Aged just 22 and ensconced in his first job out of drama school, Michael Jibson has received two nominations for Best Actor in a Musical - in the Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers' Choice Award and, just announced last week, the 2003 Laurence Olivier Awards for his dual performance as good Joe/bad Joe in the Madness musical Our House at the West End's Cambridge Theatre.
The actor's youth belies his experience: he's been performing from a very early age, spent several years with the esteemed National Youth Music Theatre and appeared in the West End in productions of Oliver! and, with NYMT, Bugsy Malone before even enrolling in the Guildford School of Acting to continue his training.
Jibson's other stage credits to date include Pippin, Songs for a New World, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The Kissing Dance, Tin Pan Ali and The Go Between while on television he's starred in the film English Goodbye.
Date & place of birth
Born 16 December 1980 in Hull.
Lives now in...
Guildford in Surrey.
The Guildford School of Acting.
First big break
Doing Pippin at the Bridewell. A lot of people saw me in it, including David Grindrod, the casting director. Before that, being part of the National Youth Music Theatre (NYMT) was very important. I auditioned when I was 14 and joined at 15. We did Bugsy Malone in the West End, Tin Pan Ali at Edinburgh and The Kissing Dance, the first show in the Royal Opera House's Linbury Studio. NYMT was more important to me than drama school. It taught me my craft and showed me how I could be the best that I could possibly be. I had such a good time. If there are any kids out there who are interested in doing theatre, but their parents are worried about it, they should look at joining the NYMT. It's the best thing that ever happened to me.
Career highlights to date
Finding out I got this role in Our House. I was on the train going to meet my mum at Gatwick so I couldn't scream my head off. I knew I had a good chance and I knew that the call was coming that day so I was sat there, clutching the phone. When the call came, everything then happened in slow motion. The press night for Our House was the biggest buzz. All my family were in the audience and everybody in the cast was really excited knowing that this fantastic show we had all been involved in for so long was finally taking off.
Favourite productions you've ever worked on
Jason Robert Brown's Songs for a New World, which I did at college and was a dream come true. And The Go Between, which I did at The Pleasance in London. It's written by Russell Labey and Richard Taylor, who did the original stage version of Whistle Down the Wind, and I simply love the music.
David Burt, who I did Pippin with. He taught me a lot. Just by watching him work and seeing what he could do as David, I learnt what I was capable of as Mike. Jonathan Pryce from Oliver! - because he's Jonathan Pryce. And Julia Gay, my co-star in Our House. We knew each other from college and are really good mates.
Favourite musical writers
Jason Robert Brown I listen to all the time. And Adam Guettel. Those are the two I always keep an eye out for to see what they're doing. Both of them have been produced in London at the Bridewell. I'd love to work there again, particularly on one of their shows.
Peter Darling (Our House) is good. None of us in the company are pure "dancers". We're mostly just actors, but he makes us look like we can dance. Also Susan Stroman for her versatility. I loved Contact and Oklahoma!.
What roles would you most like to play still?
When I'm a bit older, I want to play Jamie in Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years, and I would love to do it at the Donmar or the Bridewell. And ever since I was a kid, I've always wanted to do Enjolras, the leader of the students, in Les Miserables. I'd also like to play Jack in Into the Woods.
What advice would you give the government to secure the future of theatre?
Give more money to the theatre community so that audiences don't have to spend so much on tickets. People should be able to go to the theatre once a month at least, and tickets should be priced £20 max. Why do tickets need to be so expensive? Films cost £40 to £80 million to make and yet people pay £5 to see them. Theatre is not good value by comparison.
If you hadn't become a actor, what would you have done professionally?
I wanted to be a footballer, which is what I used to do before I started acting. But I found that I enjoyed acting more. I enjoy the people you meet in acting.
I've never read a book right through, to be honest. I wish I could, but I never seem to have the patience - I just can't sit down for that long. Actually, I tell a lie. I read a book about panic attacks, which I used to have. It was good; I don't have attacks any more.
Favourite holiday destinations
I love the Mediterranean to relax. I'd love to drop everything for a year and travel, see everything possible. I'm only young so there's still time.
Favourite after-show haunts
I like Joe Allen's, but I always seem to end up in Teatro's where all my mates are.
Actually, I do use Whatsonstage.com and I'm not just saying that. I also used to go on to the website for Parade (which has music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown) to see if it would be coming to the West End.
What did you want to accept your part in Our House?
It's my first job out of drama school so I couldn't really turn it down. I also liked the idea of playing two parts - good Joe and bad Joe. I think it must be one of the most challenging roles in the West End at the moment and, while it's a musical, it's also a big acting job. I hope it's recognised as such.
What special challenges are there for you playing both good Joe & bad Joe?
Mainly it's about finding the subtle differences between the two. At the end of the day, they are the same person so there have to be aspects of each in both. Both Joe's are surrounded by the same people, but they have different perspectives on life. I've also got to keep my energy levels up because it's very mentally and physically demanding. I don't have time to get nervous because I'm concentrating so hard. But if I get tired, then I can't concentrate and I get nervous.
Were you a Madness fan before Our House?
Although I obviously knew who they were, I wasn't a huge fan - but now I am. I went to see them in concert on their new tour and that was great. My favourite Madness song is "The Sun and The Rain". In the show, I sing that one in Camden Lock as a piss-take from Oliver! and it goes down really well.
What's your favourite number from Our House?
That Camden Lock sequence and also "Baggy Trousers". That's a cool number to be in. It's very energetic and I don't have to sing too much so I can just have fun with the rest of the company.
Having now worked with the band, do you think they deserve their "nutty boy" reputation?
They're nutty on stage, but off stage they're just regular guys who've written these brilliant songs. The thing that really gave them their nutty image was the pop videos. They had a very distinctive style, and we try to retain some of that in the show.
What's the most notable thing that's happened during rehearsals/the run to date of Our House?
The scariest moment was when something went wrong technically with a trapdoor during one of my numbers in rehearsals. I was fine but I thought for a moment I might die. It really shook me up so they took that bit out. Every Friday is odd, too. We have a late evening performance, but around 10.20, when the show would normally go down, my body just starts to shut down even though I've still got another 45 minutes to go. That's a challenge getting through that.
What are your future plans?
Film and television is something I want to pursue after Our House. And I want to keep working on new pieces. Someday, I would love to direct in all aspects of entertainment.
Our House is currently booking up to 27 September 2003 at the West End's Cambridge Theatre. In addition to Jibson's nomination for Best Actor in a Musical, the show has been nominated in the Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers' Choice Awards for Best New Musical, Best Supporting Performance in a Musical, Best Set Designer and Best Choreographer. Voting closes 31 January 2003.
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