DREAMS CAN COME TRUE
A chat with actor Tristan Waterson
By Cormac Richards
“I can hardly believe that my hobby, which I used to have to pay to participate in, is now my job which I am paid to do.”
The words of 20 year-old Tristan Waterson who has just made his professional stage debut in Jonathan Harvey’s play, ‘Beautiful Thing’ at Bristol’s Tobacco Factory Theatres. Coming to the end of the run in Bristol, Tristan has come to meet me to chat about how he got to be where he is today.
It takes some guts and determination to turn down the chance of a place at university or drama school, but Tristan wanted to get his career started as soon as possible after school. “Ever since I started acting at the age of 7, I’ve never thought about doing anything else!” Appearing in a number of TV commercials and through youth theatre and school, Tristan gained further skills and confidence as part of the British Theatre Academy (BTA).
“I wouldn’t have got anywhere near where I am today without the full support and encouragement of my parents – they’ve been brilliant.” says Tristan who bucks the family trend – his parents and siblings all work in I.T. and business.
It is well known that success in the theatre can sometimes come down to being in the right place at the right time and it was no different for Tristan. “While I was performing with the BTA a meeting with set up by the director with an agent and one thing lead to another and I joined Shepherd Management. On my first audition and my first project I got to work with one of my idols, Idris Elba. I am so lucky to have a wonderful agent who really looks out for me.” With dual representation – in UK and USA – the possibilities for Tristan could be endless.
Being put forward for the role of Ste in ‘Beautiful Thing’ offered this young actor a real breakthrough. The play, which is celebrating it’s 25th anniversary with this production, tells the story of two teenage boys, neighbours and school friends from a housing estate in SE London, coming to terms with their sexuality. It is a tender, funny and moving piece of theatre: shocking when first produced, but full of universal themes. “Acceptance; First Love; Parent/Child relationships; the Community – these are all parts of the play that are important. They were when the play was written and they still are today.”
“As part of the audition process, we workshopped aspects of the play and I was paired up with Ted (Reilly, who plays the central character Jamie) and we got on so well. On our way home I said I hoped we would meet again out the other side. When I got offered the part and saw that Ted had also got through, I was so thrilled. The cast have been so supportive of me and Amy-Leigh (Hickman, who is also making her stage debut as Leah), we have all got on so well.”
In my review of the production I praised it as being a funny and uplifting piece of theatre and Tristan’s performance as sensitive, likeable and tender – it is a very fine debut.
So, what does the future hold? “I don’t want to give myself too many expectations which may lead to disappointment. When we finish ‘Beautiful Thing’ in Stoke and Lancaster I will go back ‘into the battlefield’ and work with my agent on finding new projects.” It’s hard graft. “If I wasn’t acting or music-making (Tristan’s other love) I would be so upset.” With heroes such as Jamie Foxx, Denzel Washington and Spike Lee to look up to, Tristan sets his bar high! “Although I love my music, I want to concentrate on acting and keep the two art forms separate for the time being. I would love some experience of classical theatre – Shakespeare in particular. The roles of Mercutio and Othello are really attractive to me. Maybe one day!”
The experience of his stage debut is something which Tristan found thrilling. “I think I was more excited than nervous on the Press Night. The writer, Jonathan Harvey, was there. He loved it. That was very special. Having family come to see me perform was even more special.”
For now, Tristan Waterson is living the dream. A very grounded young man, his head screwed on right and who, like his character Ste, is very independent. Determined to succeed at his chosen craft and with the talent he demonstrates in ‘Beautiful Thing’, I don’t know if anyone would bet against him finding success on the theatre stage.
The very best of luck to Tristan Waterson.
Remember the name!
Beautiful Thing continues touring…
BRISTOL – TOBACCO FACTORY THEATRES – 27 October
STOKE – NEW VIC THEATRE – 30 October – 3 November
LANCASTER – THE DUKE’S – 6-10 November