Darren Craig Kicks Off His (Kinky) Boots

TheatreZA sat down with Darren Craig, fan favourite of High School Musical: Spotlight South Africa and current star of the Fugard Theatre’s production of Kinky Boots. We chatted about his life and career thus far – read on to see what he had to say!

TheatreZA: Hey Darren! Thanks for sitting down with TheatreZA and chatting to us! We just want to know a little bit more about you.

Tell us your story – Where are you from? What inspired you to get into acting? Where did you study?

Darren Craig: I was born in Secunda, and moved to Alberton when I was very young. I now live in Johannesburg, but am based in Cape Town for Kinky Boots.
I realized my passion for singing first. Acting was never really something I trained in, but as with dancing, I had to embrace them as part of being a fully rounded performer.
I attended the National School of the Arts In Hillbrow, Johannesburg. Originally I was in the Classical Music Department, and moved over to the Contemporary Department toward the end of my studies. The NSA was an incredible learning experience, the school gave me a great platform from which to step into the industry!

Darren Craig (center, top) as Charlie in the Fugard Theatre’s production of Kinky Boots

TZA: What side jobs have you worked before transitioning to solely acting?

DC: I was lucky enough to step straight out of high school and into my first contract. The schedule was actually quite funny how quickly I went from writing my last exam to starting my rehearsals the next week! So I haven’t really worked any side jobs in my career, it has been all performing.

TZA: What was your big break? and tell us your 3 favourite shows that you have been in.

The moment Darren was offered the role of Ryan in High School Musical: Live on Stage

DC: High School Musical: Spotlight South Africa started on M-Net as a search for the 2 lead characters. I heard about the audition and had to beg a friend for a ride to the audition because I was only 17 at the time! The TV show was definitely the beginning of something I couldn’t even imagine. I was offered the role of Ryan by Pieter Toerien, on television, and in a moment, I had my thumbs up! That was my big break, the show was received really well by South African audiences. Then we toured to Shanghai, which is now one of my favorite places, and marked my first theatre tour!

TZA: What are the top 3 favourite shows that you’ve performed in?

DC: Well, the top of the list has to be Kinky Boots, then High School Musical, and Grease!

TZA: What information do you wish you knew before you started as a performer? Do you have any advice for people starting out in the industry?

DC: I wish someone had told me that training the body and the voice are as important as training your mind to handle the stresses of the job!
My advice is that this industry is a cruel mistress, one day it’s there and the next day it’s not. It’s important to go to every audition, and it’s ok to not get every role!
Also, it’s important to remember that theatre is all about emotion. It’s important to set aside your image of yourself to portray characters to their fullest. Most of all, enjoy the experience – and notes, always take notes!

TZA: Tell us about Kinky Boots – the role of Charlie Price, the experience, what being on stage at the Fugard is like?

DC: Kinky Boots is a feel good story about acceptance! It follows the journey of Charlie Price, who inherits his family’s shoe factory. He’s young and unsure about how to keep the factory afloat, but stumbles into Lola, who is a vivacious drag queen. She inspires Charlie to change the norm of producing men’s shoes to now producing very sexy thigh high boots for a new “niche market”. The boots are a great success and save the factory from closing down!

Charlie Price goes through a massive journey throughout the story – he has a lot of lessons to learn throughout the production, and it’s quite an emotional rollercoaster! I was so happy the day I got the script. I remember being so excited, and then I realized how many lines there where and the nerves set in!

Darren Craig (centre, right) as Roger in the Montecasino Teatro’s production of Grease (2010)

I’ve never been on the Fugard stage before, this is my first production here. The experience has been incredible! The production team are truly a family, and make you feel right at home from the minute you step through the doors. I’ve been amazed by how professional they are, and how “easy” this entire run has been, and it’s all due to the dedicated and loving people at the Fugard.

TZA: What is it like to play a role that is so well-known and iconic? Is there added pressure or is it just part and parcel of the job?

DC: Playing any well-known character is a two way street: for one, it’s extremely exciting to be offered a role that has a “lineage”, but it’s also daunting because of the pressure to live up to the expectation of the character.
I listened to Matthew Wild and Charl-Johan Langerfelder’s direction and tried to create a version of Charlie that was authentic to them. The most important part was to not replicate something that had been done before, but to create Charlie the way we as a creative team would like to see him.

TZA: What relevance does a show like Kinky Boots have to a contemporary audience, and what message do you hope to leave the audience with?

DC: Kinky Boots teaches such a beautiful lesson, and it’s very much relevant today. “You can change the world if you change your mind” – I believe it’s a message of love, and acceptance.

Darren sings “I Can Go The Distance” on High School Musical: Spotlight South Africa

TZA: Do you have any pre-show rituals?

DC: That depends on how I feel when I wake up! [laughs]
I always make sure I’ve gone over any issues I may have had the night before – perhaps a mistake in a line or a missed beat. I make sure I drink lots of water, and depending on how my voice feels, I might steam – the traditional way, over a warm bowl of water with a towel, as it just helps keep the vocal cords ready and hydrated!
Vocal and physical warm ups are always a must, and last but not least, I remind myself to calm down!

TZA: Go-to audition song?

DC: Hmm… Signed, Sealed, Delivered by Stevie Wonder.

TZA: Dream role?

DC: Charlie Price has been a dream role for me, and it has been such an incredible learning experience!
I would love to play Galileo (We Will Rock You), he’s got some amazing vocal scores to sing and who doesn’t love Queen?

TZA: What are you currently watching on Netflix?

DC: I must admit, I am the “put something on to fall asleep to” kind of guy.

TZA: Last song you listened to on Spotify?

DC: Kinky Boots Soundtrack!

TZA: If you were an Avenger, who would you be and why?

DC: Couldn’t we just mix them all into one? I’d pick that one!

Kinky Boots is on at the Fugard Theatre until October 27. Tickets available at the Fugard Theatre website and box office.

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