Friday, 26 August 2016

The Braw and The Brave Meet....Ryan Moir

Photo by Scott Cadenhead

Meet Ryan Moir, a Musical Director, Composer and Performer from Largs. Coming from a very musical family, it’s no wonder he has fashioned himself an extremely successful career in directing musicals, youth theatre productions and pantos, as well as producing, composing and performing with his very own children’s theatre show, The McDougalls. From day dot Ryan was pinning up bed sheets as backdrops and charging his parents 50p to come see his shows. His love of music began at a young age and Ryan fondly recalls many a Hogmanay party at his Granny McDougall's house where everyone had a chanter, accordion or mouth-organ in hand or ‘took a turn’  belting out an old Scottish tune. He was destined to play an instrument but he explains, he didn't quite follow the family tradition,
“Every male, for generations, on my Dad’s side of the family have all played the bagpipes….I remember my Granda sitting me down when I was about 11, trying to get me to do scales but I wasn't really that interested”. His love of music saw him producing umpteen shows in his bedroom and back garden, his siblings and cousins in tow, with their parents being coerced into forming an audience on the sofa bed or garden bench. “There’s many a home video where I'm taking a strop because they aren't taking it seriously enough. This one time it started to rain halfway through our magic show and I was absolutely raging that they were all getting agitated, telling us to ‘hurry up!’”

Ryan admits studying an instrument or learning to read music wasn't something he was that keen to pursue but he had such a thirst for music, he’d return home from youth theatre rehearsals, only then to sit in front of his Casio keyboard for hours figuring out how to play the songs he’d been taught to sing, as well as recording tunes he’d composed on his cassette player.  Eventually going on to study Music and Theatre Studies at Glasgow University, Ryan continued performing and creating work outside of his course. “If I think back, from the age of 17, I was probably trying to build up a career for myself”. Never wanting to be pigeon-holed, Ryan actively sought out opportunities to work with different people and organisations, tapping into other aspects of the theatre other than music. His ‘variety is the spice of life’ energy saw him start to work as a freelance artist after graduating as the next natural step for him to take, seemingly unfazed by the uncertainty of going solo. “I think I’d find it quite odd now to go work for someone else. I like the freedom…creating your own destiny!” 

The McDougalls. Photo by Laura Robbie 

Two years ago Ryan formed The McDougalls, the family friendly, interactive musical touring company who have enjoyed huge success from the outset. “Originally it started as a one-off show we created as part of the children’s’ summer programme at Irvine Harbour Arts. Instead of putting on your usual workshops I came up with the idea of making a show aimed at preschoolers”. Ryan explains that although he is Artistic Director, it is very much a collaborative effort from all involved. Home town friends of his, Ruaridh Forde and Colleen Garrett, join Ryan and his sister Angie Moir on stage as up to 10 different characters in the McDougall Clan and behind the scenes they all have an input in to the creation of each production. “Everyone has a voice and a responsibility. Everybody wants it to do well”. From Ryan’s point of view there’s a reassurance of working so closely on something he’s so passionate about with people he knows well and trusts. Ruraidh and Ryan attended the local youth theatre together and after years of putting on shows together at home, Angie was bound to end up alongside her brother on stage. The emphasis is on fun and making things magical as the McDougalls take children and adults alike on various exciting adventures with Max, Mollie, Maisie and Auntie Aggie. Plenty of madness, mayhem and sing-along moments ensue and their sell-out performances in theatres, schools and arts centres across Scotland prove how entertaining and engaging their shows are. The company’s creative process is one which everyone is invested in “After pinpointing the big moments and a loose structure, as the musical element is so strong, we tend to figure the songs out first and then write the dialogue to link them all”. Although they set aside time to brainstorm and work collaboratively on each project he admits, “it’s a bit of a messy process…I don’t think there’s a linear process to anything. We know when the deadline is and we've just got to get it all done”. Although essentially a children’s show, entertaining every single audience member and providing a family experience is at the heart of what the company aim to do,Music is a great way to span the generations…it’s got to be of a standard so that the adults can appreciate and engage with it too”.

In establishing your brand comes the conflict of taking every opportunity offered and the possibility of compromising your artistic integrity in doing so. Ryan wants what they have created thus far to continue to go from strength to strength and has a clear vision of how that can happen without jumping through unnecessary hoops, altering their act for that chance of that one-off gig. “There’s no harm in being picky about what you take on if it means you’re protecting your brand. Making decisions not to do certain things, from a financial point of view, in order to stick to what you’re ultimately aiming to be is something you become savvy to over time”.

