Hervé Goffings is an actor, singer and dancer permanently living and working in London. He graduated from a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Studies at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, and a Masters in Performance in Musical Theatre at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Glasgow. At present he is rehearsing with director Michael Birch on a new version of his acclaimed One-Man show called HERVÉ. It is a provocative and humorous entertainment based on his incredible true life story. A busker of French African descent tells the extraordinary story of his adoption by an unconventional white Belgian couple who travelled the world.
1. How did your one-man show originally come about?
It all started with my end of year cabaret performance I did when I was a student at the RSAMD. Between songs I was telling a few life stories. After my performance the Principal of the college came to me and said: ‘You have an amazing life story, it needs to be shared. Why don’t you do a one-man show about it?’ That is how the idea originally came about. It took me a few years before I got enough confidence to start working on it but I kept my promise.
2. Do you find it more challenging being in a one-man show than working as a member of a cast?
Doing a one-man show is by far the most difficult thing I ever done as an actor. Not only you are on your own on stage but also the whole show is on your shoulder. It is a bit like walking on a tightrope for a whole hour without a security net. It requires a considerable amount of concentration and stamina as you cannot rest between scenes. Being in a cast is like being part of a team, a family, where everybody supports each other. In a one-man show it is different. You have no one in front of you to help you if you forget your lines for instance.
3. With a one man show the actor/audience relationship is so important; do you enjoy having to bounce off different audiences night after night?
I do enjoy bouncing off different audiences. Audiences are never the same and that makes it exciting and of course stressful too. Although they are coming to see you, you cannot take them for granted. Some audiences are more responsive than others and that is how it is. With experience you learn to read the crowd and you work accordingly.
4. What goes through your mind just before you go on-stage?
As a lot of performers I get nervous before going on stage. Some experienced and famous actors can even get sick. I don’t get sick but I can feel the stress and the anxiety getting into my body. If I am honest I wish I were somewhere else! I know that this is part of the process and one needs to accept it. The best thing you can do is fill your mind with positive thoughts that give you power, energy and enjoyment. Once I am on stage I don’t want to be anywhere else.
5. How do you handle mistakes in a live show?
Oh…In my opinion the best way to handle mistakes on a live show is, prior to the performance, to accept that mistakes can occur and therefore are part of the performance. There are mistakes you can cover up and that the audience will never notice. If a mistake cannot be covered up the most important thing is to take care of the audience. If you are uncomfortable they will be too. So sometimes it is better to openly acknowledge a mistake and simply joke about it! Audiences love to be included!
6. If you hadn't been an actor, what would you have done?
It is likely that I would have worked in the Art sector. Having said that, when I was younger I was extremely interested in Politic studies as I wanted to be a diplomat as I can speak several languages and I love travelling.
7. If you could swap places with one person (living or dead) for a day, who would it be and why?
Probably Michael Jackson. Without him I don’t think I would have become a performer. He inspired me as he inspired many other artists. I imagine that being the ‘King of Pop’ for a day must be pretty cool! Also I would be able to do all his moves… Otherwise it must be a fascinating experience to be a woman too!
8. What are your favourites holidays destinations?
I often go on holidays to the South of France, Cannes on the French Riviera. I lived a part of my childhood there. I love the weather, the scenery and I have a lot of friends there. Also, I often go to Mexico where my parents are currently living. I would love to discover Australia.
9. What are your favourite books?
The House of Spirits (Isabel Allende), The Kite Runner (Khaled Hossini), The Shadow of the Wind (Carlos RuisZafon), Othello (Shakespeare), The Alchemist (Paolo Coehlo), The Animal Farm (George Orwell) and Five Weeks in Balloon (Jules Vernes).
10. What are your plans for the future?
At the moment I will be performing my show in different venues in London. I would love to take it on tour next summer. Also, the show is very educational as it covers themes such as race and individuality. It would be perfect to be shown in secondary schools. I am also planning to write a French version of it as I would love to perform it in France, but this will not be before 2017.
Q&A by Vanity Afro on 20/09/2015.
The forthcoming performances of the show HERVÉ will be at the Cockpit (12th November) during the Voilà! Festival and at the Southbank Centre (28th -29th November) during Being A Man Festival. Please visit http://www.thecockpit.org.uk/voila or http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/ for further information and tickets.
Be happy, do the best you can, be good and kind. x