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Ope Sowande

21st June 2022

Photographer & Editor-in-chief: Owen James Vincent

Stylist & Art Director: Rory Mcnerney

Stylist Assistant: Oliver Slade

Clothes Designer: Corey Dixon / Somebody Else's Guy

Make Up Artist & Nails: Rita Nieddu

Make Up Artist Assistant: Juste Vaskeviciute

Hair: Lucy Muyanga

Interview: Tadek Chmiel

Logo Design: Emily Curtis

Assistant & Videographer: Joe Reed

Jewellery: Lucy Quartermaine & We Are PR

Shoes: ATIKA London

Having only graduated in 2019 and with theatres being closed for much of the time since then, it’s no mean feat that Ope has already made his West End debut in “Moulin Rouge” at The Piccadilly Theatre. During COVID, productions have become heavily reliant on their swings and understudies, and as Ope currently covers an impressive 9 tracks as a swing, we discussed how this has impacted his experience, as well as his desire to see the disparity in treatment of leads and ensemble be removed from the industry. 

What has it been like to make your West End debut in the spectacle that is Moulin Rouge?

It was so beautiful, so beautiful. I think because I’d not done much dance training before I started dance school, to be able to be in a West End show at 21/22 was honestly phenomenal. I did “The Lion King” just before and that was on tour, but it was always the dream to be in the West End. Two of my best friends got to come and watch my debut so it was just the best. 

Theatres having to constantly deal with the threat of reduced numbers of cast and crew due to Covid-19 has shone a light on the vitality of swings to the musical theatre industry. Even without this additional pressure, the responsibility of a swing can be incredibly daunting. How have you dealt with this throughout the rehearsal process and run of Moulin Rouge?

I think I’m a pretty chilled person in general, so I think I always allow myself to take time to breathe and realise that honestly, things just aren’t that deep. We’re not saving lives, we’re not curing cancer, we’re just dancing, singing and acting on stage, so for me I think I’ve never allowed it to overcome me or let the pressure overwhelm me until I’m just full of anxiety and I can’t see and I can’t breathe. So, I just always gave myself the time to learn things and allow it to be what it is, and whatever it is, that’s all I can do at that point. Whatever I’m producing is what you’re going to get and that’s all I can do. 

As a member of the class of 2019, you graduated a matter of months before the pandemic hit. How did this effect your entrance into an industry where graduates already have plenty to contend with, let alone a global pandemic?

I feel like I actually really lucked out, my year was the last year to graduate before Covid hit so I managed to get in with who I needed to get in with. I feel like for new graduates now it’s so hard for them to break past that barrier because on the outside, no-one knows who they are and everyone that’s been working is getting the jobs that they already had. Getting into the West End was hard enough because I was obviously on tour, so that was difficult but in comparison to newer graduates I definitely got lucky. 

In 10 years’ time, what changes would you like to have seen within the musical theatre industry?

I’d love the hierarchy of leads and ensemble to kind of be abolished. I know that’s such a big ask and I know that’s such a hard concept because I’m aware leads often earn a lot more money than an ensemble member, but I don’t mean payment wise, I actually just mean respect wise and how they’re treated. I’d love the hierarchy to be abolished so that we can all be on the same level rather than ensemble and swings feeling like they’re constantly climbing up and constantly having to battle, whereas a lead can ask for something once and get what they need.

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