The Scotsman Sessions #248: Reuben Joseph

Welcome to the award-winning Scotsman Sessions. With performing arts activity curtailed for the foreseeable future, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on scotsman.com, with introductions from our critics. Here, the actor and musician Reuben Joseph performs his song, Feel Better

It’s always been true that actors working in Scotland need the widest possible range of skills, to put together a viable career. They need to be able to tackle film, television and radio, and to demonstrate the full set of live performing skills, from straight acting to singing, dancing, playing musical instruments, and mastering all the techniques and tropes of pantomime.

And although times have changed, Scotland’s rising generation of actors are fully as flexible as those who went before, in switching from straight theatre to comedy to music, and throwing in the odd tap-dance; with the added twist that many of them also like to create their own material. Reuben Joseph – actor, singer, songwriter, and creator of one of this week’s Scotsman Sessions – is one of those multi-talented rising stars; and here he sings Feel Better, one of the songs from an EP he recorded last year.

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Now in his early twenties, Joseph grew up in Helensburgh, and followed his elder sister into an early interest in singing and performance, appearing in school shows and with the Glasgow Apollo Players. At 18, he won a place to study theatre at Langside College, now part of Clyde College, and graduated in 2018 straight into a flourishing career with a range of companies in Scotland and beyond.

Reuben Joseph

He appeared in the Citizens’ Theatre’s acclaimed 2018 version of A Christmas Carol, toured the United States with the legendary TEAM company in their National Theatre of Scotland co-production Anything That Gives Off Light, and was part of the superb ensemble company brought together by ThickSkin and the Traverse for the 2019 Scotsman Fringe First-winning show How Not To Drown, about a refugee journey from Kosovo. He also appeared in the recent NTS/Dundee Rep production of The Cheviot, The Stag And The Black, Black Oil, directed by Joe Douglas; and his recent lockdown assignments include the National Theatre of Scotland’s Ghosts, an audio production exploring the history of Scotland’s links with slavery via a walk through a Merchant City peopled by the ghosts of the many black people whose history in the city has, until now, gone largely unrecognised.

“I think when I first left college I was still suffering a bit from impostor syndrome,” says Joseph, who is one of Scotland’s growing generation of young actors of colour. “I was somehow always expecting to be found out. But working with Joe Douglas on The Cheviot really helped me to overcome that. He’s a very supportive director, and he really helped me to build up confidence, and use all my performing skills in a show I really loved. I also loved touring America with Anything That Gives Off Light, and being part of creating the very first production off How Not To Drown.

“I think I’ve been beyond lucky to be able to continue working throughout most of the pandemic,” says Joseph, who has just finished a London run in Turbine Theatre’s #50 Days, a grime musical about the execution of King Charles I in which he played the doomed king. “But last year, when Covid first hit, I went back to live in Helensburgh, and recorded this EP entirely in my Mum's garage.

“As a singer and songwriter I’m still at the stage of trying to imitate people I really admire, like Etta James and Alabama Shakes. But I think this song does reflect the invisible battles many people are fighting during this time. These days, when people ask each other ‘how are you’, they seem to do it earnestly, because we know that so many people are having a hard time. And I hope this song, Feel Better, captures a bit of that.”

Reuben Joseph features in Dundee Rep’s 3M Mixtape season, currently available online at https://dundeerep.co.uk/mixtape

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