Ashleigh Gray has Tea With Wilma chatting about VANITIES

TWW Ashleigh GrayYou have performed in some amazing shows so far in your career. What have been some of your highlights?
I think playing Elphaba in front of my home crowd at the Edinburgh Playhouse last Christmas was probably my biggest highlight to date. It’s not often I get the chance to let my friends and family back home see what I do, so that was definitely special. Playing the London Palladium with John Barrowman on his concert tour last year was also a big highlight. Another bucket list venue and it wasn’t a disappointment! Oh, and being there to present at and collect an award at last years Wilma awards, of course 🙂

You are about to star in the European Premiere of VANITIES the Musical at Trafalgar Studios.
What is the show about and what attracted you to the part you are playing?
The show is about three young girls growing up in Dallas, without a care in the world – other than how they look and how popular they are. It’s a real coming of age story as we follow these girls on their somewhat turbulent journeys to womanhood. Kathy is the organised, focused one who’s always in control. She undergoes quite a transformation throughout the piece. I can really relate to Kathy, I think we’re quite similar in many aspects and so I’m hoping I may even learn some lessons of my own throughout this show.

Who are your biggest inspirations in the theatre industry and why?
The people who are out there fighting for and getting new shows put on! We need new theatre to keep this industry alive and fresh. All too often the same pieces get redone and rehashed. It’s great to get new writers out there on the scene and have their work trialled.

If I asked your friends to describe you in three words, what would they be?
Caring, organised, happy.

What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
There’s been so many things. That’s part of the fun of this job! The nature of all of our tracks in Vanities leaves us open to the possibility of lots of embarrassment – let’s just leave it at that and keep our fingers crossed that we all still have our dignity at the end of it!

What are your thoughts on theatre etiquette? What things annoy you when you are performing or when you are in the audience?
People filming and recording. Live theatre should be just that! A one off, there in that particular moment to be experienced by the audience. Not passed around on platforms for all to see. If you’re watching the show through a phone or camera, you’re missing out on the whole experience, in my opinion! Also, with mobile phone designs these days it’s always so clear when someone is using it in the auditorium. It’s so distracting – put it away!

Apart from acting, what is your biggest vice?
Cake….I simply can never say no to any sort of cake. So bad – but so very very good! Even better with a cuppa (munching down a simple slice Vicky Sponge with this one…thanks Wilma!)

We are living in a time where films are often being turned into stage plays and musicals. If you had to choose one, what film would you like to see adapted to the stage?
Steel Magnolias! It’s one of my all-time favourites. An epic film with a fantastic script and some fabulous characters for women to play!

If you could be the opposite sex for the day, what theatre role would you love to have a go at playing?
Along with the rest of the world, I’m obsessed with Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton at the minute – so that would be quite something. Always fancied myself as a bit of a rapper. My raps over Sarah Earnshaw’s beatboxing in our dressing room at the Apollo Victoria Theatre were legendary!!

If you won the lottery and could stage one theatre show of your choice, what would you choose and who would be your dream cast?
Anything with Imelda Staunton in it! I saw her in Gypsy last year and was blown away. She was on my list anyway but even more so after seeing that. The chance to work in a company (I’m in it too, naturally) with such an incredible talent would be worth all the winnings!

Why do you think people should come and see Vanities at Trafalgar Studios?
It’s going to be a really wonderful show. We have a cracking team working on this show which is full of heart and fun, with some cracking songs and a really great story of friendship at its core. Plus, the chance at seeing us gals working a pom-pom and jumping into the splits is surely worth the ticket price alone!

Thanks for having Tea With Wilma

VANITIES plays at Trafalgar Studios from Thursday 1st September – Saturday 1st October 2016

Photo: Ollie Boito Photography