Rob Copeland is one half of the team which produces 'Inside The West End’, a free fortnightly podcast featuring in-depth interviews from the world of theatre, from Tim Minchin to veteran ensemble members, to dancers to backstage crew, to directors and producers.
Rob and his fellow podcaster, Ben Morris, are both professional actors who have worked on big arena tours right down to small fringe shows. They bring their personal experience and knowledge to this, the first podcast to get behind the scenes of the industry and give an honest and well rounded view of the theatre from the perspective of the people who work in it.
'Inside the West End' is, in my opinion, a "not to be missed" treat (and I'm not really a fan of podcasts!). For theatre lovers, Rob, Ben and their guests share great backstage stories, tons of practical advice and insights into the business. And if you aren't the least bit fussed about theatre, you still get to hear amazing, funny, often moving stories from people who have managed to fulfil their passions, often from small beginnings. As a coach, I love these stories, which are an inspiration for anyone in or embarking on any creative profession.
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In your professional life, what is single the best thing about what you do?
The best thing about making our podcast is hearing from people who it has gone on to inspire to pursue creative ambitions. We started making 'Inside the West End Podcast' to create an online bank of varying creatives in the theatre industry discussing how they have ended up doing what they do and the reality of their life in the arts. Ben and I both come from places which feel a million miles away from the West End and we wanted to show people in similar positions that it is achievable. We also wanted to create something which is entertaining for people who are merely fans of theatre OR just like listening to people's life stories. So going back to the original question, hearing from people confirming that we are achieving any of these goals is fantastic but inspiring people really is the show biz cherry on the cake. We have had a number of emails from people who have changed career as a result of listening to our podcast, and I really can't express how amazing that is to hear.
Do you have a creative hero/heroine? And if so why?
Hmmmm... Tough one. It feels hard to single out one person but I definitely feel that my view and input into the podcast is shaped by a number of people I have long admired. I grew up listening to the 'Chris Moyles Show' on BBC Radio 1 almost religiously, and it was his show that made me want to work in this medium. I was then, by some strange twist of fate, lucky enough to work with Chris when I appeared as an actor in the world arena tour of 'Jesus Christ Superstar', and subsequently Chris has been a huge help with our podcast. He has given us a huge amount of his time, sharing his radio expertise, and has answered more questions and queries than I can count, so to get this guidance has really been incredible. I still listen to his show on Radio X (Mon - Fri 6:30-10:00) and his podcast is a must. It's a masterclass in radio and very very funny! We are incredibly lucky to have his support.
I listen to a lot of podcasts generally and I am always looking to learn and improve our style from others. Not just arts based one, but all sorts, sports, comedy, history, news, I try and have a very broad audio diet!
I also love watching interviews, again to sharpen my skills for future episodes. Only since making a podcast have I truly understood how hard it can be to think on your feet and chat off the cuff with someone you have huge respect for, so watching / listening to people who make this look effortless such as Graham Norton, Mark Maron, Alan Carr, Kirsty Young, and recently John Bishop on his new show on Sky all inspire me.
Outside of interviews I have always been a big fan of Paul Smith, and love looking at the incredibly tongue in cheek window displays in his Covent Garden Store (I highly recommend taking a peek whenever you walk past as they change them regularly and are often very witty). I also love just looking in the store generally. I love the quirky style combined with classic Britishness. Very inspiring how he finds that balance.
What piece of advice do you wish that you had been given at the beginning of your career?
I went to drama school to train as an actor and when I graduated I wasn't really prepared for the fact that I would have to find jobs to make ends meet whilst auditioning for things and between acting jobs. I found this incredibly hard and those first few months were probably some of the hardest of my career for that reason. I wish that someone had warned me that being an actor would mean spending time doing other things and that it may be useful to develop a skill which you can earn money from alongside performing, something that compliments your career and stimulates your creative side. I have a friend who set up his own painter decorator business and he does very well doing that alongside his very successful acting work. I also have friends who left drama school with a lot of experience teaching at theatre schools, and continued this between jobs very successfully. I think if you only have acting and nothing else to focus on it can be very hard. Your creative career should compliment your life, not be the be all and end all. It won't always go your way and as such you need other outlets for fulfilment. I wish someone had spelt this out to me earlier as it took me a while to realise!
If you hit a creative block what is your top tip of getting through it?
Sometimes editing an episode can make you feel like you are going cross eyed and you can lose all concept of what works and what doesn't. The fantastic thing about having two people with equal creative say means that you can ask the other for their opinion, but should that not be possible I normally step away from it and try and take it as sign that I need to take a break and listen to it with fresh ears. I love running and often run to clear my head. Sometimes that's all it needs, and sometimes I leave it to the following day, and failing that a pint is always a strong alternative!
If you were a shoe, what shoe would you be and why?
Ha! Such a great question! I guess I would be a pair of Nike Air Max shoes. A retro design which works at most social occasions which don't demand a suit! I think this says something about staying young at heart and the fact that I regularly spend my creative career questioning how I have got to where I am. I am a fairly calm person too, and I am very positive, and I think Nike Air Max with a bright colour combo reflect this perfectly! Either that or they show that I am trying to cling on to my youth! Either way, probably quite accurate!