BWW Interview: Rebecca Trehearn Talks RAGS THE MUSICAL at Hope Mill Theatre
She speaks to BroadwayWorld UK about her latest role in the Hope Mill Theatre's revival of RAGS The Musical.
What inspired you to become a performer?
I started young! By the time I was eight, I was competing in the Eisteddfods [music and poetry festival] in Wales, where I grew up. I joined my local am-dram group at nine and was working professionally at 10.
It was probably a combination of the teachers who supported me starting out and a massive obsession with Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz!
What was your first role?
I was in the child ensemble in Aladdin, aged nine. I sang "Chinese Laundry Blues" by George Formby. You missed a treat.
What is RAGS about?
RAGS is something of a spiritual sister to Fiddler on the Roof, in that the story more or less picks up where Fiddler left off.
Primarily, it tells the story of the Russian immigrant experience: their treacherous journey to America in the early 1900s, the cultural melting pot they found themselves a part of when they arrived, and the many difficulties they faced as strangers in a strange land.
Tell us about Rebecca, the (aptly named!) character you play
Rebecca is a Russian immigrant, literally fresh off the boat; we meet her and her nine-year-old son David as they arrive into Ellis Island after weeks at sea. They are fleeing Russia for their lives - Rebecca's husband has been killed in a pogrom, and there is nothing left of her home.
She is terrified but resourceful, resilient and forward-thinking. We follow her as she makes her way, in an unfamiliar and not always welcoming city, using her wits and her skill as a seamstress to survive.
Any particular numbers from Stephen Schwartz's score that you're looking forward to performing?
I've long known "Children of the Wind" and "Blame it on the Summer Night", both of which are beautiful. What's exciting about this production is that we are working with a newly minted version of the script and score, so "Children of the Wind" in particular will be something of a surprise to those familiar with the cast album.
Why do you think RAGS is an important story to revive today?
Our story couldn't be more pertinent, tragically. History repeats itself and we are living through a time in which refugees are shunned and painted as a threat on both sides of the Atlantic.
It's utterly shameful that people in desperate need continue to face the same struggles and abuse that our characters face in 1910 - and all the more reason to tell this story now.
What other stories do you think should be told on stage today?
I think anything and everything has a place onstage, but I like to see theatre that reflects the world we live in, and perhaps teaches me something I don't know about the people who inhabit it. I'm interested in the stories untold, the people unseen, the voices unheard.
Broadly speaking, at present those voices tend to belong to the minority groups of the world, and although things seem to be slowly moving in the right direction for actors, I think the real change will come when there is true diversity amongst those who choose whose stories are told: the writers, artistic directors, producers of the world.
Any other upcoming projects you can tell us about?
Nothing I can tell you about at present!
Any advice for aspiring performers?
Work hard and be nice. Be interested in the world and the people who surround you. It's very easy to develop tunnel vision in an industry so centred on the self, but your life and, by extension, your art will be far richer if you look beyond the end of your own nose.
Learn all you can about your field of interest; there is such a wealth of information at your fingertips thanks to the internet! See as much theatre as you can. Things like Netflix are a goldmine of wonderful performances you can learn from.
And seriously, be nice, to everyone. Word will get around very quickly if you are not. You have been warned.
Out of Rebecca, Charity, Fantine and Molly, who would you go on a road trip with and where would you go?
Charity, no question. No offence to the other three, but a road trip with them would be something of a downer...! Charity's a riot and would be great company. I think we'd drive through America, Thelma and Louise style, leaving havoc behind us.
Why should people come to RAGS?
RAGS holds a mirror up to the myriad injustices refugees face in today's world. It couldn't be a more important story to tell today and I sincerely hope that our audiences leave the show with a little more empathy for those in need that they arrived with.
It's also brimming with beautiful songs, and despite the impression I may have given you, is very funny! Come for a great, heart-warming, thought-provoking night out.
Photo credit: Amanda Malpass PR