Ben Forster, Victoria Hamilton-Barritt and more: Why I love theatre

To celebrate #LoveTheatreDay we spoke to some of our favourite West End actors to find out why they love theatre

Hadley Fraser

I remember the exact moment I fell in love with the theatre. Aged 13-ish, sat in the assembly hall of my secondary school watching my brother in a production of West Side Story.

His Bernardo left a little to be desired (the sideburns made up for a little) and I spent a while staring at the back of the chair in front of me thinking about my penknife. Then, like a Puerto Rican hurricane, the Mambo started.

There was this music, these sounds, these movements; this sweat, this passion, this other world I'd never really heard or experienced before. And bear in mind this was Bracknell, in a draughty school hall. No technical wizardry or professional expertise to speak of, just the pure power of theatre. It thrilled me beyond words. I had to have a go.

David Fynn, School of Rock

Recently, during a run of School of Rock, we had an invited audience along to an open dress. There was a little girl in the audience who was around 5 years old and was on her feet the entire time. She danced and rocked and laughed through the whole show. We get caught up in reviews and praise from our peers, but that little girl is what it's really all about.

Tyrone Huntley, Dreamgirls

When I was younger, theatre gave me the chance to be somebody else when I didn't want to be me. As I've grown older it's provided a safe space for me to learn about who I am. The experiences I've had and the amazing people I've met along the way have shown me that I can be whoever and whatever I choose to be.

Victoria Hamilton-Barritt, Murder Ballad

What I find most inspiring about theatre is when you are lucky enough to experience watching a company of solid actors really bring a script to life. Where you can be so convinced by the direction of the story, because the director and company all really understand the piece in hand and each other's input.

There's nothing more satisfying than seeing special star quality behind an actor's eyes, when they're so gifted that they make you feel as though you can read their thoughts. That takes talent, and live theatre is at its best when you're in the room when that happens.

Joe Aaron Reid, Dreamgirls

Oscar Wilde said "I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being."

Theatre has evolved for me. Where it was once a sanctuary, a safe space filled with like minded people, with whom I could be myself, and find out who I was, theatre is now my voice. It is my canvas. It is my heart. So the Oscar Wilde quote, although I think it is intended for an actor with regards to their effect on the audience, I believe theatre also serves as a gateway to humanity for the actor himself.

Dean John-Wilson, Aladdin

"Theasthai" is Greek for "behold" – the ancient origins of what we know today as theatre. Since the first day I stepped into a theatre I knew it was going to be a haven of joy and wonderment. A place to escape and let my imagination run riot, inspired by the images and words projecting themselves upon us the audience. It's the reason why I am an actor today, to harness people's emotions and create a temple of freedom, and be the creator of amazing memories to "behold".

Emma Kingston, In the Heights

Theatre is community. It's family! As an actor, a day I will never forget is when Lin Manuel Miranda came to see a performance of In The Heights. In his speech Lin said: "The reason the show works in London and the reason it works on 175th street is because of the community you build on stage." Being surrounded by the most wonderful people everyday, for me, that show created a family. #noparesiguesigue

Emmanuel Kojo

I think theatre has the capabilities to elevate us as humans and teach us so many things about ourselves and others. Sometimes it is just to entertain and take our mind away from the world we are in. But when a show about nine black boys allegedly raping two white girls can become a statement of entertainment, as well as a powerful movement in itself, it shows the extent and reach that theatre can have!

Ben Forster, The Phantom of the Opera

For me theatre is so inspiring because it's live in front of you. It's a group of individuals that take you on a journey, making you feel all kinds of emotions; love, laughter, heartache. As a performer it's incredible to take the audience on that journey, it grows and evolves and changes with each performance. It really is a living thing of its own. I adore it.