be working and touring with four amazing other actors who have such a wealth of experience, I feel really blessed to be working with them and have this job as my first job out of drama school.
What are your main memories of The Jungle Book before you came along to audition for The Jungle Book?
To be honest, much like a lot of people, I’d only ever seen the original Disney film! Bare Necessities, Baloo, Shere Khan and all those great characters. My main memory was a small Indian child with not much clothing jumping around, swinging on trees and talking to animals! Since working with Oddsocks, I’ve learnt its so much more than that. It’s a story full of morals and life lessons and some real depth. I’m really proud to be part of it!
Finally, What can an audience expect when they come to see The Jungle Book? Can you sum it up in three words?
Hilarious, captivating and extravagant!
Oddsocks’ The Jungle Book tours to Derby Guildhall on January 31-February 4 at 7.30pm. There will also be a Wednesday matinee at 1pm and a Saturday one at 2.30pm.
Tickets are available from www.derbylive.co.uk or on 01332 255800.