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Underneath the hard concrete and all-too-common off-blue skies, Nagoya’s artistic heart is beating vibrantly. Chances are that if you have felt the city’s artistic pulse, you have come across Oliver Millingham, one of Nagoya’s favorite ex-pat sons.

Known affectionately as ‘Olli’, this Worcestershire native has spent his last 25 years pursuing his dream of becoming an actor. Since the age of five, when his parents took him to the local theatre performances, Olli has spent much of his time as a performer (on and off the stage).

Asked if there are any other thespians in his family, Olli responded, “Well, just me but I suppose mum and dad have been acting as parents since I was born.”

When informed that he was ‘on the record’, Olli added, “…acting as beautiful, wonderful parents.”

So where is this passion for acting going to take Ollie?

As any actor will tell you, it isn’t easy getting a break. However, Olli has taken the initiative and created his own ‘break’. At the end of this month, he will be leaving his friends in Japan to join the elite Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. It was only just recently that Olli learned of his acceptance to this prestigious academy- quite an accomplishment when considering that only 12 of 3000 applicants were accepted.

When asked how he felt about his achievement, Olli shared, “I was elated. Actually, last year I applied, and made it to the short list but didn’t make the final cut. I think there are a few good reasons for why I made it this year. First off, I really knew what the selection panel was looking for. I worked extremely hard on carefully selected pieces for my audition and took vocal lessons with a singing coach. Compared to last year, I knew I had a better chance this time around. However, in the end I was still overjoyed and even a little humbled. After all, there were a lot of talented people trying to embark on the same journey as myself, but I ended up getting in.”

When someone strives so hard for a particular goal, the question “why?” begs to be asked.

“Why acting?,” asks Olli, rhetorically. Well, acting is one of the very few things I look forward to doing every single time. I mean, with sport I had a few days where I couldn’t be bothered. With my jobs, there were more than a few of those days. However, with acting, I always get excited. Another main reason is that actors have the ability to give something special to their audiences. It can happen at the time of the actual performance, but if an audience member goes home and thinks about what they have seen and feels how it affects or relates to their life, it really highlights the significance of what it means to be an actor.”

But why now?

“I have had the opportunity to work in many capacities since leaving University. No small part of my experience has come from living in Japan. Every job I have had here has led me down a road that has contributed to my growth as a person. I really have loved my time doing so many different things here in Japan. With my last full time position in a Japanese company I reached a point where I could touch the ceiling. I wasn’t the head of the company or anything and I knew I never could be. At that point I started thinking carefully about my future and at one time even considered opening a bar in Japan. In the end though, my thoughts brought me back to the one thing I have always been passionate about- acting. Although never truly letting go of the idea of being an actor, the series of jobs I had didn’t really allow my skills and energy as a performer to be fully expressed. However, these jobs did force the realization that acting is my true passion and served to solidify my commitment to pursuing it as a career.”

Interested, I asked, “what would you be if you weren’t…”

Before letting me finish Olli interrupted with, “Acting or acting”.

Olli is not starting his career inexperienced by any means. He has been acting since his high school days. During University he was a part of sixteen stage shows and after graduating, performed at the Edinborough Fringe Festival. Since then he has put on several shows for charities, including Habitat for Humanity, and has been an integral part of the local community theatre troupe, Nagoya Players, performing in six shows and even directing the troupe’s last show, What the Butler Saw.

Given such a variety of experience, I was dying to hear about his most memorable performance.
After some serious pondering, Olli offered, “I think Lend me a Tenor was the most memorable. There are a couple of reasons. First, I was welcomed into the Nagoya Players by being cast in the lead role of that show. That was a real honour. It was also a brilliantly executed performance to which audiences responded really well.”

Of course, I also had to ask about his least memorable performance.

“By ME!?” gasped Olli, incredulously.

After recovering and reassuring me he was joking, Olli continued. “I played a miniscule role in Julius Caesar where I was cast as Lucius, a character who sings and plays the lute to help restless Caesar fall asleep. What was hilarious about the whole show was that we had to perform the entire thing in tunics…and only tunics. As Caesar and I fell asleep, I ended up giving the first three rows of the audience a glimpse of my other lute.”
While that may have been least memorable for Olli, ETJ suspects it may have taken more than a while for the first three rows to remove that etched-in image from their memories.

So, where should we expect to see Oliver Millingham in the near future?

“Very generally, I will be extremely happy to get paid to act. If it takes me to the London stage or to Hollywood, so be it. I’d be thrilled either way. To be honest though, I would like to start in theatre and then maybe progress to movies, T.V. or even radio.”

I wanted to know who Olli would want to co-star with, be it on stage or on the silver screen.

Olli wasted no time in answering, “Sir Anthony Hopkins. I have great respect for that man’s talent and the emotional investment he makes in each of his roles. His rendition of Titus was especially good!”

What are some of the words Olli lives by?

“Actually, if you were to sum me up in a nutshell, you would need not look any further than Rudyard Kippling’s poem, If’. There are a few quotes I live by. First off, ‘keep it true’. Next, ‘do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.’ Finally, ‘there are no strangers- only friends we haven’t met yet.’

So if those are some of the expressions Olli rates as valuable, what is one expression the English language could do without?

“I can’t.”

For those of you out there interested in pursuing a career in acting, Olli has some advice.

“From what I have gleaned from my limited experience, I can say acting is really a choice that requires you be true to yourself. If you can really understand yourself as an actor and as a person, you are on the right track…Oh and you have to work bloody hard at it!”

So, an era has come to an end for one talented ex-pat in Nagoya. However, a new chapter is soon to begin- one which will see Olie make his way back to his native England. From there, who knows?- perhaps to a stage, screen or even some airwaves near you.

For all you have given to this great city, we wish you all the best, Olli.
All of us in Nagoya will surely miss you.