Hi Laura, welcome to BWW:UK. How are you today?
Very well thank you, just at home squeezing in some quality time with the family before I'm off again to our next venue. It has been particularly hectic lately with a few last-minute cast changes due to illnesses, so it's nice to just relax.
You're currently touring the UK in The Jungle Book as Kaa the snake. How is that going so far?
Really well, we've been lucky enough to have great audiences all around the UK at some beautiful venues. After three months I think I've finally mastered living out of a suitcase...well, I no longer have to sit on it to fit stuff in, anyway! But it has been great fun so far and very well received.
Is the experience living up to your expectations? How are you finding tour life?
It is living up to expectations and having the opportunity to perform in front of such a variety of audiences is a great learning curve as a performer. The Jungle Book is loved by young and old alike for very different reasons, and so tailoring your performance to suit each audience was something I learnt quickly. Touring life has its ups and downs; it's great to be able to see lots of different cities, and being in a new venue each week helps keep the show fresh and different for us. However, it can be very tiring and I constantly forget where I've been from one week to the next.
What advice would you give other young performers just starting out on their artistic journey?
Be patient, keep motivated and remember why you've chosen this career. It can often feel as though you've been thrown out of the nest after graduating and everyone's eyes are eagerly watching to see whether you can fly. We all know people who immediately take flight and others who have to fall a little before starting their journey; everyone is different but maintaining self-confidence is key. Learn from everything you do, whether it's picking a completely inappropriate song for an audition or momentarily deciding it's a good idea to cartwheel in a skirt during a freestyle; live, learn and laugh.
Great advice, and it sounds like you've had some interesting experiences...! You had to learn puppetry for the role...how hard was that to master?
Initially...very! More than anything it was getting the eye-line to look as though she was talking to each character or the audience directly, which is a lot more difficult than you may imagine. There are two of us that manipulate and move the snake, so we have to make sure we're in tune with each other, as tripping over each other is an embarrassing hazard I hope not to encounter. However, the wonderful Sue Dacre (Labyrinth, Muppets Treasure Island) came in to help coach us, which was a great help and a fantastic insight into puppetry.
I've heard that the Avenue Q cast often suffered from Puppet Arm or Puppet Shoulder. Have you had any puppet-related injuries?!
Touch wood [she touches her head] nothing too bad as yet. The first month or so of the tour I think my right arm went into slight shock and often cramped after longer scenes, but nothing self-massage couldn't sort out. An ex-Avenue Q cast member passed on the advice: "The ache wont get easier, you'll just get used to it," and this seems very true.
You also play a variety of other animals during the course of the show; what kind of training did you have to prepare you for those roles?
We were lucky enough to work with the brilliantly talented animal expert Peter Elliott (King Kong, Gorillas in the Mist), who workshopped a variety of animals with us. He was a joy to just watch as he literally morphed into different animals. We looked at each animal's movement, thought process, behaviour and instincts and incorporated that into the characters.
Any hilarious onstage stories to report yet?
There have been a few unavoidable mishaps; I once managed to trip off stage into the wings during an exit, whilst my gold feet remained onstage. A couple of the guys have lost their skirts (yes, skirts!) whilst getting over enthusiastically hypnotized, and of course with any young audiences, there are the enthusiastically loud comments during absolute silence. We have a trick spear that's used for a fight scene, which during rehearsals spectacularly leapt out of Peter Sowerbutts' (Shere Khan) hands straight into the auditorium; everyone is now eagerly awaiting an on-stage re-enactment!
What has been your favourite venue so far and why?