Stage combat instructor Tom Jordan has always been interested in a career in the film and theatre industry but he’s not a wannabee celebrity. In fact he shies away from the idea of fame and says he prefers the creative process and hopes one day to direct.
Tom was born in Charlton Kings and attended Charlton Kings Junior School, where his love of acting first blossomed when he was cast as the Wiz in the musical The Wiz in the school play. He then went on to The Crypt Grammar School in Gloucester where he appeared in numerous school productions. He was also a member of the Everyman Youth Theatre for six years.
He was accepted into Reading University to study Film & Television, but during his gap year he took a Foundation Year at the Oxford School of Drama and got his first taste of Stage Combat. From that day on he was hooked. His instructor was Kevin McCurdy, these days a top fight director and stunt co-ordinator on major films, who was to become his friend and mentor.
Stage combat is a specialised technique for actors and dancers designed to create the illusion of physical combat without causing harm to the performers. It is used in live theatre, opera and ballet. Stage combat includes fight choreography for other production media such as film and television and even crosses over into stunt performance. It includes fighting with swords, knives and other implements as well as unarmed.
After graduating in 2006, Tom and three friends from University took two shows – Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter and The Zoo Story by Edward Albee - to the Edinburgh Festival, but his first ‘proper’ paid acting job was at Chessington World of Adventures and also involved stage combat. He was a Jedi Knight at ‘Jedi School’. The Jedis would train a group of kids (and occasionally adults) plucked from the audience to use mini light sabres to fight Darth Vader. Eventually the show moved to the Star Wars exhibition at County Hall in London and Tom stayed with the show for seven months.
After Star Wars Tom became a stage combat apprentice and regularly gave demonstrations at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on London’s Embankment. He qualified as a stage combat instructor in February 2009.
As part of his training, initially as a student and then as an apprentice, Tom took a week’s intensive training in stage combat every year for five years at Atlantic College which is situated on the edge of a cliff in the grounds of one of Britain’s most haunted castles – St Donats in Llantwit Major, near Bridgend in Wales. Between 1925 and 1960 the castle belonged to American newspaper millionaire William Randolph Hearst before the college took it over.
St Donats is reputed to be one of the UK’s most haunted buildings and many ghost stories abound, including a priest who roams the corridors, a panther which is alleged to appear in some of the bedrooms and a lady who is said to haunt the gallery. The latter could be the ghost of Lady Anne Stradling who is supposed to have walked the turrets at night for 400 years, searching for her dead sweetheart. It is said that when she is at large you can smell lavender. The teachers used to stay in the castle until someone said they could ‘smell lavender’. They now stay in the college chalets, which is good for Tom as after five years as a student he will be back this year for his third stint as a teacher.
These days Tom is working hard as a teacher and choreographer and has less time for acting, though he has toured three times with local company Rain or Shine – playing Camillo in A Winter’s Tale, Bob Cratchett in A Christmas Carol and Lucentio in Taming of the Shrew. Last year he toured for three months as various goblins, wraiths and woodsmen in the stage show of The Hobbit and acted in the Lincoln Shakespeare Festival.
He runs his own stage combat workshops and teaches kids and young adults at the University of Gloucestershire, Archway School in Stroud, Balcarras and the Everyman Theatre locally. He has also taught at The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, The Bridge Theatre Training Company and Italia Conti Academy in London, and teaches regularly at Guildford School of Acting together with another friend and mentor Andy Ashenden.
He recently choreographed fights for 89 children in His Dark Materials at The Roses Theatre in Tewkesbury and his credits to date include choreographing fight scenes in Romeo & Juliet, Othello and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. All this and he’s still only 27!
This year saw Tom co-ordinating his first fight scene in a film, having been recommended by Kevin McCurdy. The film is called Elfie Hopkins & the Gammons and stars Ray Winstone and his daughter Jaime. Tom travelled to Carmarthen in Wales where he choreographed a fight involving Jaime, who plays Elfie. The film will be on our screens very soon.
Tom is a qualified teacher with the APC – the Academy of Performance Combat. If you are interested in a workshop for your school or drama group or would like Tom to choreograph the fight scenes for your production, please visit the website www.theapc.org.uk alternatively email Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone him on 07727 152226.