The actress chatted to Emma Clarendon about starring in Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis.
Hi Kellie, thanks for talking to me. For those who don’t know, what is Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis about?
It’s 6 January 1998 in a house in Bolton, there’s a birthday party and some surprise guests turn up, the unfolding events take the characters on an emotional rollercoaster, it’s funny and moving and sprinkled with a little Christmas magic.
Could you tell me about your character?
Josie is the birthday girl, she is not very happy to be turning 40, she is not very happy full stop. Josie works as a dominatrix, she is a mother, but not exactly mum of the year! She is tired but she is tough, and she’s a huge Elvis fan.
As well as playing Josie, you’re also the co-founder of Signal Theatre Company – how do you manage the duel demands of acting and running a theatre company?
Both Bob and I have dual roles in Signal, we are co-founders and producers and director and actor respectively, so we are a team, which makes things easier, sharing that experience and responsibility with someone else. We aimed to get as much of our production role done before we started rehearsals so that we could just focus on being in the room. But inevitably we end up sending emails and responding to matters every evening and weekend, and of course you can’t help but check the ticket sales every morning. I think one of the key aspects to the success of a show is surrounding yourself with a good team, both cast and crew, and we seem to have always been pretty good at that.
How did you first come across the play?
I saw the play back in 1999 in Edinburgh, and I loved it, I have had a copy of the text on my shelf ever since. There have a been a few versions over the years, the original I saw had Josie as 60, there is another version where she is 50 and then the one we are doing where she is 40. So when Bob suggested we looked at it I was quite confused and mildly offended when he said I should look at the part of Josie, as I was reading the 60-year-old version (he was reading the 40).
What was it that made you want to stage a production of it?
As I mentioned I saw the show 20 years ago and I loved it, I’m a big Elvis fan so I loved the music and the story is funny and warm and a little bit naughty. It fits the bill for the type of shows we do, we revive British comedies, and although this has been performed all over the country this is its first London outing. We also look for plays that have strong female roles as gender equality on stage is an important issue to us.Although initially we didn’t think of it as a Christmas show it is perfect for this time of year, the decorations are still up in the house and there’s a lot of festive spirit in the play, the spirit of giving and forgiving.
How does it feel to be staging the first London production of Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis? We were so surprised that it had not been done in London before, so we are very proud to be staging the first London production, hopefully for many of our audience it will be the first time they have seen the play and here’s hoping they love it as much as we do.
What can we expect from the production? Laughter, maybe a couple of tears, we like our plays to have a heart and that heart is often bittersweet. You can also expect a few sex toys and songs thrown in too!
Why should people come along and see it? It’s a perfect adult Christmas show, it has the feel good factor, some rousing Elvis tracks, some rubber outfits and Christmas stockings.. of sorts.
By Emma Clarendon
Kelly Batchelor plays Josie in Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis at Park Theatre from 11 December 2019 – 4 January 2020.