In my opinion, Emma Kingston has one of the absolute best voices on the West End. I’ve been fortunate enough to see her in a number of shows and concerts, including Les Miserables, In The Heights and most recently, the stunning Fiddler on the Roof at the Chichester Festival theatre. Emma was kind enough to sit down and discuss Fiddler, After Anatevka, her hidden passion and more…
Have you always aspired to be a performer or did you have a different dream when you were younger?
I’ve always wanted to be a performer. I used to sing Les Mis and Anything Goes with my dad all the time.
Have you got any hidden passions you’d like to pursue?
I love psychology! As an actor, I love getting inside a character’s brain. I studied Psychology at A Level and I would love to further my understanding of why people are the way they are. Furthering my study’s would interest me as well as it being useful as an actor.
What drew you to the role of Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof? Are the two of you alike in any ways?
I’m Jewish, so growing up, Fiddler was always being quoted around the house. I used to watch the film with my grandma. Also, ‘Far from the Home I Love’ was the first song I ever sang in a singing lesson when I was 11.
How is this production bringing something new to the well-loved musical?
We are so lucky that our production in Chichester has amazing new orchestrations by David White and new choreography by Alistair David, bringing a fresh take on the brilliant musical.
Do you feel any extra responsibility or pressure playing one of the few explicitly Jewish female characters in musical theatre?
I feel a responsibility to show the traditions in a way that people of other cultures can relate to. I want to show people that Judaism is a way of life as well as a religion. The community aspect for me is so important.
What’s your research process like for each role you take on, has After Anatevka helped add a new dimension to your portrayal?
For Fiddler I dived into researching about Russia pre 1905 and Russian attitudes towards jewish people. Also looking at Jewish culture in shetles in Russia. My paternal grandparents were children of immigrants from Lithuania and Oddessa, so I had lots of family history to draw on.
After Anatevka I am enjoying so much, especially now I understand so much more about Hodel. I’m loving reading her journey after she leaves home, and how Alexandra has filled in the parts of Fiddler that we don’t see in the musical.
If you’d written After Anatevka would you have given Hodel the same after story?
Alexandra’s story has portrayed so many aspects of Hodel’s life during the Fiddler story and after that I thought about a lot. Especially the way she highlights her relationship with her sisters and Perchik. As I’m reading, I feel that the story all completely slots into place and I can’t imagine her next journey any other way.
Tradition is obviously the central theme in Fiddler. Do you have any family traditions?
My family traditions are the Fiddler traditions! Every Friday night my family and I get together for a shabbat meal. We celebrate Jewish festivals like Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement), Passover and many others.
Emma Kingston (Hodel), Simbi Akande (Tzeitel) , Rose Shalloo (Chava) in Fiddler on the Roof
How do you keep your voice healthy? Do you have any vocal rituals?
Drink endless amounts of water and concentrate on centring your breathing.
If you had a magic wand, which show would you do next?
After Fiddler, I’m playing Eva Peron in the Hal Prince production of Evita, international tour and I can’t wait! My mum is Argentine, so it’s a huge bucket list role, much like Hodel in Fiddler is!
Whats a fun fact people might not know about you?
One of my first words was Archemeaies (the owl from sword in the stone) my parents were so proud haha!
What’s your best piece of advice for an aspiring performer?
Don’t compare your journey to anybody else’s. Be original. I read a quote by Steve Martin “Be so good they can’t ignore you”, to me that means work as hard as you can on being the best you can be.
Thank you so much Emma for taking the time for this interview. Fiddler on the Roof runs until September 2nd.
Read my review of After Anatevka here and keep an eye out for an interview with Alexandra Silber and a giveaway!