An Interview with Darren J. Fawthrop
by Ed Lippman
My very first question makes Darren explode in laughter. While doing my research, I uncovered what I found to be a highly unlikely contest won last year by one Darren Fawthrop - a "Strongest Man" competition. And Mr. Fawthrop was the winner. Was this the same Darren J. Fawthrop that sat before me? Visions of several large men lining a stage, grimacing, watching in disgrace as a dancer chassÚd forward to accept some large, heavy gold medal ran through my head.
I was intrigued.
I was dying to know.
I had to wait for the laughter to die down.
DF: No. That's another one. That's why I put Darren "J.," because in the North of England he's quite famous. He's a boxer or something like that.
Darren impresses you as the kind of person who's always open to some new adventure or prank. I bet he gets people in trouble in class a lot. He's a bit too infectious.
EL: You've been with AMP for a while now.
DF: I've been in the company since Swan Lake.
EL: I'm curious how you got involved with AMP. What drew you to the company in the first place?
DF: I started dancing late, actually. I had not heard of AMP until late. I moved to London and that's when I heard about AMP. There was a big buzz about the male Swan Lake. When I was in my first year of college, the head of contemporary encouraged everybody to go and see Swan Lake. And I went to see it and thought I'd never be able to do it because I thought it'd be finished. I thought I'd love to do that or work for the company. Two years later I graduated. I was in a class with Etta (Murfitt) who saw me and said, "Send your stuff in" [resume/headshots]. I was like, "Yeah, yeah." [in disbelief]. I sent my things in a literally the day after they rang me up and asked me to come take class with them. I took class like three times with them and Matt said I was in. It was pure by luck as well. A friend made me do the class with Etta. It was an open class Etta was teaching. I just turned up and did the class, and Etta said, "We're looking for boys." I was blown away and thought, "Yeah sure."
It was hard. Swan Lake was very physically hard. Physically, doing four acts, and when you're not on you're literally running from stage to get changed, running to the stage and running straight on. It was that tight. It was a momentous show to do. It was so hard. I'd roll out of bed in the morning and everything was in pain. But you didn't care because you were so proud.
EL: How did you do it everyday, going into a show that was that hard?
DF: Doing the show itself, it just gave you the goal of "Swan Lake." It was so flowing, whereas Car Man is very different. It's not as physically tiring. It's more emotionally tiring than "Swan Lake." In Swan Lake you had to get yourself physically going to get into it, whereas "Car Man," you have to be emotional as well. Everyone is acting on stage, all the time.
EL: Which is the character you play that you get the most out of?
DF: Dirk, the mechanic. I play him a little -- he's not very clever. He gets very influenced by the other guys, especially Hot Rod, the mean guy. He's a nice guy but he just goes along. As the show goes along, like, the beginning he's all very nice and gets pulled along. At the end he's not. He's changed so much. Dirk personally changes the most.
EL: In a good way or bad way?
DF: In a bad way. Everybody does, because everybody's influenced by Luca.
EL: Tell me about Dirk and your creation of him.
DF: When we created the show I mostly did Marco and Hotrod. Originally I wasn't supposed to be in the show for a few weeks. Then loads of people got injured. I knew a little bit, I'd been following it. Then I got a call on Sunday night I got a phone call from Simon. He said, "You've got to do Dirk. You've got tonight and tomorrow to learn it." It was from that point on that I more or less took over Dirk. It was supposed to be a small part at first. He ended up being in lots of things. We all got to make the character our own. We were just given free reign.
EL: You said you got into dance late, at 16. What made you decide to start doing this?
DF: My life is full of coincidences, weird things happening. I went to this dancing audition and I got the part. Never danced. And I thought, "Hmmmm." I put it in the back of my mind, didn't think about it. Then I went to this Madonna concert and the dancing was absolutely amazing. I thought I didn't want to be a dancer; I wanted to make the audience feel what I felt. I still do. I did ballet, tap and jazz. I never expected to be a professional dancer ever. I could naturally move. It was a lot of hard work, but I think, starting at 16 made it easier.
EL: Was it hard for you being a male dancer in class?
DF: God, yeah. I got so much stick in school. But I also got respect. People saw all the shows I'd get. I'd be like, "I do dance. You got a problem with that?"
EL: If you had to say anything to someone younger who wants to get into dance, what would it be?
DF: You will get stick from people, but go for it. Go for it. You have to it.
EL: The show is closing early, what's next after that?
DF: I want to go back, slowly, into acting. I've got a five-year plan for choreography as well. You see, as soon as it happens [closing], you have to start thinking. You can't let your feet get wet.
