Soap star takes on Shakespeare challenge at Arundel Castle

Jonathan Mulquin, Mia Keadell and Matt Milburn

Jonathan Mulquin, Mia Keadell and Matt Milburn

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A Hollyoaks and Emmerdale star is coming to Arundel this summer to leave the glamorous world of soap operas for the mystical and tragic realm of Shakespeare.

Bringing ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘The Merchant of Venice’ to the Arundel Festival this August, Matt Milburn will be taking to the stage in two very different roles, both far removed from his days as Joey Spencer in Hollyoaks where his acting career first flourished.

“It was my very first professional audition. I never went to drama school or anything like that,” Joey explained about earning a lead part in Hollyoaks, a drama set around a fictional suburb of Chester.

“It was a great place for me to find my feet. It was like my drama school and I was there for three years, taking everything in like a sponge from day one.

“Working with a cast of people a similar age to yourself makes it even more fun, and I’ve kept some great friends from it, like Nick Pickard who plays Tony, he’s one of my best friends.”

Yet his character was not to last after being killed in a pub fire in 2006.

“Bit of a sad way to end it, but still a good story line.

“I was only supposed to be there for three weeks, then it turned into three months, then three years.”

In fact, his older brother Greg Wood has now joined the Hollyoaks team playing Trevor Royale.

“My brother was an actor before I was and he’s very driven. So every time he gets a break I’m always right behind him.

“I’m now based down south and he’s up north interacting with all my mates on the show.”

Naturally, Matt graduated from his drama school that was Hollyoaks and onto Emmerdale, which has graced British TV screens for more than 40 years.

Again, only contracted to appear on the show a few times, Matt continued to play vet Nicky Pritchard for more than thirty episodes.

“The good thing about this character is that it’s been left open, so at some point I could make a return.”

Describing himself as ‘proactive’ and ‘forward thinking’, Matt said he does not hanker after big come backs in his previous roles, but instead looks to future opportunities.

Having appeared in adverts including brands like Nintendo and starring in a number of Independent films, Matt has now decided to embrace the theatre, from being the villain in pantomimes to lead roles in modern play adaptations, like To Kill A Mockingbird.

Matt took on the iconic role of Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s widely acclaimed novel.

“It was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done and in the American accent.

“The character was also way beyond my years, but they wanted to cast a younger Atticus.”

Now coming to the Arundel Festival with the GB Theatre Company, Matt will be appearing as Demetrius in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and Prince of Morocco and Tubal in ‘The Merchant of Venice’.

“Arundel is a fantastic place, it’s beautiful. I’ve toured with this company before and been to Arundel Castle.

“It’s great for me because I’ve got a lot of variation and contrast within the characters I’ve been given.”

First introduced to Shakespeare at school, Matt is familiar with the plays, but admits it is one of the most challenging texts an actor can take on,

“There’s no room for mistakes and it should all be adhered to because it’s been written so beautifully. Lots of people know it word for word, so you can’t really afford to make any mistakes.

“But the great thing is you get to make your own interpretation of those words.”

Matt and the GB Theatre Company will be rehearsing for five weeks prior to the performances.

“We’ve got two great shows and I’m really excited about performing.”

The GB Theatre Company will be performing ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ on August 22 and 24, and ‘The Merchant of Venice’ on August 23 at the Arundel Festival in the stunning backdrop of The Collector Earl’s Garden in Arundel Castle.

For more details and to buy tickets visit www.gbtheatrecompany.com/arundelcastle.html or call 07974 790675.

By Simon Robb