BWW Interview: GIRLFRIENDS Cast Talk Bishopsgate Institute Concert
London Musical Theatre Orchestra (LMTO) will present a concert staging of Howard Goodall's Girlfriends at Bishopsgate Institute this weekend.
Girlfriends follows the bravery, camaraderie, solidarity and humour between recruits of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) during the Second World War.
What made you want to be a performer?
Lucie: I've always wanted to be a performer. Mum says I could sing nursery rhymes in tune with no lyrics before I could say a word. I love music. If I wasn't doing this, I'd be doing something within the music and entertainment world.
Lauren: My mum played the piano and sang a lot when I was younger, and she'd play me showtunes. I grew up loving musicals.
I started ballet at the age of two, acting classes at seven, and singing at 13 - I couldn't get enough! I was also part of a few amateur dramatics groups and I always knew it was something I wanted to pursue professionally.
Rob: I never sang until I was 16 at an after-school musical theatre class, that my friends and I did as a joke! Musical theatre turned out to become a passion of mine and I found I had a voice I wanted to use on stage.
Two years later, I was in [Guildford School of Acting]! It is a feeling like no other, and to be able to move people in live performance is what I feel I was put here to do.
Why did you want to be part of Girlfriends?
Lucie: I worked with LMTO last year on A Christmas Carol at the Lyceum Theatre. I totally fell in love with their ethos and the people at the company.
Freddie Tapner has become a good friend since then, and I love working with him and the orchestra. Coming back to do a piece as special as Girlfriends, recording a cast album and working opposite my real life best friend (Lauren Samuels) all seemed a joyous thing!
Lauren: First and foremost, I ADORE the music of Howard Goodall. I've already been lucky enough to perform in two of his shows, Love Story and Bend It Like Beckham, and during Bend It, Howard and I became friends. He asked me to join him in a concert celebrating his works last year, and to be given the opportunity to sing his music again is just glorious.
I have also wanted to sing with LMTO for a while, and having the chance to play best friends with your real life best friend is amazing. Girlfriends was a no-brainer for me.
Rob: I have worked with LMTO and Freddie before with Candide. It was such an enjoyable experience and the concert was so fantastic I knew this would be the same.
I also knew that Howard's fantastic score would lend itself to the LMTO set-up perfectly. I love the enthusiasm and talent involved in LMTO and it always leads to a wonderful event, so I'm very happy to be back.
Please tell us about the character you play. Is there anything you particularly enjoy about playing them?
Lucie: I play a character called Lou in Girlfriends.
Lauren: ...and I play Amy. She's a shy girl who has essentially been persuaded to join the army by her best friend Lou. She's terrified of the whole experience!
Rob: My character can be a bit unlikeable. But I enjoy his lack of fear when it comes to laying his feelings out on the table and being honest about his emotions.
Do you have a favourite number/scene?
Lauren: There are so many beautiful numbers in the show, and for me, every song where all nine women are singing together in nine-part harmony is just amazing. I'm so proud to be a part of it."
Rob: The "Save my life" parts in the show are beautiful melodies to sing, especially with the wonderful Lauren Samuels.
How are rehearsals going?
Lucie: Rehearsals are going really well. We have a bunch of people who are great at picking up a score and breathing life in to it from first sing. I feel really lucky to be surrounded by these powerhouse women.
Lauren: We've taken on a mammoth task, there is A LOT of music that we're learning in a short space of time, but it's fantastic. It's an honour to sing this score every day.
Rob: Such a room full of talent, it's bound to be a brilliant show!
Did you have any family involved in the war effort, or have you done other research?
Lauren: Both my nan and grandad sadly passed away last year, and they both served in WWII. My grandad was a mechanical engineer for the RAF, spending most of his time in the West Indies maintaining the aircrafts, and my nan was in the auxiliary territorial army. My grandad became a corporal and was awarded two medals, the Defence Medal and the War Medal.
He kept a lock of my nan's hair with him throughout the war and said it kept him safe. When he returned they got married and he kept it in his wallet his whole life. We put it in his coffin last year when he was buried.
Rob: My great-grandad served in the war, but passed before I was old enough to find out one-on-one about his experiences. But before she died I spoke to his wife, my great-grandmother, about her involvement in the war, and that sticks with me as I work on the project.
Why do you think it's important this side of the narrative surrounding WWII is told?
Lucie: It's more important than ever that women's roles in these huge historic events are given the air time and respect due. If these incredible brave women hadn't been around, the war would've been entirely different and the course of history would change.
Lauren: It's very important that the stories of the women of WWII are told along with the men's. You rarely hear the women's stories in history. But without these women, the men of our country wouldn't have gotten very far! We forget quite how important a job in the radio tower was, or packing parachutes...
Rob: People aren't aware of the lives these women led, and it's extremely enlightening to share that with an audience. Feminism and equal rights are becoming more prevalent in the modern world, and this is another piece celebrating the power of women.
What advice would you have given yourself ten years ago?
Lucie: Don't let people influence what you want to do. Your ideas are good. Go with your gut and work hard. Don't ever say no to seeing anything at the theatre, even if you think you'll hate it. Go. Embrace. Learn.
Lauren: I would tell myself not to be so concerned with what others think. Be bolder. Be braver.
Rob: It would be a year before I started GSA, so I'd just say keep going and enjoying theatre and performing, and I would encourage being yourself as loud as you want to be.
Do you have any other projects coming up that you can tell us about?
Rob: I have a Production Company, Forty Four Productions, that I'm focusing on between acting contracts. We have a double show concert at Cadogan Hall on 1 December - West End Does: Christmas starring Willemijn Verkaik, Louise Dearman, Jamie Muscato, Joe McElderry, and many more.
It will be hosted by Warwick Davis with a gospel choir and kids choir! I love Christmas, so it will be great.
Why should people come to see Girlfriends?
Lucie: This score is absolutely stunning. The music is so exciting and the lyrics will have you gripped from the very start. Howard has a beautiful knack of writing for women. It's a treat to sing and I am THRILLED to be a part of this project.
Lauren: Because when do you get to hear nine women singing in nine-part harmony about WWII with a full orchestra?! It really is astounding. It will warm your heart, and also break your heart.
Rob: For all the reasons above! A talented cast, amazing orchestra led by wonderful Freddie Tapner, beautiful music by Howard Goodall, and a story of female empowerment and real lives.
Girlfriends at Bishopsgate Institute 2-3 November.
Check out our interview with LMTO's founder and principal conductor, Freddie Tapner, about the orchestra's 2018 season.
Photo credit: Gaby Jerrard PR