A Chat With Jabez Sykes

I asked northern actor Jabez Sykes who recently play Moritz Stiefel in Spring Awakening at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester which recently won Best Regional Production at the What’s On Stage Awards what inspired his love for the arts and what working in the industry is like.

What sparked your love for the arts?

When I was in primary school one of the TA’s also taught a Latin and Ballroom dance school and she invited a lot of students to come and have a trial day. I really fell in love with it, most of the other kids dropped out after a few weeks, but it was the first time I really felt like I belonged somewhere, this was where my love blossomed for the arts…
As I got older I wanted to do more than dancing as it was all a bit ‘tits and tooth’ for me, so I started at the Oldham Theatre Workshop, they allowed me a safe place to have an artistic voice. It was here I really developed my love for theatre, it was (and still is) an incredible place, and it will forever and continue to be very special to me.

Acting isn’t the most stable of jobs, and the industry is extremely competitive. How do you deal with that uncertainty?

I think for me it’s surrounding myself with good people.
It is unfortunately a very competitive industry, and in my experience, very unstable, but this is something you know going entering the industry.
I think you have to believe in yourself and find what makes you special.

Working in the arts is a challenging and extremely intense thing to do. Does the pressure to perform and be perfect all the time take its toll on your mental health?

Absolutely. Especially with auditions the pressure is on to get it right in that room which can be really daunting, and when you don’t get it right it’s devastating. Especially if you’re working a ‘normal’ job that you hate.
But again, you have to have enough belief to know that it wasn’t your best, brush it off and focus on the next thing.

How do you deal with times a performance may not have gone as smoothly as you wanted it to?

I honestly LOVE it when things go wrong (when it’s something minor anyway), I find it makes everyones senses switch on and find a solution. I think you just have to laugh it off and remember there are more shows to get it right.
We are human after all and mistakes do happen, sometimes shows with mistakes are the best shows, because it makes everyone more alert!

Do you feel pressure to present yourself to fans in a certain way and respond to them if they reach out to you and if they themselves may be wanting advice when it comes to their own mental wellbeing does that have an impact on you mentally?

If I’m being honest, I don’t really have any ‘fans’ so haven’t really been in this situation.
I will say that it is always hard to see someone suffering, however I am not a mental wellbeing/health professional and if someone is struggling they should reach out to someone qualified, as I couldn’t provide the help that they needed.
I would be flattered that someone felt they could reach out to me and always endeavour to reply, but at the end of the day, it is not for me to advise on someone else’s health.

What advice would you give to young performers wanting to get started in the art and to those who are wanting to audition for stage school?

I never went\ got into drama school, so my route into the industry was very different to most.
What I would say for people auditioning is, know your material for said audition.
However, drama school isn’t the only way into the industry. I will say it is much harder without, but not impossible.
Get out there and make it happen, if it is in you then you’ll do it.
Find a local theatre group, do whatever you can, but make sure you enjoy it. As soon as you lose the joy for something, move on!
Life is too short!

Depression is a BITCH

Depression is something most of us will experience at some point in our lives, and it sucks.
Depression has a way of draining all the light from your life, leaving you in a seemingly purpetual darkness. It’s draining, some days just getting out of bed seems an impossible task.
The past week has been full of those days for me. The smallest thing going wrong becomes completely overwhelming. That yoghurt you wanted has been eaten by someone else? You burst into tears. That’s ok, there’s no shame in that.
Depression isn’t forever, although it may feel that way at times. It does not mean you are weak.
One day you will come out the otherside, those grey cloud will eventually disperse. Things that seem so big now will slide into insignificance, it will take time but it will happen.
There is always hope. Just because you can’t see it at that precise moment doesn’t mean it’s not there to be found and reclaimed. It’s just trying to hang onto that clarity when your thoughts are so murky. You don’t have to suffer it alone, there is help out there, ask for it and use it!
Depression is temporary. It’s an overcomeable obstacle.
Ask for help if you need it.
Reach out in moments of crisis.
You’re meant to be here.
It may not seem like that way, but you have a purpose.
Live life at your own pace
It isn’t a race.