Interview with Natalie Anderson and cast of Exposure the Musical
As new musical Exposure: Life Through a Lens prepares to open for previews at the St James Theatre this Saturday (16th July 2016), we catch up with lead performers Natalie Anderson, David Albury, Michael Greco, and Niamh Perry to find out about the challenges involved with creating a brand new musical. Having watched a selection of numbers (see our exclusive behind the scenes of rehearsals here), we were interested to find out how the show resonates with a modern audience and speaks to the challenging contemporary political climate.
Dom O'Hanlon: How does it feel to be working on such a unique and original piece of musical theatre?
Natalie Anderson: It's exciting in the sense that you're originating something; as actors you don't always get that opportunity as you're often stepping into someone else's shoes. You hear about these big musicals and people talk about 'the original cast', and it's very exciting to be an original cast member of something that you get to put your stamp on and make changes, you can raise questions and say 'does that logically flow', having the freedom to change things.
Niamh Perry: I totally agree. I've done it before, but it took me a while to get back into that creative mindset where I realised that the script could change, the songs could change, the order could change...I think for us it definitely taps into a different aspect of your brain, you realise that you've achieved more in your day. That glass of wine at the end of the day feels deserved!
DOH: How much freedom did you get to bring your own skills, experience and qualities to the roles?
David Albury: Right off the bat, when we first read the script we realised it was a hugely imaginative piece, that's what makes it a wonderful piece of new theatre. It's actually not cutting any corners, it really commits to being something innovative and different, for a number of reasons. From a technical aspect and a story aspect, it operates on the stratosphere of imagination. What they looked for when they cast this was for everyone to have something unique that they could bring to the table. Everyone has something incredible and unique to contribute to this, so we all get a good hand in offering suggestions and helping with this or that, things that the creatives can take or leave.
Michael Greco: It took Mike about 12 years to get this together, wouldn't it be nice if we had 12 years to rehearse it?! The thing about it is it's always getting better, it's always growing. The first night will be different to the tenth night, the twentieth night and so on. As actors we're still trying out things – I personally think we're not even halfway there yet, it's going to be that good, I'm excited to see the finished product.
NA: There's a solo I've got in the show and I sing it completely differently now than how I did originally, the feel of it is different and we've been able to bring our strengths to the role instead of struggling against them. It's much easier to go with actually what you've got to really commit to it and give it. That's what has been fantastic, for example lyrics, us being able to offer what we think might work better from a story point. It's really amazing.
NP: You never get that when you step into a role, so it's amazing to be able to think and say that you've helped create something.
DA: It's also a credit to the creative team who we have working with us – they're so open and generous with the discussion and the conception of this show that of course that can add time difficulties – but it's always better to have a million ideas thrown at one problem or a solution.
NA: Within the song “Rainmaker” for example, we all have our own things that we bring to the piece now, that's come through the writers and the musical directors seeing what we have all brought and it's come out of this rehearsal room.
NP: It's scary having that responsibility!
DOH: Mike spoke about how the piece is initially set in 2006 and Tony Blair's Britain. How does the show resonate with audiences in 2016, particularly in light of the current and ever shifting political climate?
NA: I think we're in a very similar position to be honest! That's what I really like about this show, the political aspect of it – that the media is so influential to how we all think. We've just experienced it all with Brexit – the media showing us images and saying “look at this” and trying to tell us how to think. You can then go back to the World Wars and see the propaganda that was used. I do think the media have to have a sense of responsibility – that's what Miles' character brings, it's explored in the show how he is a bit of a 'Svengali' and puppeteers everything. The hope is that the audience question whether they buy into that – do they buy the pictures? Do they buy the newspapers? Just for them to stop and think for a moment.
DA: Mike started writing this quite a while ago, but the fact that we're talking about how current it is, it feels so right for now – that's what is really exciting about doing this piece of theatre right now, it feels so relevant, all the core central themes feel so 'now'.
NA: In Pandora's character and the '27 Club', you see her demise in the piece and it should resonate with audiences who think that they've seen it before, and how it has played out in the media who have taken advantage of her. Have they violated somebody and have they exploited somebody for their own gain? It's happening now, and we see it every day in the papers.
NP: I find it quite heartbreaking and scary that some of the scenes I have to do, being blinded by flash lights, it scares me that that is somebody's lives. I hope that that is something that we can put through that it's a scary world which we live in, especially in London – the scary nature of the paparazzi and I never thought about it before we touched on it here.