ONE YEAR ON

‘Superstar’, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s search for Jesus, ended one year a go today with Ben Forster winning the role and the rest of the live finalists contemplating what the future might hold.

We had become highly skilled at the art of speculation, after several long months wondering who would progress in the competition. Some contestants swaggered confidently around Superstar Island claiming the Producers had already chosen their finalists and everything else was just for show. Many claimed they had inside information. “My friend knows the Producer” claimed one, “Tim Minchin is my Godfather” replies another. One guy says he walks Andrew Lloyd Webber’s dog every weekend and swears his little Jack Russell winked at him last week. So he’s a shoe in.

Others, myself included, pottered about the place is a constant state of mild terror, absorbing the less outrageous speculation and waiting for the next challenge. My aim, like many others, was to progress to the live finals or at least find myself eliminated in such a way that none of my friends would notice.

“I’m sorry Dave” Andrew would whisper, “you haven’t made it to the next round. Just sneak out this way and no one will batter an eyelid”

The rumours rattled on through our intensive time in the Jesus House. Eleven lads living, eating, working and competing together 24/7 for six weeks. Somehow we managed to have a little fun along the way (I won at LaserQuest, suckers!) and before long this bizarre lifestyle became the norm. The unmanageably high adrenaline levels now felt run of the mill and bubbled on throughout the process and into the live shows.

Wake up, shower, dress, taxi, eat.
Warm up, sound check, rehearsal, interview, eat.
Wardrobe, hair, make up, rehearsal, eat.

And then we’re live.

In front of friends, family, judges and an audience of millions waiting at home.

And it was brilliant.

Yes, it was stressful, an emotional rollercoaster, but after the event, with no more speculation or stress, you look back and realise. You just did an incredible thing.

It’s a numbing feeling leaving that adrenaline fuelled environment after so long. My mum recalls how quiet I was after it ended. I remember feeling bored. Where was the circus? The lights, the excitement, the noise. Where did it all go?

Nothing fazed me. Nothing interested me. Nothing compared to those huge highs and lows of excitement and pressure. Everything just seemed normal. Dull.

It took me a good few weeks to readjust to normality. It was a short holiday with my best friend that sorted me out. Hearing your mate break wind in your tiny shared bedroom soon brings you crashing back down to earth. Thanks Dan.

The year since has been a fantastic one. The challenge, I believe, when leaving that sort of show is to define yourself without it. Who do you want to be? How do you want to be perceived? I shied away from certain opportunities (you’d be surprised) and tried to be brave in turning down big money offers (you’d be stunned!) in favour of work I believed in.

I’ve aimed to send out a strong, positive image, whether that be because of the show, the cast, the theatre or a combination of all three. This hasn’t always been a plan that has lined my pockets (believe me!), but it’s led me to some wonderful shows, alongside some incredible performers. This was particularly evident in The Hired Man, which for me represented a lot of what I’d hoped for when leaving Superstar; a fantastic role in a beautiful show, alongside one of Britain’s finest Musical Theatre actors. By the end of our run at The Curve Theatre, we were enjoying standing ovations from full houses every night. “This” I thought, “is what it’s all about”.

And so a year that has seen me leap from Tommy to Seussical to My Land’s Shore to The Hired Man is ending with the news that I’ll be joining the West End cast of Once at the Phoenix Theatre as standby 'Guy’, a show and a role that I placed firmly at the top of my 'to-dream’ list many moons ago. I’ll have to wait for my opportunities to take to the stage (time to start speculating again) but when the time comes, what a thrill it will be.

Thanks for reading everyone. Especially you, Grandpa. x