Rebecca Trehearn and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt on playing strong-willed women in ‘Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cinderella’
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella is set in Belleville, a quaint French town under matriarchal rule. The Queen governs the ‘"Most Attractive Town" and values looks over personality, while the wicked Stepmother controls Cinderella's life. These determined women stop at nothing to get what they desire, even if it’s at the expense of other people’s fortunes.
“I enjoy the fact that the Queen claims her power,” said Trehearn, who plays the Queen in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cinderella. While the monarch may be spiteful at times, this production is a feminist, revisionist take on the original fairy tale. The women who are at the centre of what happens, even if they’re not always “good”.
“I always wanted to be the Disney villain. I had an infatuation with the villains growing up as a child”, said Hamilton-Barritt, who recently earned an Olivier nomination for her role as the Stepmother in Cinderella. But there’s no villainous spite between Trehearn and Hamilton-Barritt — speaking to them together is like speaking to best friends that have known each other for a lifetime.
We sat down with Trehearn and Hamilton-Barritt about working closely with one another, as well as creating new roles, and the joy of musical entertainment in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cinderella.
Cinderella is at the Gillian Lynne Theatre.
How have your accomplished careers prepared you to take on these roles?
Rebecca Trehearn: We’re both the elder stateswomen in our show. We’re the nannas.
Victoria Hamilton-Barritt: They actually call us “aunty” in this cast!
Trehearn: It’s slightly terrifying, but playing those maternal roles where they’re both terrible mothers puts a little bit of professional / life experience. Ironically, I’m a stepmother!
Hamilton-Barritt: It just takes time. I graduated 22 years ago so it’s a long schlep of experience that we’ve both gathered along the way. Then you come here and there’s a whole load of babies in the cast and they’re calling you aunty. I tell you now, it’s a strange feeling.
Trehearn: There isn’t a between, it’s like I’ve gone from being the baby to being the mummy.
Hamilton-Barritt: It’s mad! Nobody warned us, and it’s absolutely crazy. I definitely am very aware of the feeling of stepping into a different age category now, and it’s okay. I just wish someone had warned me!
Your duet, “I Know You”, is a standout moment in the show. What is it like performing that song together?
Trehearn: It’s my favourite moment in the show. It’s great fun to lean into that awful, passive-aggressive thing that I suppose we all feel like at times in life but most people try to keep a lid on it. So to really let that have free rein, that cattiness is so much fun.
Hamilton-Barritt: It’s so much fun and it’s silly. Every night I look forward to doing that part of the show. What makes it super magical is just watching the audience lose it and getting it together. When there’s a silly audience, it’s dynamite. We’re all in the same joke. It’s such fun.
Have there been any funny mishaps onstage during that song?
Hamilton-Barritt: We sip tea throughout the number so when we’re not singing, we’re sipping the tea. One night, the tea went down the wrong way and I just started choking. All my years flashed before my eyes and I was like "you’ve got to get it together!"
Rebecca’s looking at me with her eyes getting wider by the moment and trying to give me too much energy because she doesn’t wanna make a point of this. I just remember thinking I’ve gotta get it together! My gosh, it was a creepy moment.
Trehearn: I’ve come close to stacking it a few times because that dress is big and it likes to trip me up.
Who do you think makes each other laugh more, both on and off stage?
Trehearn: Vic makes me laugh more, she’s just got funny bones. I’m quite serious and very different to my character, and you are too!
Hamilton-Barritt: Thank God we manage to do the bloody number, otherwise it would be a flipping nightmare. I love Rebecca taking the role of being in charge — if we didn’t have that backbone between the two characters, I’m not gonna be helpful if we start corpsing on stage.
If I’m tired and I’ll say something peculiar which is not what’s in the script, I’ll run with it. I’m grateful to Rebecca for her backbone. Between the two personalities, someone needs to take charge. She’s good at that! She keeps me together.
What do you enjoy about playing strong-willed women?
Trehearn: I enjoy the fact that the Queen claims her power. She has no fear of offending people or upsetting people. She just is who she is and she speaks her mind whether it’s cruel or not. She just comes out with it. I don’t envy it, but I’ve learnt something from it. It’s not always important to be liked by everybody. I like her fearlessness and she’s utterly selfish which is quite fun to play as well.
Hamilton-Barritt: We’ve got full ownership over the characters that we created. We’re in a lucky position that we’re the original cast and that we can do that. You don’t have to remember who did it before because there was no one who did it before.
I always wanted to be the Disney villain. I had an infatuation with the villains growing up as a child and I knew I was in a niche which wasn’t your typical musical theatre girl. I’m certainly marmite; you either get me or you don’t and that works perfectly well in regards to the Stepmother to have fun and play with the light and shade of her personality.
When you create these roles, you’re living them. It’s quite absorbing and especially the extreme character for the Stepmother. Sometimes I take it home, but time has passed.
Photo credit: Rebecca Trehearn and Victoria Hamilton-Barritt in Cinderella (Photos by Tristram Kenton)
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