Offered the part of the ‘The Boy’ in the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe Festival production of The Hunting of the Snark, 23-year-old Jordan Leigh-Harris could never have guessed that two years on she’d be opening in the same part, but this time in London’s West End.
Jordan completed a degree with first class honours in performing arts at the University of Cumbria two years ago and was spotted during her final-year showcase in London by director Gemma Colclough, who was putting together a cast for the Edinburgh show.
Jordan was thrilled to be included but also appreciated that Gemma was taking a considerable risk by casting a relative newcomer in the role.
She explains: “The show went to the Edinburgh Fringe and this was the trial period for The Hunting of the Snark, to give the team a chance to develop the show further.
“It was fantastic up there. Everyone is at the festival for the same reason, which is to support the arts and, in particular, new and diverse work. It is just the best place to be over the summer and I would advise anyone who loves the arts to get up and go. There really is something for everyone.”
Jordan, originally from Leominster, applied for the University of Cumbria initially to study drama and musical theatre, but as she had developed technical theatre skills at her previous college, was advised at her interview that it would be a pity to let those skills go to waste, and was offered a place on the performing arts degree, which she now believes was excellent advice and the best course for her. While at the Brampton Road campus, she took part in numerous productions, including Thoroughly Modern Millie (in the part of Bun Foo) and The Witches of Eastwick (Alex Spofford).
Of her course, Jordan says: “I adored working on back-to-back shows with professional directors. The experience is priceless. And there are not many unis that offer that chance. In the last year of my course, I loved how we got to develop our own creative work and really discover our unique styles of theatre and performance.”
As well as performing, Jordan took on the role of box office manager in her final year, “so that I was able to see all the shows free of charge!”
At times she admits it was challenging, particularly when she was performing in the show and ‘teching’ it as well. “It can be difficult to manage your time. You have to learn your lines, songs and routines whilst painting the set or when you can grab five minutes in between rehearsals. But that also teaches you a valuable lesson: the show can’t work without everyone pulling their weight in every aspect. And the staff support was incredible – they were always there for us.”
Since graduating, Jordan has spent the last couple of years giving industry talks to college students, helping them to develop their audition pieces for university interviews.
Now she is about to take the biggest step of her life in moving to the West End with The Hunting of the Snark.
“I have only ever wanted to perform, so for this to happen is the ultimate goal. And I cannot believe my luck. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared, as I am running with the lions now and this is only my second job! So I really have to push myself and be the best I can be. Following the West End run, we then take the show on tour across the UK.”
Jordan is currently unrepresented and is therefore not only an actor but also her own agent. But, as she says: “Hopefully not for too long though! And I hope I’m proof that even if you go to university, rather than stage school, you can still achieve your dream. My advice? Persevere and keep working!”
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