Meet Actor Bally Gill, Coventry born and raised, currently playing the iconic role of Romeo in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Romeo and Juliet.
We have to admit that we’re thrilled to see a fellow British Asian from the West Midlands take on such an exciting role! And honestly, we’ve never seen a British Asian Romeo, so it’s cool to see, especially at a world-famous theatre such as the RSC.
We managed to catch up with Bally to talk all things Romeo, acting and diversity:
How is the show going?
It’s been really cool. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind of people just really enjoying it, whether that’s on social media, reviews have gone really well and just word of mouth – I didn’t realise how strong word of mouth is. Our shows have been packed out, and Romeo and Juliet is also on the syllabus as well. It’s been pretty great to be fair.
How is it playing Romeo?
You know what it is… it’s the shock of it all, it’s an incredible role with so much history. What I’m coming to find is that I’m getting more comfortable with the version we’re doing, it’s so diverse and my character for me is very much a young man from Coventry. Using a lot of what I have, as Bally, in that character – I’m still discovering what I can do with the role. Each night, while it’s not massively different, really does vary because how much we’re learning from just doing the play every night.
Do you ever get nervous before you perform?
I get nervous when I know someone is watching that I know, one of my family members or friends. I don’t know why! I think it’s because I think that they know who I am. When I know no one I know is in, I’m a little more playful and free. I think it’s really good to be nervous, shows that you care about it.
How did you get into acting?
I got into acting around 17. I remember talking to my dad, we watched a lot of musicals together. I remember coming back on the train from watching a show, and I said: “I think I really want to do that job”. My dad said, “well you need to get some sort of training and experience”, I then applied as a writer on a programme at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry. Eventually worked through to the senior youth group as an Actor, I had a teacher there, who I’m still friends with now, who convinced me it should be something professional and convinced me to go to drama school and behold I’m here now.
How is it working with the other cast?
It’s incredible! Honestly, I trust them all, so when we go on stage and do something a little bit different, it’s really nice we can bounce off each other and just go with it. We hang out so much too, we’re like ‘do you want to go breakfast, hang out for lunch or drinks after the show’, they become your family. I love them all, they’re all really talented.
The thing is when you’re here, you’re surrounded by talent all the time – what’s great about that is that I feel like I’m nicking stuff off the best people in the world – always learning and ready to put stuff into my own work.
Have your friends and family been quite supportive of your career?
Yeah, particularly from back home I’m the only one who’s done this from my area in Coventry, Foleshill. I think I was always scared to tell people what I did, especially with some of my pals because of the stigmatisation of acting. When I eventually owned it, I said yeah I’m acting, they all embraced it and were like yeah man! They loved that they knew an actor. I was always scared of being an anomaly of what ‘a typical job an Indian person’ would do. But now I just own it. I do act and I do Shakespeare, and it’s a real talking point. I still find it’s interesting that we’re in 2018 and it’s still something so different.
Do you think it’s important British Asians are represented in Theatre, Film & TV?
Oh hell yeah! Whether it’s us being in Shakespeare, telling our own stories, being on stage… I think we have a lot further to go. We’re making the right steps but we need to be writing our own stories a lot more, rather than depending on others to write them for us – it’s not true or reflective that way. We are making the right steps, so many people coming through in terms of Asian films and theatre.
Who would have thought in 2018 that a Sikh boy from Coventry would be playing Romeo at the RSC? In my own voice and everything! There are so many talented people, so it’s nice to see this progression happening.
How cool is it that Riz Ahmed is doing Hamlet for Netflix, who would have thought that? I’ve been trying to get through to Riz to maybe do a Romeo VS Hamlet. Maybe we could do a really cool Q&A, I don’t know, I’m trying to think of an idea.
Side note: British Bindi girls 100% want to see this happen! This would be insanely awesome, someone please get through to Riz!
What would your dream role be?
Hmmm, dream role? I don’t think I really have a dream role. There are loads of roles I would love to do. Everyone keeps laughing at me, as in a lot of interviews I’ve done I keep mentioning Harry Potter… but yeah [laughs] something in Harry Potter.
What can audiences expect from this Romeo and Juliet?
I think they’re going to get something that, in terms of what you think Shakespeare is and how it’s been done, our version is so fresh! (without giving too much away). We’re all from everywhere using different dialects. It’s really relevant to what’s happening in London at the moment with the knife crime and violence, which is at the forefront of the show.
The production plays at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon until 21 September 2018, the Barbican in London between 2 Nov 2018 – 19 Jan 2019, and then a UK tour 29 Jan – 2 March 2019. More info: rsc.org.uk/romeo-and-juliet