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28 October 2014

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Paul Henshall


Paul Henshall currently plays student doctor Dean West in Holby City, a character who, like Paul himself, has cerebral palsy. Previous TV roles have included the part of Michael Scant in A Thing Called Love, and he can be seen later this year in I'm With Stupid, a comedy with an almost entirely disabled cast.

He's also had a lot of stage experience, so we asked him for his advice to performers in One Night of Shakespeare.

Why should people do drama, even if they don't want to be actors?

It's a very useful thing for self-expression. You can express yourself through acting in a way that a lot of other hobbies don't allow you to do.

It allows you to be someone else for an hour or two, and show those parts of your character which you wouldn't normally have the confidence to show.

And it's a wonderful thing - you work together towards building a production which you then share with your family and friends. Really, what can be better than that?
More on acting »

Paul HenshallWhat do you think is so good about Shakespeare?

The language is so powerful, the stories are so strong. The stories have everything in there that could be of interest to anybody. Anybody can find something in Shakespeare to enjoy. There's lots of exciting stories, lots of different things happening.
More on what's so good about Shakespeare »

What would be your top acting tips?

The main thing is make sure you speak clearly, especially with Shakespeare, where the language is so much a part of it. So speak clearly, speak loudly, and try not to be too nervous. Because if you enjoy what you're doing, then the audience will too. Really listen to the other actors.
More top tips »

What's your advice for getting over stage fright?

Deep breaths. I usually maybe have a little lie down before I perform. Make sure you've eaten something beforehand!
More on stage-fright »

What's the one thing you should never do?

Well, make sure you know your lines... that's important!

Never stop performing before you leave the stage. That's the most important thing.
More things you should never do »

Paul HenshallHow do you get into a role?

It sounds an obvious thing to say, but first of all, read the play. There are copies out there which translate the plays into modern English as well, so that may be a good idea.

Read the play, make sure you understand what's going on, and try and think about how you might feel in that situation. Don't make anything too complicated. If a character is jealous of another character, think about how that might make you feel, for example. Try and find something within yourself that matches the experience of the character.
More about taking on roles »

What are your favourite plays and characters?

I enjoy Macbeth, I enjoy Hamlet. Richard III is a favourite of mine as well, because I played him at drama school, but there are so many great roles. For an actor they're a real challenge, but if you get the opportunity to play them, it's a gift to an actor.
More actors' favourites »

What would you say to other disabled would-be-actors?

I can't say that every disabled person who tries to become an actor will succeed. All I can say is that so far, I've managed it. That must mean it can happen.

So if a disabled person wants to become an actor, it is possible. You just have to work hard, like in everything else. For more information on disability and acting with a disability, try the links below:
Ouch: The BBC's disability website
BBC, Channel 4 and actor centres talent fund for disabled actors



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Video Nation - short films from schools involved in One Night of Shakespeare.
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