EL: Yeah. You have to keep your eye open for the next thing. Is there something in mind you'd like to create?
DF: I trained in ballet, modern as you say, jazz, tap, singing, acting. I want to use all those things. It's hard because if you had one focus and said, "I'm going to do that," it's so much easier. I've got lots of things pulling me and I do want to do them. If I can I want to pull them all together. One of my ambitions is to choreograph a dance video for Bjork, where you can have lots of different - I can see what she's doing with the music, how she's going forward, using different things. I want to do that as well with dance. I don't want to do way out modern. I want to make it easily accessible to everyone. I'd love to do shows like Matthew does as well.
EL: Like Car Man or the musical theater he's doing.
DF: I read an article a long time ago that said this was a new genre that Matthew was creating. And I would like to go down that path he's doing. A guy I know who came to see the show who's in film school said that every new director should come to see the show, because it's an anti-story, not with words, and it's the power of what's being shown and every director should see this. Rather than all these old scripts that all these directors are going for.
EL: The power of the non-spoken word.
EL: I've asked the others so I'll ask you, why do you dance?
DF: God, you have to be crazy. One of my teachers said that to me once, she said, "You guys have to be crazy to dance." I'm coming from a family that has nothing to do with theater, have nothing to do with the theater. But I'm just naturally a theater person. When you're on stage and you're doing Swan Lake, it's amazing. You're not there, you're just feeling. It's great to feel that, not like a nine-to-five job. I want to make people feel what I felt when I watched them [Swan Lake].
EL: Your credits include Billy Elliot. Which scene are you in?
DF: Right at the end, you know, the Swan Lake bit. There's a few of us, there's me and Lee and Adam.
EL: How much of the rest of the movie were you aware of?
DF: We'd heard about the story. We were told it was going to be a very small film and none of us put it in our biography or anything like that. Then we started seeing things in the papers about it. And then it just hit England, and then it went worldwide and America... It was going to be some small film that made it in the cinema in England then bombed immediately. We were so shocked by it all. To be part of it, and I don't say anything. But I was at the pool the other day and these people were talking about Billy Elliot and I just started laughing and swam away.
EL: Do you have a favorite dance film?
DF: I have to say, Showgirls. It is the worst movie ever, ever made. I think it transcends past bad movie. I recommend it to my friends because it's so bad. A couple of us are always in class doing "Showgirls." It's so bad you have to love it.
EL: Do you guys ever get a chance to relax?
DF: Yeah! Completely. We're lucky because we've got a hot tub and there's always people in that. We've been loads of places like Disneyland. We went camping once. It was very funny. We got lost, about twelve of us, I don't know where it was, in this massive gorge. We couldn't find it, we lost the trail. We were like, "What do we do?" So we had to climb this vertical cliff. It was awful. One of us could have died. So that was our relaxing weekend. Oh, my God. Never again.
EL: What is your best moment so far on stage?
DF: I love it when things go wrong. There's been a lot if times when things happen on this show. There was once, I think in St. Paul, and we went to do the party scene, and the music didn't sound right, the levels of the volume weren't right. And every one went on the tableau part and the music stopped, then it skipped into something else and everyone was frozen on stage. And nobody knew what to do. And the music was playing something way, way off so we didn't know where to start dancing or anything. Everybody was just flailing around. And Arthur was at the front of the stage and he was just skipping and waving his arms around. I was behind him and everyone was just looking at him and we looked so stupid. It was the best step, the best moment in awhile.
EL: Some people would call that their worst moment.
DF: Oh, No, No.
EL: Then what is your worst moment?
DF: We were doing this course, a really intense one, this two-week intensive. I was rolling on my back with my legs in the air doing this modern thing, and I had this moment of clarity thinking, "What am I doing?" I'm rolling on my back in front of all these people and I thought, "What am I doing?" And I started laughing and I couldn't stop. And I had to do this two-minute dance piece and I laughed all the way through. And the two other people, we were this trio, they were just looking at me like I was mental. For that one second I realized what I was doing and I just couldn't handle it. I'm very embarrassed about it.
EL: What book is on your nightstand right now?
DF: [A bit embarrassed] Oh, gosh. It's a fantasy book. You've probably heard of it, a Forgotten Lands one.
EL: [Not embarrassed] Hey, I just finished Harry Potter.
DF: I love Harry Potter. I'm so excited; I'd have done anything to be in that movie. I just love Harry Potter.
Car Man the Show
- An Auto-Erotic Thriller -
- Talk about the show -