Friday, 21 November 2014

Big Interview: Laura Pitt-Pulford

2014 has been quite a year for Laura Pitt-Pulford. After starring in the The Light Princess at the National Theatre she went on to win rave reviews for her performances in Marry Me A Little (St James Studio) and The Return of the Solider (Jermyn Street).

Laura is currently starring as Maria in The Sound of Music at the Leicester Curve Theatre. She returns to the Curve having played Irene Molloy in Hello, Dolly! and Toine in Piaf.

The Sound of Music opens on 3rd December (previews from 28th November) and runs until 17th January. Paul Kerryson directs, marking his final show as artistic director of the Curve, with choreography from Drew McOnie.

Just a few of Laura’s other theatre credits include: A Man of No Importance (Salisbury Playhouse), Mack and Mabel and Parade (Southwark Playhouse), title role in Sweet Charity (Belfast MAC), The Little Prince (Lyric Belfast), Guys and Dolls (the Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, Clwyd Theatre and Salisbury Playhouse) and Copacabana (Watermill Theatre, Newbury).

I recently spoke to Laura about why she’s so thrilled to be playing Maria, her whirlwind year and why she’s yodelling on the bus… 

Roles don’t come more iconic than Maria! Was the part always on your list of dream roles?
It has always been on my dream list, I think it’s probably on most girls lists [laughs]. I used to watch the film all the time with my mum and knew it inside out. I always wanted to play Maria but never thought it would happen! I saw the Palladium production and then the one at Regent’s Park and they were both fantastic in their own way. So when I was asked to do this I was a bit like, ‘Wow! Yes please!’ It’s one of those roles that you want to be able to put your own stamp on. I’m really looking forward to finding my Maria.

The Sound of Music marks Paul Kerryson’s last show as artistic director of the Curve. It must be a very special production to be working on! What has the atmosphere been like?
It is! Paul is a huge fan of this piece so it’s really lovely to be part of his last show. You want to make it as special as it can be! We’re so lucky to have a great cast; everyone is really, really positive about it. There’s naturally such a great feel about the show – there’s a warmth about it so there has been a really lovely air in the room.

Laura in The Sound of Music rehearsals 

Can you give any hints as to what we can expect from this production? 
We’re trying to look at things that were really happening in Austria at the time. Yes the story has a beautiful element to it of the family reuniting and the Captain and Maria falling in love, but there was things going on at the time – there was a fear which people lived through – and we are trying to remember that. We’re definitely talking about what was happening in Austria in order for us to really be able to place the truth in our characters. We’re trying to make them as real and as true as we can, but I still don’t know what the outcome is going to be and that’s wonderful! I’m learning about Maria every day, it’s not black and white.

Talk to me about yodelling!
Well… I’ve been tackling the yodelling! I think I’m nearly there… I actually quite like it [laughs]! I kind of just go around the house yodelling. I’m yodelling in the shower…. I’m yodelling on the bus [laughs]. It’s great! I’m also tackling the guitar for ‘Do-Re-Mi’ so at the moment my fingers are blistered. It’s so hard! So many people can play guitar and I’m thinking, ‘Wow, I bow down to you because it’s really tough!’ I’m really looking forward to both those numbers because they’re both a challenge for me. If you can tackle a challenge and then come out the other end, there’s nothing better than being able to do that every night. 

How are the kids?
They are amazing! They come in at 4.30pm every day. I’m always starting to get a little bit tired at the end of the day but then they come in and I get this new lease of life [laughs]. Their energy is immense! They’re keeping me very young… I like it [laughs]!

"I always wanted to play Maria but never thought it would happen!"

The Curve is one of my favourite theatres – it is so different and exciting, but in terms of standard and quality it is literally like a West End theatre which just isn’t in London. What is it like to be back?
Do you know, I just hope Leicester realise how lucky they are to have this theatre. The best thing about it is that as soon as you walk into the theatre you immediately feel involved, in an arty kind of way. There is so much going on, maybe there will be a swing band playing in the foyer and a choir on the mezzanine. Then there are rehearsals happening in one room and something else happening in another. There is just a buzz about it as soon as you walk in! It’s fantastic! It is a really different theatre, the walls come up and you can see into the wings and the whole layout is quite different. I love it and they are so welcoming here, hence why I was so thrilled to come back. Also I’m a Midlands girl so it’s quite nice to be close to my family!

That’s nice, the perfect Christmas job!
I know! I’ve got a four year old niece and this will be the first show that she’s going to be able to see me in. I can’t wait for her to see it!

Laura rehearsing with Michael French

You have played so many completely different characters over the years. Do you enjoy that variety?
I love it! It’s funny because the last two shows that I worked on here at the Curve have been completely different. In Piaf I played the character of Toine who is really quite rough and not a pleasant person and then I played Irene Molloy in Hello, Dolly! who is incredibly elegant and sophisticated – very different to Maria. It’s amazing that Paul has recognised that I can be versatile and play a mix of different things. That’s very testing of a director because I think sometimes you can be pigeonholed for just doing one particular kind of style. 

You have had such a whirlwind year. From The Light Princess to Marry Me A Little and The Return of the Solider, you’ve been in some very exciting shows!
The Light Princess was one of the absolute highlights of my career. Creating a brand new piece from scratch and working with the likes of Marianne Elliott and Tori Amos… I mean… oh my goodness… honestly I just went to work every day and all of us counted our lucky stars. We all felt so honoured to be a part of it. It was so different and I loved every second! I’m a huge Sondheim fan so when I was asked to do Marry Me A Little I thought, ‘You’re kidding! This is brilliant!’ I got to learn songs that I wasn’t familiar with. Then The Return of the Solider was another new piece. It was great to do a British chamber musical; I loved the story because it was something I could really get my teeth into. I’ve been so lucky this year! It’s been really challenging though, but in a really good way.

Laura in Marry Me A Little
Right, I’m sending you to a desert island and you can only take three musical theatre songs with you. Which three are you going to take?
Oh no! Ok… ‘If I Loved You’ from Carousel and, just because I’m doing the show now, I’m going to take ‘The Hills are Alive’. I would definitely just run around on my own in the desert singing ‘The Hills are Alive’ [laughs]! Ok… give me a second for my last one. I think it might have to be ‘Moving On’ from Sunday in the Park with George! That’s one of my favourites. There’s a million, but right now in the specific moment that’s my three!

Finally, there is so much support behind you in theatreland from people who will see you in something and then come and see your next project and so on. It must be so nice having that support behind you?
I can’t tell you – they are just the most incredible people. When we did Marry Me there were some people who came to see it five times over the two weeks! They are just the best and, I swear to you, I have so much time for them because they really support me. This industry can be really tough sometimes. Regardless of what you’ve done or how well reviewed your last show was, sometimes you can get really down and you have to pull yourself back up. It’s those people who really have your back, the odd message from someone is always so lovely! I just think they are amazing people for supporting theatre and NEW theatre which is great, it’s really important! 

Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

The Sound of Music opens at the Leicester Curve Theatre on 3rd December (previews from 28th November) and runs until 17th January. Please visit for information and tickets.

Photo Credit 1-3: Pamela Raith
Photo Credit 4: Roy Tan 

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