Alice Fearn has Tea With Wilma
For those who may not be familiar with your work, can you give me a little run down of some of your career highlights so far?
Upon leaving drama school, I joined the cast of The Woman In White at the Palace Theatre. From there I went into Les Miserables at the Queens for a two year stint in the show. Following that, I did Annie Get Your Gun at the Young Vic, played Rapunzel in Into The Woods at Regents Park Open Air Theatre, Gingy/Princess Fiona in Shrek The Musical (Theatre Royal Drury Lane) and then most recently appeared in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at the Savoy Theatre.
You are currently playing Nancy in Oliver at the Watermill Theatre. For anyone not familiar with the story, is the show about and how does your character fit in?
Well if you don’t know the story of Oliver Twist may I say you must get to grips with it ASAP as it is a fantastic story of courage, bravery and love. Oliver is an orphan boy who runs away in search of “his fortune”. He finds himself in London and gets in with a group of young orphaned boys who, under the guidance of their leader Fagin, pick the pockets of anyone they can find on the streets of London to earn a living. Unfortunately Oliver isn’t so good at the profession and finds himself caught on his first outing by the kind hearted and rich gentleman Mr Brownlow, who finds a strange and unexplainable fondness for the boy.
Nancy, my character, is almost like a mother figure to Fagin’s gang. She was a young pick picket herself as a child in Fagin’s gang and has grown up still connected fondly to the group of new orphaned kids. She is also in a volatile relationship with a fellow old school gang member Bill Sikes. When Oliver is caught and taken away by Mr Brownlow, Bill and Fagin decide it is vital he is brought back for fear of being uncovered. Nancy, somewhat unwillingly, plays a key role in bringing him back to Fagin’s den. And instantly regretting the decision, risks everything to get Oliver back to Mr Brownlow at a secret rendezvous spot (London Bridge), that night.
I wouldn’t like to ruin the end of the play for anyone who does not know the story so you’d have to come see it to find if all ends well.
Do you have a favourite song in the show?
Well, I think if you were to see the show you will realise how many brilliant numbers there are in it. For that reason I would find it too difficult to give you one answer. But my top three would be Reviewing the Situation (for its complexity), Where is Love (for its simplicity) and As Long as He Needs Me (for obvious reasons)!
Do you have any dream stage roles that you would like to have a go at playing?
Well most of them are parts I’ll never get to play as they are male roles. But if I’m honest, I just like to be challenged. Roles I’ve never thought about playing, or I didn’t even know existed, turn out to be some of the parts I’ve enjoyed the most (Princess Fiona in Shrek, and Christine Colgate in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels). The role I grew up desperately wanting to play was Fantine in Les Miserables and I got my chance at that when I was in the show in 2006-8 so I’m pretty happy with that.
If you could be the opposite sex for the day, which male theatre role would you like to play?
Well. Not only is it of the opposite sex but I’d also have to rewind time as it’s actually a child’s part. Billy Elliot! Not only is it a wonderful show but the role must be as exhilarating and as exhausting as they come. I’d also have to be able to dance a damn site better than I currently can!
Have you ever had any funny/disastrous on-stage experiences?
I did fall and was unable to get up (due to an excessively long dress) front and centre dancing with Robert Lyndsey at the Savoy Theatre. Pretty embarrassing. But as I’m writing this something pretty disastrous happened last night in Oliver. At the interval, I went upstairs to my dressing room, reached in to my throat sweets and threw one in my mouth. Instantly sensing something wasn’t right I spat it out. There in front of me was my throat sweet and a wasp. I had been stung three times on my tongue. Luckily, due to some quick thinking of the stage management team and PLENTY of ice I got through Act 2 but I have to say that was one of the most horrific things to ever happen to me mid show!!
Why do you think people should come and see ‘Oliver’?
This production of Oliver is like none other. If you’ve seen one before, in the West End of on tour, our show is smaller and therefore, in my opinion, more intimate. Add to that the actors are also the musicians and the instruments are not confined offstage. Like any other actor-musician show, the instruments are part of the show. They are played on stage, in scenes and add to the drama.
I also find the Watermill is the perfect setting for a story like Oliver. The atmosphere is heightened by the wonderful old feel of the Mill. They work together and create an extraordinary Victorian feel. Tom Rogers’ design, Howard Hudson’s lighting, Paul Herbert’s musical arrangements, Tom Marshall’s sound, Tim Jackson’s choreography and Luke Shephard’s direction have all worked as one and they could not be more in sync. Their work on this is worth the ticket price alone. And I’ll be bold enough to say that the cast (without exception) aren’t half bad either.
Alice Fearn plays Nancy in Oliver at The Watermill until 19 September. www.watermill.org.uk