The Hautlieu student won the award, introduced for the first time this year by the Jersey Eisteddfod, at a gala concert at the Arts Centre, where he pipped seven other competitors to take the title, which also carries a £500 prize.
‘I felt amazing,’ he said afterwards. ‘I mean acting and performing is what I want to do with my future and to win the title made me so happy and felt like a great step in the right direction. I’d like to thank the Jersey Eisteddfod for the amazing opportunity.’
James first developed an interest in the theatre after getting involved in a primary school production of Aladdin at the age of five but he had to wait three more years before appearing in Bugsy Malone for the JADC. Since then, he has had roles in productions by Jersey Youth Performing Arts, Jersey Arts Centre and The Theatre Workshop, and he plays John Walker in the Arts Centre’s Christmas production of Swallows and Amazons, which opens next week.
For the Young Actor of the Year category, James gave two contrasting performances using extracts from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Davey Anderson’s Blackout, the story of a young offender from Glasgow. Both demanded quite different approaches but resulted in equally strong performances.
Asked about how he approached texts which were so varied, James said that he tried to research the context of his characters’ situations and then ‘I just flick a switch and put myself in their mindset, try to become them, tell their story and leave myself behind’.
‘The monologue from Blackout I had seen my mate perform for GCSE drama and I wished my teacher had chose that for me, as I found it really emotionally powerful. It’s quite dark and I wanted to show a serious side to my acting ability as I feel that variety and versatility as an actor is vital. Also I thought doing an accent would be a good quality to show. My teacher at Theatre Workshop, Scott Livingstone, helped me with these choices and I thank him for his help in refining my performances,’ he said.
Recreating the character of a Glasgow youth required mastery of an accent unfamiliar to most young Islanders but James had the benefit of being able to consult an aunt from the city.
‘Accents and voices have always come naturally to me as me and my dad have always messed around doing them together and mimicking people on TV and characters in films. I find with accents that are challenging you just have to listen to people from that area and just keep talking until it comes out right, even if you sound like a bit of an idiot in the process,’ he said with a smile.
Currently James is studying a range of subjects for GCSE but hopes to take drama and, probably, film studies for A-level. Then he plans to start looking at drama schools and universities where he could study acting and performing further, with the intention of pursuing it as a career.