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?
LAUREN: A few highlights for me have been playing Scaramouche in We Will Rock You both in the west end and on the anniversary arena tour. Nothing beats singing Queen every night and feeling like a rock God! Also most recently originating the role of Jules in Bend It Like Beckham. It has always been my dream to create a role for a brand new west end show.
GEORGE: I’ve been very lucky to be proud of all of my roles. Some of the highlights for me have been Marc Bolan in 20th Century,Richard Loeb in Thrill Me (Charing cross theatre) and more recently Dave Davies in Sunny Afternoon which I was involved with from the workshop stage and feel very proud it won four Oliviers and is still running in the west end.
You are about to star in ‘The Buskers Opera’ at the Park Theatre. What is the show about and what attracted you to the part you are playing?
LAUREN: Dougal Irvine our writer asked me to be on his first album years ago now, and I’ve been a huge fan of his work ever since. As soon as I saw his name above the title I said YUP that’s gonna be awesome! No one writes quite like Dougal.
GEORGE: The show is loosely based on The Beggars Opera by John Gay which was the first long running musical in 1728. Our story is set in London during the 2012 Olympics and follows Macheath a satirical busker as he takes on the Mayor of London with song and razor sharp wit. I play Macheath and find him a fascinating character to play, he is sort of an anti-hero,the audience need to like him but not necessarily agree with his ways. He also speaks solely in rhyme which is fun.
You have both recently finished playing parts in big west end productions. How does rehearing for a much smaller production differ from the west end and which do you prefer?
LAUREN: I love working in an intimate space. You feel so much more connected to the audience. I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s terrifying! You can actually see the whites of people’s eyes! But there is this sense of a much deeper connection between audience and actor. Like you’re all sharing a secret experience all together. Stepping into each other’s lives.
GEORGE: Rehearsals are my favourite time of any production. There isn’t a great deal of difference when rehearsing a smaller show. Both creative and cast have to work equally as hard in about 4 weeks to get the show together. This is a brand new piece so we have the pleasure of finding things for the first time.
The Buskers Opera has launched a fundraising campaign to raise money to create the first ever ‘relaxed’ performance at the Park Theatre. This is a great initiative but for those who may not be familiar with the concept, what does it mean and why is it important for this show in particular to stage this type of production?
LAUREN: A lot of hard work has gone into reaching out to people who traditionally may not feel so welcome at (or indeed be able to afford) theatre. Much of the issues in The Buskers Opera are based around homelessness and disenfranchisement, and I think the idea is to make this more inclusive than most other productions. I didn’t actually know myself what a “Relaxed” performance was, but having learnt now I think it’s the most wonderful idea and I can’t think why more theatres don’t embrace it. They basically cater to those in our society who may find regular trips to the theatre uncomfortable due to, for example, a physical, mental or sensory impairment including those with autism, learning or behavioural difficulties or those with social anxieties. Some slight adjustments are made to the show in order to make those in attendance feel as comfortable as possible – lighting states softened, sound levels reduced and theatre doors are left open allowing audience members to come and go as they need to. Capacity levels will also be restricted to give everybody a little more space to enjoy the show!
GEORGE: A relaxed performance is a great idea and opens up a show to a wider audience. For anyone that may find going to see a full on production overwhelming it relaxes every element for them slightly. Musicals of all types can benefit from doing this kind of thing and I’m proud The Buskers Opera are doing this initiative. Anything anyone donates is hugely appreciated.
We have recently had the 2016 Olivier Awards. What did you think of the outcome (any winners you think were particularly worthy or people/shows you think should have won)?
LAUREN: Well obviously I’m gutted Bend It Like Beckham didn’t win any awards. I was really hoping that Howard and Kuljit would win for their exceptional music. I personally believe that no one has ever achieved what Howard managed to in Bend It. The beautiful fusion between contemporary musical theatre and Bhangra was stunning.
I’m thrilled that Matt Henry won for his performance in Kinky Boots. He’s a beautiful human and plays the part of Lola with such truth and beauty. He also looks better in dresses than I do…
GEORGE: Having been at The Oliviers last year I know what a special day it is for everyone there. Imelda Staunton absolutely deserved to win, legend.
If you could be the opposite sex for the day, what theatre role would you love to have a go at playing?
LAUREN: I would be John Proctor in The Crucible. I love that play and have watched the Daniel Day Lewis film SO many times!
GEORGE: I think Elphaba ‘cos I want to get greened up and fly and stuff.
Why do you think people should come and see The Buskers Opera?
LAUREN: There certainly isn’t anything quite like it! It’s a genuinely entertaining satire that confronts very relevant issues oh and who doesn’t love Dougal’s music?!
GEORGE: To be entertained in way that makes them think about society around them and how they might be able to change things.
Thanks for having Tea With Wilma
THE BUSKERS OPERA opens at the Park Theatre from 28 April 2016
The crowd funding campaign to help stage a Relaxed Performance of The Beggars Opera only has a few days left and still has almost half of the amount needed to be raised. Even if you can only spare a few pounds, please donate what ever you can here .
Need convincing? Check out my recent blog and consider how you would feel if disability happened to you and you could no longer go to the theatre. For me, that’s a scary thought. And it could happen to any of us at any time.