BWW Interview: Emma Hatton On Bringing EVITA To The West End
Actress and singer Emma Hatton's previous work includes We Will Rock You and Wicked. She's now starring in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's iconic musical Evita, which returns to the West End - previews begin at Phoenix Theatre tomorrow night.
What was the first musical you saw?
I think it was either Cats or Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. Both obviously Andrew Lloyd Webber shows, which makes it even more special to be in Evita.
Did you perform all through school, and when did you decide to pursue it as a career?
I danced from the age of three and come from a music-loving family, so naturally loved music and drama classes at school. I was always involved in the school productions and joined a wonderful amateur dramatic company in my local area, which gave me the opportunity to play some brilliant roles and gain some hugely valuable experiences.
I went to Loughborough University to study English and Sport Science, as I was training and competing as a long jumper at the time so my focus was very much on my sport, but I continued to sing in a jazz band and as a function singer throughout university.
I never truly considered a 'career' in musical theatre - I always saw it as a wonderful hobby. I took a year out after university and trained at the amazing London School of Musical Theatre, and it was only after graduation that I started to believe that I might be able to pursue performing as a career.
What was your first professional acting job?
It was the role of Twyla in a beautiful show called When Midnight Strikes. I'd performed it as part of my college course and was then offered the role in a professional production at the Finborough Theatre.
It was written by a fantastic team, Charles Miller and Kevin Hammond, and I met and worked with some incredibly talented performers. I was the youngest in the cast and my castmates became mentors and friends. I was fortunate enough to record the original cast album too, which was an amazing experience for my first job! This show holds a very special place in my heart.
What's it like going into an established show like Wicked?
It can be fairly daunting as the show is so popular (no pun intended!) and has such a loyal and devoted fanbase. Elphaba has become such an iconic character and the fans really connect with her. There is huge responsibility with that but I love it! It's such a privilege to be stepping into the shoes of some of the performers who I deem to be role models. I still pinch myself that I was a part of that show.
I've been incredibly lucky to I have worked with some great creative teams who have allowed me to explore my interpretation of the character and bring my ideas to the table. As I've gained more experience, I've certainly grown in confidence and try to approach each role from my perspective without getting too caught up on previous performers' interpretations and choices. I think it's the only way to be truthful to the roles.
Did you know Evita well beforehand?
I watched the film but I was far too young to appreciate it, if I'm honest. I was vaguely familiar with the show. I'd never seen it, but of course I knew the iconic numbers. I was keen to approach the show completely fresh, so I didn't watch or listen to previous actresses who had played Eva Peron. It was important to me that I discovered my own colours and nuances of Eva.
What was your way into Eva? Is it research, finding her in the rehearsal room, personal connections?
A combination of all of the above. A lot of personal research: reading of biographies and searching the internet. That gave me the foundation and an understanding of the fundamental elements of her character and journey.
I adore the rehearsal process. You can try different ideas, discuss, make mistakes and find some really exciting discoveries through those connections that you make with your fellow actors. That really enabled me to find the more 'humane' elements of Eva. We also have an Argentinian cast member, who has been so generous with his knowledge and experience.
Is it interesting to play such a complex character - perhaps more antiheroine than heroine?
It is a complete and utter joy! I love it. Eva is so complex. Audiences are never quite sure whether they are supposed to love or loathe her. It's such a fine line, because you need to generate a level of empathy otherwise some of the storyline and numbers would be futile. I love that I have the opportunity to explore the complexities of the human condition, the grey area between good and evil.
How would you characterise the score compared with other shows you've done? Is it a vocal challenge in some ways?
It is an amazing score. It blows my mind when I think how young Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice were when they wrote it, and it still sounds so fresh! There are such clever repetitions throughout the show and the instrumentation is stunning.
It's sung through, which brings some interesting challenges as both an actress and as a singer. I have worked hard to get the part into my voice. There are so many vocal qualities and styles that it's been a really enjoyable challenge.
"Don't Cry For Me Argentina" is such an iconic number. How do you get past that and find the character moment?
From day one, I approached the entire score as a piece of text. That made it so much easier to not get caught up on the fact that the song is so well known. It comes at such a crucial part of her journey and the lyrics, combined with the set, costumes and instrumentation, make it incredibly easy to forget that it's an iconic song and simply immerse myself in the message Eva is trying to get across.
Did you get any advice from Andrew or Tim?
I haven't been fortunate to meet either of them yet, but hopefully they will come and watch in London.
How do you think today's audience might respond to the political elements of the story?
I'm sure, just as in today's political climate, there will be strong opinions on the right and wrong doings of the Perons. Some will love what they stood for, others will vehemently disagree. Some will be sat on the fence!
What are your major dos and don'ts on tour?
Major do: stay in regular contact with friends and family who are not on the road with you. They will keep you sane and grounded when life on the road can get a little tough. Major don't: isolate yourself completely. Socialising with cast and crew is an important aspect of the job you're doing. You don't have to do it all the time, but touring can be lonely if you completely cut yourself off.
And how does it feel to bring the show into the West End?
I am beyond excited to have the opportunity to continue playing this amazing character, and to be at home and back in the West End is such an honour.
Any future dream roles or collaborators?
I'm love to work with Post Modern Jukebox and Jools Holland. And of course I'd love the opportunity to play Elphaba on Broadway.
Do you have plans for more solo albums and concerts?
I have two concerts on 21 and 22 October at Pizza Express Birmingham and Holborn. I have also nearly finished recording my second EP with Anthony Strong, which will be a crowdfunded project.
Any advice for budding performers?
Work hard and be nice to people! You are never too good for any job. Say yes to a variety of different projects and always push yourself out of your comfort zone. Practice and prepare - that way, if the job doesn't go your way, you know it was due to factors out of your control, not because you didn't put the work in. Take the job seriously, but never yourself. Life is too short to not be able to laugh at your mistakes.
Finally, why do you think Evita is such an enduring show?
I think it's a combination of an incredibly interesting historical figure, stellar lyrics, timeless music and the journey that it takes the audience on. Team that with an astounding array of costumes and wigs, great creative teams and it seems to have that magic that stands the test of time!
Photo credit: Matt Crockett