Kathryn Evans On ... Walking into SunsetDate: 15 December 2008
Actress Kathryn Evans has been a regular on the musical stage since taking over as Argentina's first lady Eva Peron in Hal Prince's original West End production of Evita. Since then, her West End credits have included Radio Times, Anything Goes, Aspects of Love, Mack and Mabel, The Fix and Follies. She's currently starring as Norma Desmond in Craig Revel Horwood's Watermill revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard, which opens at the Comedy Theatre this week.
Norma Desmond has always been on my radar of roles to play. I think when Sunset Boulevard first happened I was considered too young. Then I was actually seen for the tour which happened about eight years ago, but didn't get it. So I was absolutely delighted to be asked to play it now - I don't think anybody could say I'm not old enough!
It's a much smaller production than many Sunset Boulevards of the past. The original had a wonderful staircase and massive sets, but we've stripped that all away which makes you hone in on the story and the characters I think it becomes a much richer piece because of that. It certainly doesn't seem to lose anything musically either, although it was originally written for a large orchestra. They make the most incredible sound with only twelve musicians. Being an actor-musician piece it does add a new dynamic to the piece. I personally am not playing any instruments - I don't play anything proficiently enough - though there was talk for a time about me banging a triangle or something!
Norma is up there as one of the great tragic heroines in musical theatre and I've been lucky enough to play quite a few in my career. There was Evita, which was my first big break in the West End and that was a pretty hard act to follow. About ten years after that I played Rose in Aspects of Love, which was a wonderful role. I have much to thank Andrew Lloyd Webber for, since my favourite jobs have been in his musicals he writes such great character roles for women.
Working with Craig (Revel Horwood) is an absolutely delight. I'm not the kind of actress who's great in the rehearsal period, I prefer to get up on the stage. But with this, I couldn't wait to get to rehearsals because we've had such a ball. He's great, and I think he was the perfect person for this piece because his choreographic background is so important when you're trying to move a double bass on and off the stage! And he's just lovely in the sense that you can have a great laugh with him yet you respect him at the same time. When he claps his hands and says lets go on you just do it - it's a lovely balanced atmosphere he creates in the rehearsal room.
As for the future, I would still love to play Rose in Gypsy and Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd, though to be honest I'm thinking of semi-retiring. I live in the depths of Suffolk and it really has to be something extremely special, like this, to drag me away. I have a husband and six dogs and I miss them horribly, so it's only parts like this that make it worth it. But you never know what will come along. There were always two roles that I really wanted to play. One was Annie Get Your Gun, and the other was Lilli Vanessi in Kiss Me Kate, but I guess I'm a little too old for those now, so when I was asked to do this it was just a gift. More so, because I had a car accident a couple of years ago and I broke my leg in two places along with my collarbone, and for a long time I lost my nerve. I didn't know if I could get back up on the stage again, let alone in a part like this. So for it to have been a success at the Watermill and to now be opening in the West End is just a dream.
Sunset Boulevard opens tonight at the Comedy Theatre (15 December 2008, previews from 4 December), where it's currently booking until 18 April 2008.