There have been two American Michaels roaming the streets of the UK over the past few weeks. We last saw them on the stage, but now they have stepped from the boards in front of the cameras proving that it’s not only the bright lights of the theatre scene that are a big draw for Hollywood talent.
Michael C Hall and Michael Esper appeared on stage together last year in the musical Lazarus, which played to sold out audiences at the temporary space King’s Cross Theatre. Michael C Hall is busy in Manchester filming Safe for Netflix, and Michael Esper has been spotted in and around London filming the Getty’s family saga, Trust for the FX network. It’s great to see them return to the UK in any capacity, cementing that the UK’s entertainment industry is thriving, and vital to the country. I sat down and talked to both Michael’s about their experience in Lazarus when we visited the show on the anniversary of Bowie’s death, and it was clear that one thing that the musical did was remind us how prolific David Bowie was with his songwriting - and how influential an artist he was to whatever he chose to turn his hand to.
Robert Icke has a great track record here in the UK, having had an Olivier Award nomination for 1984 back in 2014 for Best New Play (where he also picked up the Best Director gong at the UK Theatre Awards), but today I want to bring you a little chat we had during the warm up of the play where he won the Olivier Award for Best Director. Oresteia, which showed at Trafalgar Studios a little less than two years ago, also brought a classic story, this time a Greek tragedy, to the stage. And, once again, cameras were a feature of this production. Less CCTV cameras of Big Brother, but broadcast cameras so that the killing of a child could be witnessed by the population as a leader’s sacrifice to help win a war. It was harrowing stuff, and extremely hard to watch, but was riveting theatre – something in which Robert Icke has made a name for himself.
This week, London’s West End says goodbye to a performance garnered an Olivier Award for the portrayal of Lola, the iconic and unforgettably eccentric drag queen in Kinky Boots. Matt Henry is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. And his hard work and dedication to the role of Lola has earned him numerous awards, including the aforementioned Olivier, the WhatsOnStage award not to mention a host of nominations as well as being on a Grammy nominated cast album! Not bad.
CURTAIN CALL BACKSTAGE CHAT WITH MATT HENRY
CC: This show has a long history, doesn't it? It started out as a film, it's been a play and musical. It's done the works, hasn't it?
MH: The show is based on a true story. And it follows the life of Charlie and Lola and their relationship - their friendship, actually. There was a film back in 2005 with Chewitel Ejiafor. I don't know what to say, except that it's a great show to be a part of...and the message in the show about being yourself.
CC: It's quite relevant for today, isn't it?
MH: Do you know what? I think the show is relevant in the sense that it deals with relationship issues. Relationships between friends. Relationships between lovers. Relationships between fathers and their expectations, our parents’ expectations of us. I think it transcends throughout our daily lives. Even as an actor myself, my mother has an expectation of me to be a success. That's all she wants for me regardless of what I'm doing. She just wants me to be successful in that realm of whatever I'm doing. I think that when people come see the show that's what they connect with. The fact that "Oh my god, we all have parents and I want to achieve. And it's okay for me not to achieve what they set our for me, but to be happy doing what I love doing and my parents to be happy for me." For me, personally when I sing "I'm Not My Father's Son", these are the things that come to me in that moment. Because I don't really have a fantastic relationship with my father, but I have an amazing relationship with my mother who has become a patriarch...as a maternal but a very patriarchal person in my life as well.
CC: My last question: How do you guys keep up that energy? There's not many lulls, which is great when "Not My Father's Son" comes because you really get sucked into that. But then you come out high kicking!
MH: We don't ever want the audience to have time to think. Sometimes when you think, you overanalyse. One of the things Jerry (Mitchell, director) got us to do is that he's very onto us about pace. With my show, as soon as I come out, my show doesn't stop. It's like the train's arrived and we go. Only at the end of the show do I get to have a break. When I'm not on stage I am getting changed. When I'm on stage, I'm probably getting changed and doing other things as well. But it's such a fast-paced show. What's really good about comedy is that sometimes, if you try to over-play beats, the audience have got the joke before you've got there. So you've got to always try and beat them. I think that's what so fantastic about this show and the way it's been written is that we're able to get to our beats and the audience join us but we've moved on. I think that helps this show. I have friends who have come three times, and every time they go, "Oh! I didn't realise that bit. I didn't see that bit." Because it's all happening, there's so much information that's being given to you as an audience member. That's why people come back because they're like "Oh my god, I was only watching you." or "I was only watching that person. I didn't see that bit. I want to see it again. I need to see it again. I need to hear the songs again." So there's so much that this show is offering as a mindscape of information.
CC: Thank you so much for you time.
MH: I hope I didn't waffle on. Sorry. (laughs)