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cracker Jack; Former EastEnder Jack Ryder tells VICKY EDWARDS how an audition he never meant to attend took him to Albert Square and on to becoming British theatre's go-to director of naked actors.

Jack Ryder has phenomenal attention to detail. Lucky enough to inveigle my way into his rehearsal room to watch him work with the cast of the brand-new tour of The Full Monty, I marvel at how he picks up on the smallest nuances.

But each time he stops to ask an actor to try something differently the subsequent re-run is immediately enriched; the dialogue more sparkling and the character more credible.

"Even when I watched movies as a kid I always noticed the scene itself rather than the actors. As a director I do go very much into the detail of things because then something magical starts to take place," he explains.

Running my eye over his CV, it confirms what I have witnessed during the morning's rehearsal: Jack has come a long way since getting bumped off as Jamie Mitchell in EastEnders in 2002.

"Directing was something that was always whispering to me," he admits.

"As Spielberg once said, the things you choose to do in life don't usually come in loud shouts or chants; they come in whispers and you need to listen hard for them. I think directing had been whispering to me for a while but it took me time to hear."

Initially hired to act in the smash-hit stage production of Calendar Girls, Jack became increasingly fascinated with directing. Spotting both his talent and his interest, the producers promptly hired him as assistant director on the subsequent tour.

So where does his talent stem from - is he from theatrical stock? "No, not at all," he laughs. "I was very late coming to theatre - being a '90s kid I grew up watching movies on cable telly. My dad occasionally took me to the opera, but I found it quite boring and so I'd sit and play with my toy cars instead," he confesses.

Wanting a break from the limelight after EastEnders, Jack spent the next four years acting in theatre productions.

"I never trained as an actor so everything I know I have learned hands-on. EastEnders came about by accident when I was 16. I went to a workshop with a mate who wanted to audition and I got spotted. I'd never even done a school play before then," he grins.

In which case, Jack's school definitely missed a trick when this little cracker was on their r directing Act o that attracted was selected fo festivals, includ Film Festival, a everything from roll, because, as well as of Memory, a short film huge interest and that or a host of international ding the famous Cannes as an actor he has done m Shakespeare to farce.

on he's popped up in lby City, Popcorn and In e on the radio he has even n The Archers.

On televisio shows like Hol the Club, while done a stint on But while Jac kicks him/hers focused absolu the movie vers instant hit in 19 So what mak steel workers w such an enduri "It's the wr ck's school drama teacher self, their former pupil is utely on The Full Monty, sion of which became an 997.

kes this tale of Sheffield who form a strip troupe ing story? riting," he says, without hesitation. "Simon Beaufoy [who also wrote the award-winning film] really gets that balance between comedy and heartfelt truth. You have drama and big moments and then on the next page you find hilarious comedy. He is so clever at that light and shade, and also at writing in a way that means that actors and directors connect so readily with the material that it makes the process of getting it on its feet so easy - it's all just there.

"And it endures because of its truth. You can take off all the clothes in the world but if the audience hasn't been on the journey and believed every moment then it won't amount to a thing; you'll never get that incredible reaction. At that final dance they don't just think 'Yay! We're at a strip show!' The audience has followed these characters and they're watching Lomper, Gaz, Dave and the boys; they're with them and they believe them."

And he won't stand for any of the lads overplaying that final scene, no matter how vocal the audience is.

"My hand is extremely tight on the reigns when it comes to the cast staying in character and forgetting the audience completely," he says, a note of sternness creeping into his voice.

"But I have cast some amazing actors and so as a director I don't have to get too mechanical; the boys bring an authenticity to the rehearsal room that is a breath of fresh air."

Joking that, having directed Calendar Girls and now The Full Monty, I can see a theme developing, and asking if he is known as the go-to director for any show that involves actors getting their kit off, in response Jack throws back his handsome head and laughs.

"If anyone hears about a play that has nudity in it they ask if Jack Ryder is Jack Ryder had changed since his days in EastEnders. Left, Gary Lucy, Louis Emerick, Kai Owen, Andrew Dunn, Anthony Lewis and Chris Fountain in The Full Monty directing! But actually I was involved in The Full Monty on stage at the very start of its development, which is why I feel especially protective and proud of it."

His pride is more than justified. This is a show that absolutely deserves its 'not-to-be-missed' reviews.

| The Full Monty also stars Gary Lucy, Louis Emerick and Chris Fountain and is at the Wales Millennium Centre from Monday, November 21 until Saturday, November 26. Tickets are available from the Box Office on 029 2063 6464.


Jack Ryder in rehearsals for The Full Monty
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 18, 2016
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