Five faces look down from the edges of the screen top right reads National Theatre Live, centre text reads The Crucible by Arthur Miller

Asking pays off as PhD student appears in National Theatre production and film

Bangor University’s PhD student, Hero Douglas, has been treading the boards at the prestigious National Theatre, and is set to appear in cinemas across the UK from January. 

Bangor University’s PhD student, Hero Douglas, has been treading the boards at the prestigious National Theatre, on London’s South Bank and is set to appear in cinemas across the UK from January. Hero has been appearing in a production of Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, which has received rave reviews in the national press.

Now, everyone will be able to see the production, as it is to be screened in theatres as part of the National Theatre Live, including at Pontio Cinema, Bangor on January 26 and 29. Hero will be appearing alongside Erin Doherty, (the young Princess Anne in The Crown) and Brendan Cowell, (Yerma and appearing in Avatar: The Way of Water).

Five young women in frilly dresses
Hero Douglas (first on the left) in this shot taken during preparations for the National Theatre's production of the Crucible.

Hero, who is studying for a Doctorate in Music took the initiative and wrote to Marc Tritschler, Creative Director of Music at the National Theatre, asking if she could gain some experience working with a professional theatre company.

Hero, who lives in Capel Curig, takes up the story,

“Amazingly, Marc got back and invited me over for a chat. A few weeks later, I attended a workshop to rehearse some of the music that was going to be used in The Crucible, composed by the brilliant American composer Caroline Shaw. After the workshop, the company’s director Lyndsey Turner contacted me to ask whether I’d be willing to play one of the young women of Salem in the production. I was completely blown away!”

They needed people who could both act and sing. Hero’s degree in Music meant that she could sing and sightread the score and could offer something different.

 Girl with blond hair holds head to one side looking into camera
Hero Douglas

Hero said this of the experience,

“Being part of the production taught me a lot about how music works in the context of theatre. I now understand the step-by-step process in creating music from the ‘inside out’, as it were. It’s taught me to respect the challenges facing performers and actors who sing in theatrical productions. You don’t have to be singing at full throttle all the time and being able to balance your voice with others is crucial. It’s a little like understanding the role of an instrument inside a large orchestra. Most importantly, I’d say that the experience has inspired my own work as a composer and made me realise the direction I want to take with my career.” Commenting on how the experience will help her PhD and future direction, she said,

“The experience has definitely confirmed in my mind that music and theatre is something I’m really passionate about and want to develop. Most composers work in isolation, but with theatre music, you get to be part of the bigger picture. I hope to be able to specialise in this area in the future and emulate the likes of Marc Tritschler and the American composer and Dave Malloy. The theatre can give you access to all these amazing people – singers and actors.” 

Having thoroughly enjoyed the whole immersive experience of living and breathing theatre for a whole three months, and even getting over tripping on stage in front of a packed audience of over 1,500 people, Hero says,

“I’m planning on maintaining contact with the National Theatre by attending and observing some of the rehearsals for Hex, their new musical which is based on Sleeping Beauty. It opens at the end of November 2022. The Crucible will be coming out in cinemas in January 2023, so that should be exciting. There’s talk of a future life for it, although nothing’s confirmed as yet. I definitely want to keep myself in the theatre space while also giving a bit of time towards my PhD!“

Hero’s PhD supervisor Pwyll ap Sion said: “When researchers are fully immersed in their PhD projects, it’s easy to lose sight of developing professional skills and career opportunities. Hero is already gaining invaluable experiences while on her PhD program. These will set her up for future work in the world of theatre and music. And the transferable skills provided by a music degree will make her even more employable! She’s clearly a star for the future!”

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