Claire Machin is an actress who has been on my little radar for quite some time, she’s a versatile performer with an incredible singing voice and I think that her latest role as Cora in The Girls suits her down to the ground. It’s an absolute pleasure to introduce the lady herself who I was very privileged to steal some precious time with in between shows.
Thank you so much for talking to me, Claire, tell me about The Girls and your character…
The Girls is about love, loss, friendship and it takes place in Yorkshire. It’s about a group of friends and one
of them, Annie, loses her husband to Leukemia. It’s based on a real life story, Angela Baker lost her husband, John Baker to Cancer and to get her out of the house. Her friends encouraged her to join them in raising money for a new sofa – and actually it wasn’t really about the sofa and it was just about getting her back into the community. So that’s what happens in our story as well, so it’s about how that friendship inspires and how each of the six ladies overcome their fears to do this naked calendar, because they’ve decided that they’re going to do a naked calendar to raise funds for this sofa. It’s about every woman’s journey to get to that point, to agree to do it.
I play Cora who’s a choir mistress, she’s a single mum, quite harassed, stressed and I love Cora. Most characters that I play I really love. I feel like Cora fits like a glove so anything could happen on stage. I feel really confident and safe because I feel like I really know her. Her story is to get away from the shy, retiring, inhibited person. Although you get an outburst of inner self in act one which she then withdraws – but because she is with the girls and she really loves them, she says “oh for god’s sake I’ll do it”.
You were part of the original cast when the show was tried out in Leeds and Salford…
Yes, to see if actually it did work and it worked beautifully. The producers were quite confident that it would work in the west end. I think when we started rehearsals in November 2016, something like 26% of the show had changed, I’m not sure what the percentage is now but it’s considerably more. We’re talking minor tweaks and twiddles, moving the end of Act One for example – making Act One shorter and Act Two longer.
If you could play any of the other characters who would you go for?
I love Cora so much, I don’t know – I’m a character actress, maybe Chris. I’d really like to have a crack at Annie. Actually, when I was at drama college the Head of Year and Head of the Course would argue about whether I was a straight actress or a character actress.
My favourite song in The Girls is Dare, what’s yours?
I think it has to be Kilimanjaro. Although Dare’s gorgeous because you dream to dare and dare to dare and we get a lot of feedback that Dare has helped a lot of people. Even if your dare and you don’t win as long as you have a go you’ve won haven’t you? It’s a powerful message.
I’m from Halesowen in the West Midlands and you’re from not too far away, Stoke-On-Trent, aren’t you?
I am from Stoke, yes, I left Stoke in 1987 so I have lived in London longer than I’ve lived there, but my dad and sister still live there so I go back.
Were you heavily involved in Theatre in Stoke before you moved to London?
Yes, there are fantastic amateur dramatics groups in Stoke. My claim to fame is I did The King and I with Robbie Williams, we did it for Newcastle Amateur Operatic Society when we were kids. He was about ten and I was twelve or thirteen.
Finally, what would you say to encourage people to come and see The Girls?
You can’t miss it, you absolutely can’t miss it, it’s extraordinary and it surpasses people’s expectations. People are genuinely moved and at the same time they’re moved to laughter too – and that’s life, the writing’s very beautiful but there’s nothing poetic about it, it’s just what people say. The words of the songs are based on what ordinary people say when they’re dealing with friendship, love and loss. It’s a story about family, a community, things that we can all relate to and I think that’s why it’s been so well received. It’s beautifully told too and the cast are tremendous – hats off to all of them for telling that story so well, eight shows a week.