BWW Interview: Ian Bartholomew Of MRS HENDERSON PRESENTS!
Hello Ian! I'm not sure whether to say congratulations or commiserations on the Olivier Award nominations but no wins for you and the show...are you disappointed?
It's nice to be acknowledged, it's nice to get the nod - it's a little bit disappointing, but at the same time, you just go, 'Well, I'm lucky to have been there at all.' Many people don't get that opportunity and don't get that acknowledgement, so that in itself is a reward. Actually winning it is the icing on the cake. It would have been nice, but it doesn't make any difference to me in that I go on, I still do my job, and I love what I do. It's one of those things. We pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and off we go.
When I spoke to Emma Williams before the West End transfer, she talked very touchingly about the company feeling and the positive experience it's been for her. Do you share that feeling?
Yes, I do - it's a very easy company to be around. Everybody works for each other, we all get on very well. We're very close. I think it's to do with the experience you go through, to put it straight, when we all get our clothes off. You can't help but be close to the people who are in a scuzzy old rehearsal room with you when you get your kit off! It was such an easy thing to do - Terry Johnson made it so easy for everybody - when you share something like that, standing there with your bits hanging out, various stages of age and weight, it's not always very comfortable - it's not as easy as it might seem. You do bond, in a strange sort of way. The subject matter makes us feel as if we're there and we're living it through them in the rehearsal process. That's what comes across for us doing it. We put ourselves in the position of what it must have been like for those people at that time, during the war, doing what they did, which was groundbreaking in many ways. That rehearsal process just heightens the feeling of what they went through - and how vulnerable people are, and the human frame is, without being too esoteric about it.
Yes - people know it as the 'show where people take their clothes off', but it's more than that!
It is more than that! It's what the show has been sold on, but I'm not sure it's altogether right. It's about the indomitability of the human spirit - when the chips are down, you stand together, and you come out fighting. You dare - you dare to be different, to do something to other people, and if you stick together it works.
What's the audience response been like?
It's been fantastic. We've been very lucky with our audiences, they've been uniformly very good. They get it, and they enjoy it. It's a really good little show - a great West End show. I'd be quite happy to part with my money and watch this.
What do you think makes a great West End show, then?
It's got high production values, it's got some good tunes - it looks good, it sounds good. It's got heart to it. It's got depth. It's got naked boys and girls! It's got feathers! It's an entertaining but not frothy night out. Underneath it, there's a gritty story - what they're doing against the background of the war. If you have the context, then it's something that we may not remember, but you can feel it - you've grown up with this, you've learnt it from your grandparents and your parents. It's something we still identify with, a dark period in our history, but we got through it and we're stronger for it.
I like that idea of a shared history - the film itself is obviously well known. Did you know it?
I didn't! And I didn't see it. I made a conscious decision not to watch it - I will watch it soon, probably when we finish the show, and I'll sit myself in a room, and I'll probably go, "Oh, I wish I'd done that!" What I didn't want to do was have somebody else's portrayal of somebody that I know in the way that I know him - I didn't want that coloured by somebody else's take on it. It's entirely selfish. I wanted to build a picture just with what I had on the script. I spoke to a couple of people who knew him - Barry Cryer is a good friend of mine and he started at the Windmill. He gave me some fantastic little background bits and pieces of information, little character quirks and things about him that helped me build the look and the feel of the character that I've ended up inflicting on an audience...
Ian Bartholomew plays Vivian Van Damm in Mrs Henderson Presents.