The actress chats to Emma Clarendon about starring as Sarah Brown in Guys and Dolls at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre.
Hi Alex – thanks for talking to me. Given this is such a classic musical what can audiences expect from this production of Guys and Dolls?
Guys and Dolls is a pretty perfect musical so audiences, at the very least, will see a script full of witty zingers, compelling characters, brilliant dances and the most excellent score. And, in this particular production, all of those things are in very safe hands. It’s not exactly an under-revived show (!), but I think this might be a very special version. Everything I’ve seen so far, from the set to the choreography to the cast, is extremely exciting, and all just a bit different from what you might have seen before.
What are you most looking forward to about being part of Guys and Dolls?
I think just being part of something so joyful, and so GOOD. When you get a script that’s this tight and rich it’s total heaven for a company. Considering how long ago it was written there’s very few corners that you have to iron out – it’s bliss. Being back at the Crucible is wonderful. It’s without a doubt my favourite space to play, and my favourite audience to play to. There’s an inherent warmth in the building, and, as well as a standard of excellence, there’s a real sense of fun and naughtiness here which suits me marvellously.
I feel hugely lucky to be working with Rob Hastie again. He’s a brilliant director and a very kind man, and I loved working with him on Standing at the Sky’s Edge earlier this year. He’s assembled a brilliant team and company for this production (kudos too to our brilliant casting director, Stuart Burt), I really couldn’t be happier.
How do you see your character Sarah Brown?
Well, firstly Sarah is someone I never thought I’d play in a million years, as I mainly play comedy and I was a little surprised when Rob asked if I’d be interested. So I read the original Damon Runyon story The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown and was blown away by what a badass she is. She’s often described as innocent and ‘buttoned up’, but I’ve enjoyed discovering that she’s more complicated than that.
In the story Runyon makes it clear that she doesn’t come from a religious family, in fact both her father and brother were ruined by gambling, which makes so much sense. So when she meets Sky she thinks: “I know you. I know exactly the kind of man you are”, and I think that terrifies her. Her work in the Save a Soul Mission – to me anyway – feels less about religious faith, and more about a structure that offers a binary idea of morality, which you can understand is very appealing to someone brought up in a morally compromised environment. It’s something concrete for her to cling to – you know – abstinence good/gambling bad.
Then in walks Sky and he, intentionally or not,
just smashes that apart, and she’s left questioning everything about who she is and what she believes. The fact that Kadiff [Kirwan, playing Sky] and I are a bit older brings perhaps a different richness to it; our Sky and Sarah have spent their lives trying to get away from their roots, carefully
constructing a version of themselves which is suddenly challenged when they meet each other. This makes their relationship much more difficult, funny and moving than I ever thought. Yeah, I’ve kinda fallen for her. She’s fascinating. She also gets to do some excellent drunk business which keeps me happy, as I am, frankly, a deplorable show off.
Do you have a favourite moment in the show? Basically anytime Natalie Casey and Martin Marquez are onstage. They are the most delightful
Adelaide and Nathan. Warm, real and very, very funny. I adore the opening song Fugue for Tinhorns it’s really cool. Our MD Will Stuart is a brilliant jazzer, so everything is sounding really hip. We rehearsed Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat yesterday and our Nicely, TJ Lloyd, is everything you’d
want him to be! But I think my favourite moment is My Time of Day, Sky’s song. It’s a profoundly revealing moment for his character and it’s musically transcendent. And my goodness, when Kadiff
sings it to me, it’s all I can do to not do a lady swoon.
What was your first experience of Guys and Dolls? Ha! Doing it at school. I played Sarah’s grandfather, Arvide. I was FURIOUS not to be cast as either
female lead, so I was determined to make him as ridiculous as possible and desperately tried to upstage everyone (deplorable show off). I’m not proud of it at all, it was a really vulgar comic creation…but pretty funny to be honest. Although, now Garry Robson is playing it in our production,
I’m seeing what a beautiful, witty, heart-swelling, heartbreaking part it is. His solo, which is a number I’ve never really paid much attention to, is going to make you weep. You’ve been warned.
If people are thinking about coming along why should they? Oh Gosh, I mean, the songs, the story, the jokes, the cast, the Crucible, what’s not to love? And our production looks set to be rich, warm, mature, funny and beautifully inclusive. This show will lift your heart, and at the moment, I think we all need that, don’t we?
By Emma Clarendon
Guys and Dolls is in the Crucible from Saturday 7 December – Saturday 18 January. Tickets are on sale now and available at the Box Office, on 0114 249 6000 or online at https://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/events/guys-and-dolls