We can't wait to bring to the stage Victoria Wood's hilarious and heart-warming Talent, led by Lucie Shorthouse and Jamie-Rose Monk.
Playing Julie - the role formerly played by Julie Walters - we catch up with Lucie to find out all about the show and what it felt like to be back performing on stage.
How does it feel to be working on this production? Especially after the past year, what have you missed the most?
It’s such a privilege to be working on this production - it’s warm, witty, full of heart, but also offers illuminating social commentary that still stands today. After the year we’ve had, having a socially distanced and well sanctioned team together again has been joyous. Sheffield Theatres have worked tirelessly to facilitate this production and to be performing the genius of Victoria Wood seems extra special considering this period of isolation. Her comedy was always so unifying.
Tell us about the show. What can audiences expect?
The show follows Julie, a single mother from Southport who enters a talent contest dreaming of stardom. She enlists the help of long-time friend and work colleague Maureen and together they meet a cast of interesting characters at the talent contest club: a magic act, an organist and a compere. The show, although set in 1978, is universal - it’s about the pursuit of dreams and the courage to break out of mundanity. I think the show also speaks of the resilience of women of that time and indeed now, 43 years after it was set. Wood observed so acutely the complexities of womanhood and the trials, titillations and indeed tribulations that existed then and still do now.
Who is your character and how do they resonate with you?
I play Julie Stephens, a 24 year old single mother on arguably the most stressful evening of her life! Initially I felt some sense of kismet with the role: to support myself throughout drama school I would sing in working men's clubs and social clubs to earn money. I grew accustomed to the characters and beautiful spirits, but also to the grottier side of the glamour. I also entered talent contests and endured the rejection, comparison and performativity of those things. Clubland is unfortunately a waning tradition so it’s been wonderful to relive it and embrace its spark and identity. I’ve started to realise how much I am like Julie throughout the process - the kind of frantic, flustered, laser focus that pressure brings is not unlike me! And again her resilience, I like to think I share that.
Victoria Wood is so cherished in British comedy – what is your fondest or most stand-out memory of her and/or her work?
So many stand out Victoria Wood moments - she was just always around when I was growing up. Dinnerladies of course, but also Barry and Freda (my mum's name is Freda!) and Hayley Bailey are some fond favourites. Through working on her script you get another deep appreciation of just how accomplished she was. We were so lucky to have her - I doubt we’ll come across the like again.
How does it feel to be performing in Sheffield – have you worked with us here before, or is this your first time at the Crucible?
I adore Sheffield. And I associate the Crucible with a real turning point in my career and personal life. I was lucky enough to participate in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie as Jamie’s best friend Pritti, and the reception from the city - how much they embraced the story and championed its message - was so special. The city and indeed the theatre will always hold such an incredible place in my heart, so to return after the year we’ve had is such a privilege. I couldn't be more thrilled!
Did you know much about Talent before reading the script?
I hadn’t heard of Talent before my audition I am ashamed to admit, but of course knew of the powerhouse combination of Julie Walters and Victoria Wood, so the play was a pleasure to dive into and explore. Julie Walters has always been a personal hero, so to align with a role she once excelled in has been scary but incredible! For me, it’s a dream role: a female-led narrative written by a woman, it has real trajectory and a strong message but delivered with warmth and humour as well as music. It's the perfect part!
The play centres around the theme of women’s experience - and often resilience - in the entertainment industry of the late 70s/early 80s. How do you feel this will resonate in the time we’re in now?
The show absolutely speaks of the experience of women, especially the culture of conditioning and gender politics that still exists today. As much as we’ve progressed, the fact that the themes still resonate some four decades later makes this show still so relevant. I felt incredibly safe working on this show which is so important to note considering what has come to light about certain figures in our industry. Power plays, exploitation and abuse often appears in sly, casual forms at first and that is what allows it to continue - it’s the casual speed in which these things occur which makes it so real and the way it is woven in this story is incredibly true to life. The emotionally manipulative exchanges are unfortunately ones I’ve heard echoed even in my short time in the industry. What Wood does so well is observe and articulate these, weaving them into a tapestry that is warm and witty on the surface.