AKT co-founders Ed Currie and Andy Coxon on swapping the West End for a startup

How were two musical theatre performers inspired to trade the West End stage for their own business? Ed Currie and Andy Coxon of AKT London caught up with London Theatre.

Olivia Rook
Olivia Rook

West End performers Ed Currie and Andy Coxon have an impressive number of musical theatre credits between them, from A Chorus Line and Hairspray, to West Side Story and Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, which is where they met almost 10 years ago.

“It doesn’t seem real that we’ve known each other for that long,” says Currie, who is dialling in to the video call from his home in Berlin. “I remember the first day we met, I went over and shook Andy’s hand. We hung out quite a lot in the rehearsal room and formed a little group of us.”

The pair had no idea their relationship would take them from performers to business partners, but in spring 2020 they launched deodorant brand AKT to combat an issue that plagues actors in the West End, on Broadway, and beyond, as well as people in their everyday lives.

The AKT co-founders spoke to London Theatre Magazine about their experience of swapping performing for a startup.

Where did the idea for AKT come from?

Coxon: We were performing eight shows a week in the West End, and we were fed-up with nothing working [for sweat]. We wear the same costumes that are sometimes handed down from previous cast members. You have T-shirts that are there to protect, but no matter what we were trying, it wasn’t holding for eight shows a week. We didn’t set out to make a company; we set out to make something that would work, because if they can put a man on the moon, there can be a deodorant that will work.

What makes your product stand out?

Coxon: [Initially] the brand was nothing to do with acting or theatre. We were quite shy and thought no one is going to take two actors who have made a deodorant seriously. Once we started getting this feedback that people loved it, we thought: let’s just give a sample to everyone who’s in the West End, tell them the day the kickstarter campaign goes live, ask them if they’ll post about it, and see what happens. On the day we went live, we hit our target within an hour.

I thought, “Why don’t we utilise our community?” We’d been watching videos about how to launch a brand, and everyone talks about building communities and making something [that has a face] and not just a product. That’s where we have succeeded the most, because people are invested in our story and us.

Who are some of your biggest supporters?

Coxon: Matt Lucas is one of our investors, and I’ve worked with people in theatre jobs since who have said, “I invested £5,000 in your campaign.” Michelle Visage posted about it the other day, because she was in The Addams Family concert and someone had given it to her. We always give it to make-up artists and stylists, and the whole cast of Saltburn were wearing it because of our make-up artist connections.

Do you miss performing?

Currie: I had a weird love-hate relationship with the industry. I love performing, but there was something in me that couldn’t get used to being at the bottom of the ladder – which is probably why I have started my own company! Even after performing, I was still very creative; I was teaching a lot, I did a few drama school productions as a choreographer/director. I still love the arts.

Coxon: I miss performing, but I don’t miss the lifestyle that came with being a jobbing actor. I miss the community, the laughing backstage, and the joy of being on stage, but that’s about 15 per cent of the job. One day I’d love to return, I don’t see myself as “done”.

Can you share your theatre highlights?

Coxon: Just before Christmas, I was asked to play Prince Charles in Diana the Musical [at the Eventim Apollo]. It was a sensational evening. It was wild, everyone was booing. It was like a panto on crack, but a rock concert. I did that purely to see if I could still do it. It was a vanity project. But West Side Story is still my ultimate, because I had the role [of Tony] and it was the first version with new choreography at the Royal Exchange. That shows what age I am – from Tony to Charles!

Currie: I was a massive fan of Matthew Bourne and wanted to be a swan. I remember writing to him and saying, “How would you feel if I went to ArtsEd, would this potentially get me in your company?” He ended up sponsoring me to go to ArtsEd. My first job was Top Hat. They came to audition us at the college and it was the hardest audition I think I’ve ever done. The tap was obscenely difficult, but I got the job! I did the open audition for A Chorus Line at The London Palladium and got Bobby. Then I did Annie Get Your Gun, Hairspray, and Beautiful, which was my last official job.

What’s next for the brand?

Coxon: The two coasts [in the US] are the targets. We’re going to LA in June to launch in the make-up artist, dance, and Hollywood studio scenes. We’re going to continue in a triangle of London, New York, and LA, keeping that creative industry a live and showing what two little actors can do.

Find out more at aktlondon.com

Photo credit: Andy Coxon and Ed Currie. (Photo courtesy of AKT London)

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