Monday, 4 May 2015

Interview: Evelyn Hoskins, starring as the title role in Carrie The Musical

Evelyn is currently starring as the title role in the London premiere of Carrie The Musical at the Southwark Playhouse.

Gary Lloyd has directed a revised version of the musical which is based on Stephen King's bestselling novel. Produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, Carrie The Musical first premiered in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1988 before transferring to Broadway starring Linzi Hateley. However, until now the musical had never been produced in London.

Evelyn famously created the role of Thea in the UK premiere of Spring Awakening at the Lyric Hammersmith which transferred to the West End’s Novello Theatre. She has also played Lucy in Misfits (E4) and Shona in Casualty/Holby City (BBC).

Evelyn’s further theatre credits include: Wendy Darling in Peter Pan (US Tour), the title role in Alice's House Of Cards (Royal Festival Hall), Nicky in This Is My Family (Sheffield Crucible/UK Tour), Kevin in The Boy Who Fell Into A Book (Stephen Joseph Theatre, directed by Alan Aykbourn), Sophie in The Iguanodon Queen (Bush Theatre) and Martha in The Secret Garden (Birmingham Rep).

I recently spoke to Evelyn about what drew her to Carrie, the challenges of the role, Spring Awakening memories and being a wimp when it comes to horror movies…

How much did you know about Carrie The Musical before being cast in this production?
I obviously knew the film, but ironically I don’t really ‘do’ horror [laughs]! I can’t watch horror films… I have to mute them because the music always scares me and I’m really jumpy. So I hadn’t actually watched it, but I obviously knew about it because it’s so iconic and everyone knows the pigs blood and all that. I wasn’t aware that it was a musical until I was doing a tour in America and they released the updated version off-Broadway. I remember thinking ‘Oh my gosh, Carrie as a musical?!’ 

Were you immediately drawn to the character?
I’m so used to playing the creepy girl or the weirdo so when I heard it was coming to London and my agent said he was putting me up for it I was so excited. They actually said to me in the audition, “You obviously must know you were born to play this role!” So I must give off something really creepy [laughs]. I did an episode of Misfits as well where I was so weird… so I think I’ve found my niche. I’ll probably get Wednesday Addams next… I’ve got my CV planned [laughs]!

Evelyn in rehearsals 

It’s very unusual for a horror film to be adapted into a musical, how do you think it translates on stage?
Ooo great question! I hate to use a word like bubble-gum, and I hate to compare it to High School Musical, but you get that upbeat high school vibe… but then you also get the world of Carrie and her mother and it’s like a completely different show. My biggest challenge so far has probably been working out how I fit into both of those worlds. The musical styles are also very different. My mum was asking me “Is it the same as the film?” and actually Gary (Lloyd, director) is trying to keep it very true to Stephen King’s book and it’s very close to the original film. It keeps it real so those worlds melt together. It doesn’t feel like ‘Why are they singing?’ which some musicals can. So far it feels really good… obviously I have no idea how it looks. Working with Kim (Criswell) is… I mean… I couldn’t have asked for a better mum! She’s bringing it and she’s great. 

How have you found exploring the character?
It’s a really dark subject matter and Paul (Taylor-Mills, producer) said it’s actually really sad. At its heart the story is basically about this girl who gets really badly bullied, it’s really extreme. It’s been a very challenging role, I’ve always played people who are happy or content in their worlds. This has been a hard rehearsal process because there’s only so many times you can have people pushing you and saying all these horrible things to you before it starts affecting you as a person. I just hope that we translate that well enough so the audience feel sorry for her… obviously it turns around and she goes a bit crazy [laughs]. 

What can people like me who don’t know the show at all expect from the music?
Ooo ok interesting – well like I said there are two very different worlds. In the high school world the music is amazing and really fun with brilliant harmonies, like musical theatre ‘cream-your-pants’ kind of harmonies [laughs]. Everyone’s belting stuff out and it’s just nice to listen to because you know what’s coming and it’s really pleasing to the ear. Then you get the world with Carrie and her mother. There are also really close harmonies, but it’s really haunting. Sometimes the high school songs lead straight into the darker world; it’s that thing of making someone cry and then making them laugh straight away. It goes from extremes. 