With the expanding success of a company comes the need but uncertainty of inviting other creatives or specialists to help raise ‘your baby’ and help bring the vision to life. “Initially when you’re starting something you’re frightened of involving other people….but now we’re working with students and graduates and we’re getting work that is good quality, affordable and giving them the experience and a good opportunity”. Ryan’s ability to be so hands on with every aspect of the company and the shows they produce is the key to their continued success and although he claims “I’m not particularly phenomenal at anything but I like to have an interest in various different things” arguably this is what makes it all work. His passion, determination and the sheer enjoyment he gets from creating something he feels is his is the driving force behind it all. Supported by his fellow performers and collaborators, Ryan is someone who is keen to support others in gaining experience wherever possible. Having been a youngster grabbing every opportunity presented to him he recognises the importance of opening the doors to fellow young creators. “We recently realised that everyone working on The McDougalls, from the cast, to lighting and sound are all under the age of 26”. Ryan is not one to rest on his laurels, he acknowledges that certain pitfalls of putting your work out in the world are inevitable but what motivates him is the responsibility he feels to keep to going even when things are challenging “If I don’t just go for it I know I’ll let down other people. When you've put so much work in to step one, it would be daft to just give up on it”

As if all that wasn’t enough to contend with, Ryan also runs Largs Youth Theatre, with 150 children between the ages of 3 and 18 attending classes every week. As well as acting, singing and dance tuition, the chance to delve into other mediums such as film making is also offered to aspiring creatives. Ryan over the past 3 years has also taken on the role of Musical Supervisor for some of Coventry based theatre company Imagine Theatre's productions, creating all the tracks, writing band parts and sourcing musicians for their annual pantos in various UK venues. It’s evident that he is hungry to work and engage with others and his talent, professionalism and work ethic serve him well. For someone so busy, spinning plates effortlessly left, right and centre, is there even time to reflect or allow self-doubt to creep in? “I’m always anxious about starting something new. Even when you know it’s going to be fine, you tend to lean towards that Scottish pessimism of expecting the worst but it doesn't hold me back….then in the end you’re often pleasantly surprised!”. Ryan is confident in his work and isn’t fazed by trying new things or asking for what he needs. That ‘if you don’t ask you don’t get’ attitude aligned with his positive outlook and friendly demeanour allows him to achieve his gaols and press on.  

 I had the pleasure of working with Ryan for the first time this summer on ATG’s Theatre Royal, Glasgow’s Stage Experience 2016 production of The Wizard of Oz and immediately warmed to his super friendly, laid back approach. I felt welcomed and supported by Ryan from the outset, as someone new to the organisation (Ryan also delivers weekly classes at the theatre) and thoroughly enjoyed a crazy-busy two weeks piecing together a full-scale production (starring 75 children and a real live Toto!) with him and the team. Ryan is a grafter in the truest sense of the word but he’s unassuming and appears to take everything in his stride. Going above and beyond the call of duty to produce the best work possible is an intrinsic to what he is all about but when you’re motivated by such love for what you do Ryan explains “you just kinda get on with it” 

What are you listening to?
“At the moment it’s all children’s songs…one’s from all over the world as I’m prepping for the McDougall’s Christmas Show ‘Chaos at Christmas’”

If you could have an unlimited amount of something, what would it be?
“Time! Everything is so fast paced-I’d like longer to think about things, reflect and plan.
Also time to be able to switch off”

Favourite word?
“Yes! I like yes people!”

Last film you watched?
I recently saw the new BFG film and really enjoyed it!

Biggest pet peeve?
“Waiting on people! Oh and people sauntering….I'm not a saunterer!”

Best song lyrics?
“’Let it Be”-I've always been a big Beatles fan.

Life motto/mantra?
“Just get on with it!”

Favourite musical?
From a sentimental point of view I would have to say,’Oliver’.  I played the part of Oliver when I was wee and it takes me back to that time whenever I hear the music from it”

Favourite place in the world?
“I like Scotland. Driving about in my car, I like looking at all the hills and the nice scenery….all my best ideas come whilst I'm driving around in my car!”

If you could do one thing to help the world, what would you do?
“Get them all singing! It’s the power in that 1 or 2 minutes of singing a song where people can forget all their worries. I'm not saying it’ll solve the world's problems but it can for that 2 minutes”

Be sure to get your tickets for The McDougall's fun-filled, magical festive production, 'Chaos at Christmas'.
On from 15th December at Harbour Arts Centre, Irvine 

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