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BWW Interview: Cassidy Janson Chats WELL-BEHAVED WOMEN at Cadogan Hall

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The Olivier Award-winning star of &Juliet and Beautiful will be playing Virginia Woolf!

BWW Interview: Cassidy Janson Chats WELL-BEHAVED WOMEN at Cadogan Hall
The cast of Well-Behaved Women

Cassidy Janson was playing Anne Hathaway in & Juliet when West End theatres closed in 2020. However, before the show reopens, the Olivier Award-winning star of Beautiful, Chess and most recently The Mousetrap will be playing Virginia Woolf in a one-off performance of Well-Behaved Women at Cadogan Hall on 3 September. Janson spoke to us about the show.

How are you? How have you found the last year or so?

I know it's been a hard year for everyone, but it's been particularly hard for our sector. The UK government said we would get this £1.5bn grant, but they essentially said, "here, you go, now go away". A few months ago, when I was getting stressed, I realised that I was only harming myself, so I started a meditation habit that is definitely helping.

How have you found being in The Mousetrap?

I never thought I'd be in the show, but I got a lovely phone call earlier this year if I'd like to be in the cast. It was only then that I found the director was Ian Talbot, who directed me in Lend Me A Tenor at the Gielgud. I thought, "Oh, this is going to be wonderful!" Ian has this unique ability to find comedy and lightness in every script. It's been lovely; I've made some great friends, amazing people to work with and learn from.

At the beginning of rehearsals, we were all very "COVID conscious", very scared to do anything that wasn't under a COVID protocol. It was so intense because we were still in lockdown when we started rehearsal. We were standing very far away from each other, and then towards the end of the run, we realised we'd all relaxed a bit. We have permission from the government to be closer to each other on stage etc. We just had the best time. I don't know what I would have done if I didn't have a job in those times. It was so lovely to get to do a play, and I feel very privileged to help reopen the West End. It was a real "pinch me" moment when we walked on stage to reopen the West End.

Looking forward to returning to &Juliet as Anne Hathaway?

I am equally thrilled and terrified about it!

Before then, you're going to be in Well-behaved Women; what can people expect?

People can expect some serious powerhouse vocals from some well-seasoned professional women. I'm really excited about working with Rachael Wooding as we haven't worked together in forever. I did my first ever job with her, and we've never crossed paths since. It's bizarre how you can work in a cast and then never see the people you worked with for years.

I'm really excited to see what Judy Atherton is like as a director. We've never really worked together but have crossed paths occasionally. I think it's going to be a great melting pot of talent.

When we did the photoshoot, it was such a lovely atmosphere. Everyone was sort of giddy with excitement! It was very special because I feel everyone was really positive about the show happening. It's going to be fabulous. We're going to celebrate all these women of history with some great songs.

For these sorts of shows, you just want to dive in, make strong choices, and not worry too much. I think the important thing is to know your material and then enjoy it because the audience picks up on so many things. Sure, this is a one-off thing, but we want to enjoy it and take the audience on a journey.

You're playing Virginia Woolf too. What drew you to the project?

My agents told me about it, and I thought it sounded really interesting plus Ellie Verkerk, a friend of mine, is the musical director. I've worked with her for a long time. She's a very dear friend, and I adore her. So I was thrilled she was doing it.

I've got a seven-minute number. It's really good material. But, to be perfectly honest, I just wanted to work, so I said "yes". It's really amazing women, and I want to do a gig, especially on stage with fabulous women!

I wanted to do the show because I need to get myself back into performance mode. Obviously, I've been doing the Ronnie Scott's residency, which I love - it's actually a little terrifying throwing a set together each week with a new artist. It's very different from doing The Mousetrap! We need to be terrified to access our creativity sometimes!

BWW Interview: Cassidy Janson Chats WELL-BEHAVED WOMEN at Cadogan Hall
Cassidy Janson

Of course, recent events in the news have reminded us all that the world still isn't a safe place for women. How has that affected you?

I don't feel qualified to talk about that sort of stuff, but I am aware of just how much the news has us in a state of fear all the time. We're all responding to that in a primal way. It's terrifying. What's happening in Afghanistan is absolutely terrifying. Why did we go in? Was that always going to happen if we pulled out? So many of our military lost their lives have PTSD now, my ex-husband was there, and he told me awful stories.

I find I have to remove myself from that state of fear to protect myself because otherwise, I'm no good to anybody. It's not that I think we should be a bunch of people singing "Kumbaya", but when the papers are throwing the worst possible things of humanity in our face day after day after day, they're not highlighting any of the good things that are happening, the positive things that are also happening! We're all going to be paying for this psychologically, especially young people. So we need some positive psychology instead of always being drawn to checking the news every five minutes.

Thank goodness theatre's back then! We all need some escapism, don't we?

Yes, I did a fundraiser last summer; we raised over £100,000 for charities in collaboration with Acting For Others, etc. While I was doing interviews on all the radio stations, I found myself saying over and over again, "Everyone's scared. Everyone's worried. As artists, what we bring to society is so important for uplifting people, distracting people, giving people a perspective on their problems."

When you gain perspective on your problems, you can handle them better, not when you can't see the wood for the trees. Sometimes you just have to take a step back. That's what we do as artists,

I do think we are very important and valuable to society. People can disagree with me, but I've experienced it myself: a few months ago, I went to the Crazy Coqs to see Joe Stilgoe. I sat there, and I felt I had 20 years of therapy. I bounced out of there feeling hopeful and uplifted. Now I want to be the one who uplifts people and making people feel better. At that moment, I was the recipient of what I do for a living, and it changed my whole energy.

Any advice for aspiring performers, particularly at the moment?

My advice is that the beginning of my career was really slow. I didn't really work for five or six years out of college. Of course, I was very worried and eventually got some really nice jobs. When I talk to young performers, who haven't worked for 18 months, I don't have an agent; I want them to look at my career as an example of getting there eventually.

Just hang in there. Maybe the right show that you're most suited for doesn't exist yet. Maybe it hasn't been written yet, you know. Beautiful hadn't been written fifteen years ago, and I had to wait for it; it changed my career, and now I have an Olivier Award.

There are always going to be wildcards in life; life is always changing. We have to learn new skills to live in new environments and breathe and not freak out. Keep moving forward.

Any other projects you'd like to tell us about?

I have a few gigs coming up over the next few weeks, one with my friend Cali Rivlin. We're doing some jazz numbers at Toulouse Lautrec on 26 August. I've never been there before, so that will be fun. I'll also be back at the Crazy Coqs on 29 August with Edward Seckerson. He's basically going to interview me, and I'll be singing songs from my career, not my usual stuff. So I'm really excited about that.

Who from the cast of Well-Behaved Women would you have round for a dinner party?

It would have to be all of them!

Why should people come to Well-Behaved Women?

People should come to see Well-Behaved Women because they're going to see women at the top of their game, playing women from history who were also at the top of their game. We'll share a little bit of history, actually quite a lot for one evening! It's going to just be very magical and very special.

Well-Behaved Women at Cadogan Hall on 3 September


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