Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Playing Cameron Matthews

Robbie Dagher, unashamed drinker of regular Coke, is a graduate of Down High School, where he sat A-Levels in English, History and Theatre Studies. On stage, his previous roles have mostly been in musicals, including "Will Bill" Hickock in "Calamity Jane" and Captain von Trapp in "The Sound of Music." Along with acting, at Down High Robbie was also a member of the First XV rugby squad. Finn from "Glee." Obvs. Only not an idiot. This summer, Robbie is playing Cameron Matthews in the Belfast stage adaptation of "Popular" and is here to answer a few questions about his character.

1. Robbie, tell us a little bit about your character of Cameron Matthews in 'Popular'.

Robbie: Ok, so Cameron is 15 years old and is just starting fifth year at Mount Olivet Grammar, currently "studying" for his GCSEs. Born and bred in Malone, Belfast, Cameron is a proud BT9er. If you think a postcode doesn't mean much, Cameron Matthews will argue otherwise. Cameron is confident and takes great pride in how he looks. He is the most popular guy in school, who is caught between different relationships throughout the play. Cameron was accepted into the "popular" clique which he is now in at the beginning of third year, and ever since has spent less time with the "lads", which is felt strongly by Cameron's best friend since prep school, Mark Kingston. The arrival of the new American-born student Blake Hartman into fifth year at Mount Olivet means a different side to Cameron is seen, and a love story begins!

2. What have been the main challenges of playing Cameron and what have been the best bits?

Robbie: Without a shadow of a doubt, the biggest challenge of all thus far playing Cameron Matthews has been pretending to be a fully fledged DIET Coke drinker and Blackberry addict - eugh! Haha, kidding. In all seriousness, one of the hardest things for me has been the Malone accent. I struggled at the start of rehearsals, but it is getting there (I hope!) slowly but surely. In some ways, it is harder to just tweak my own Northern Irish accent and emphasising parts of words that I wouldn't naturally, instead of changing my accent to an entirely different one. Another challenge is the journey of emotions that Cameron feels throughout the play, and therefore as an actor I need to portray all of those. It really is a bit of a rollercoaster ride for him, as one moment he can be making a nasty remark and laughing along with the girls; the next he can be in tears.

One of the best things about playing the character of Cameron is how he has many different relationships in the play. This is good from my perspective, as I enjoy acting with the different characters, in totally contrasting moods and different scenarios. For instance, I could be in a highly amusing scene with Peter or a very tense scene with Blake, and I like this as each scene is rewarding in its own different way.

Robbie in rehearsal with Adam Gillian as Blake Hartman
3. You've said before in rehearsal that Cameron is your favourite character in the story. What is it about his personality that you like the most?
Robbie: I surprisingly like how behind being the most popular guy in school and behind the force in his "popular" clique, Cameron actually is quite vulnerable. I really like Cameron's sense of humour, and the bitchy comments he can come out with spontaneously.

I also admire how Cameron really does care about the people he is close to, and their feelings. Despite what others in the school (i.e. the trolls) may think, Cameron is sensitive and does stand up to the girls on occasions. I must note though, that Cameron is only sensitive to people who deserve it. It's not Cameron's fault that he is better than 95% of Mount Olivet's other pupils!
4. Words of wisdom, much?! ... Anyway... What would you say Cameron's worst qualities are?
Robbie: One of Cameron's worst qualities is that he is stubborn. Most notably, he is arguably too stubborn to concede that it was just as much his fault that Blake for the situation they ended up in. I do sympathise though, I must say. I can draw similarities with Cameron's personality and my own!

Another negative quality is how he is sometimes easily walked over by the girls, well, Meredith mostly. Mark quite rightly does tell Cameron to "grow a pair" at one stage, and I must say I partially agree. But that is the height of it in terms of the negativity. I really do admire the character of Cameron Matthews and what he stands for.
6. Apart from Cameron, who is your favourite character in 'Popular'?
Robbie: Ooooh, that's a toughy! Ok, it's down to two but I'm not sure I can pick. The two are Peter and Catherine. Although I guess a lot of the time I am laughing at Catherine, rather than with her, so if I was made to pick, I'd have to say Peter. The reason I say Peter, is because he can be a bit of an asshole and just get away with it purely because he's so lovable. He could say or do something to you that arguably nobody else could, and you'd be in stitches. I can also draw quite a few similarities between myself and Peter, so I guess that influences my decision as well! But no, overall Peter is a seriously funny, dead on, down to earth guy who everyone likes! 
7. And finally: one reason why people should come and see 'Popular' in September?
Robbie: It would be rude not to.
Robbie Dagher can be seen on stage playing Cameron Matthews in "Popular" at the Belvor Players Studio Theatre, Belfast from September 6th to September 10th 2011. 

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