IT is a big leap from being in Prince William’s favourite boy band to wearing a dress in public.
But square-jawed Thespian Dominic Tighe says the journey from Blake to joining innovative all-male theatre company Propeller wasn’t as bizarre as it appears on paper.
“I made the decision two years ago to leave,” he says of the vocal quartet with whom he released records and toured the world.
“I trained as an actor to begin with and one of my first jobs was with Propeller. But after finishing Taming Of The Shrew and Twelfth Night, we formed Blake.
“We did that for a couple of years and it was great fun and an amazing opportunity. The first album did really well, but all the while I felt I was missing what it was I originally set out to do. So I made the decision to stop with that and focus on acting again. It’s almost like I’ve done full circle.”
Blake continue to sing and are even rumoured to be performing at the forthcoming royal wedding. But Dominic, who appears in Propeller’s world premiere of The Comedy Of Errors from Wednesday and in Richard III from the following Tuesday, has no regrets.
“There are lots of similarities and also lots of differences. I was so grateful to experience the music side, but it made me realise where it was I really should be.
“I mean it in a really positive way, it was all great. But what I’m doing now is where I see myself and where I absolutely want to be working, with this amazing group of people. Creating Shakespeare the way we are is for me hitting it on the money.
“I remember seeing Propeller when I was at drama school and it blew me away because it was like no Shakespeare that I had ever seen. It was fresh and invigorating, innovative and it brought a whole new lease of life to stories I thought I knew already, but suddenly you were seeing in a completely different light.”
Central to the group’s vision is founder and Artistic Director Edward Hall, also an Associate at the National Theatre and the Old Vic, as well as being an established television director who handled two episodes of the most recent series of BBC TV’s Spooks.
Propeller seeks to find a more engaging way of expressing Shakespeare and to more completely explore the relationship between text and performance, not least by mixing a rigorous approach to the text with a modern physical aesthetic.
They have been influenced by mask work, animation and classic and modern film and music from all ages.
Edward will give a strong account of their mission when he directs both plays bound for Tudor Square. They couldn’t be more contrasting.
Richard III (January 25-29) is interpreted as a ‘diabolical adventure’, taking Hammer Horror and Grand Guignol as inspirations as the devilish House of York, led by the Machiavellian Richard, takes on the purer-than-pure House of Lancaster in an England torn by civil war.
The Comedy Of Errors (January 19-22, 27 and 28) follows the example of Roman theatre. Two pairs of twins, separated at birth, leave a perfectly symmetrical trail of confusion behind them when a shipwreck unites them on the same island.
“Richard III is set in a Victoria asylum/medical institution as a sort of metaphor for broken England after 100 years of war,” says Dominic, who last performed in Sheffield when Blake opened for Katherine Jenkins.
“It is quite bleak and doesn’t shy away from the violence or reality of how it was. It’s dark, and the music is wonderfully spooky, as well as beautiful at times, and sometimes contradicts what is going on on stage; a lovely ditty being sung while someone is being brutally murdered. It all creates this weird and odd, fantastic world.
“By contrast, Comedy is full of lights and slapstick humour and great brassy music, mariachi, Spanish guitars and fairy lights and graffiti.”
SO - besides the all-male aspect - what make Propeller so different?
“The emphasis on the ensemble is hugely important,” says Dominic. “Some of the best work is born out of the fact everyone is equal. There’s no hierarchy within the company.
“We’re all in rehearsals all of the time so every idea is as valid as the next; no idea is too stupid.
“We have this process of trying something out and figuring whether it works or not. Ed acts as a facilitator for all these wacky and zany ideas, eventually honed down and into the final product.
“Propeller is totally bold and brave in its approach. Obviously, the fact it is all male brings a certain quality. It makes it unique but also allows a lot more freedom to explore.
“On the surface you will hear an idea, but once it’s had Propeller’s treatment it suddenly all makes sense and you’re finding new life in the text. The only way you’re ever going to discover something like that is simply by trying it out and not being afraid to fall on your face.”
In Comedy, Dominic plays The Officer, while he is Queen Elizabeth in Richard III.
The fact men have to play female parts must force an alternative approach without falling into panto dame territory?
“The fact it is a group of lads in a rehearsal room, people act differently, there’s a certain amount of testosterone.
“It can be quite bawdy and physically demanding because if you’re not restrained by someone being physically less able you can be a bit more rough, particularly in comedy. That’s an advantage in that respect.
“The history plays are so masculine anyway; that whole period it was very hard to be a woman, particularly a queen, as it was all about the male monarchy and heir.
“I didn’t try to affect being a woman or try to put on a voice or adapt any kind of dramatic physicality that was different. As soon as you put on a dress your physicality changes slightly and you inherently do things differently, but it’s all about playing the reality of the situation as the person, not necessarily as the woman.
“Shakespeare is so brilliantly written for you it’s all in there. The moment you try to put too much on top of that you’re in danger of losing sight of what it is fundamentally.
“The audience knows they’re going in to watch an all-male company. They’ve accepted there are going to be men playing women. It just makes their imagination work harder, which is what theatre is all about.”
Propeller’s interpretations also give Dominic and others a chance to sing and play instruments on stage. But he is keen to stress their methods do not “dumb down” the Bard’s text.
“We never want to try to make it more accessible by patronising people by making easier. The idea is to make what you’ve got crystal clear. In Richard III, there’s a lot of off-stage action that’s explained and therefore easy to be missed, so we try to do much of that on the stage.
“Ed is good at bringing the text to life, particularly in Richard III which is about the line of succession changing and people being murdered and playing games. It’s a confusing story in its own right.”