What has everyone been like to work with?
Without sounding too much like ‘oh I’m an actor’, I have been trying to stay separate from the cast, I think it will help them as well as me. I read somewhere that Meryl Streep did it in The Devil Wears Prada – she didn’t speak to anyone for the whole time. Obviously I’m not that bad [laughs], we all have lunch together and have a laugh. I don’t dance at all so to watch them all is like amazing; I’m in awe of their talent. It’s nice because everyone has a character, even though it has an ensemble feel. Kim is obviously amazing and so is Jodie Jacobs as well, they’re the people I look up to. I’m really learning stupid amounts from Kim and she’s so lovely. When I first met her I was scared, I was like ‘is she crazy?’ but no, she’s absolutely lovely and I feel like we are kind of getting into that mother/daughter relationship. Everyone has been really great! 

How do you feel about performing in a more intimate theatre?
I’m so thrilled to be working at Southwark, it’s been on my list for a while. Also I haven’t been in London for a while so it’s nice to be back. I did a show up at the Sheffield Crucible about two years ago at the studio so I know what to expect which is nice. People might get splashed by blood… it’s that close [laughs]. 

I was about to ask if we’re all going to leave covered in blood! Do you get more nervous when you can literally see the whites of the audience's eyes?
It’s hard to say! It’s nice to have that connection with them because when you’re working on a pros-arch you don’t get that much. But with this piece we don’t really break the fourth wall anyway, although when you’re singing those songs it’s a luxury to be able to connect with people. As an audience member, when an actor looks you in the eye it keeps you on the edge of your seat. You’ve got to make use of the space in the best way possible; we’ve got a lot of tricks up our sleeves… hopefully people will be surprised!

I think I’m scared [laughs]!
[laughs] That’s the other thing, people keep saying to me ‘I’m really scared to come and see it’ and I think I would be as well because, like I said, I’m an absolute wimp when it comes to horror. Just don’t be scared… but do be! It will be good scary [laughs]. 

The cast of Carrie in rehearsals

I can’t believe it has been six years since Spring Awakening! What is it like for you now to look back at your journey with the show?
It’s mad and it’s crazy… I mean I’m still playing children six years later [laughs] – I don’t think I look any different which is good! I had dinner with Sian Thomas who played the Adult Woman in the show and we were reminiscing. Without sounding absolutely patronising I see myself then in the new grads who are in this and it makes me realise how much I’ve experienced – I’ve toured America and worked with really amazing people and am constantly learning. It’s only been six years but I feel like I’ve grown so much as a person. There’s no way I would be where I am today without Spring Awakening, it will always, always have a place in my heart. It’s coming up to exactly six years! We closed at the end of May! 

Hopefully it will come back in some shape or form soon!
Yeah – it would be awesome if it came back! It was just so amazing; nobody looks back on it with anything but fond memories. I’m always grateful! 

Finally, I’m sending you to a desert island and you can take three musical theatre songs with you… which three are you going to take and why?
[gasps] Ok… number one would be from A Chorus Line – ‘The Music and the Mirror’. If I’m feeling down or feel like ‘this isn’t happening’ when things aren’t going great then I will always listen to that song. I’m not a dancer at all, but there’s something about that song which makes you go ‘This is why I do it’. This is all I want to do, so definitely that one. Gosh! This is so hard! I’m hoping people aren’t going to judge me for my choices! Then I would take ‘All the Wasted Time’, the last duet they sing together in Parade just because the harmonies are amazing. That song just hits me. Oh no! I don’t know what to say… I’m going through my phone…. Hmmmm… sorry! I’m going to go with ‘The Confrontation’ from Les Mis between Javert and Valjean. I just love it! It’s my favourite bit!

Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Carrie runs at the Southwark Playhouse until 30th May 2015.
Please visit www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk for info and tickets.

Photo Credit 1: The Umbrella Rooms 
Photo Credit 2&4: Garry Lake
Photo Credit 3: Jordan Matter

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