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Kaisa Hammarlund: ‘TV is great, but there’s nothing like the buzz of theatre’

Kaisa Hammarlund in Sweet Charity. Photo: Richard Davenport

Swedish-born Kaisa Hammarlund has spent her career balancing work in both the UK and her home country. After training in musical theatre, she spent time in straight dramas, but now tells Georgia Snow about her return to musicals to star in Manchester Royal Exchange’s Sweet Charity…

What can people expect from this production of Sweet Charity?

This is, I suppose, the classic story of Charity. It’s set in the 1960s and it’s in New York, so it’s not a rethink as such, but it’s not a straight-up revival. It’s more of a rejuvenation. It’s in the round, which for a start is a big deal. That’s something you have to think about from day one, and can be particularly hard for a musical. It’s my first time here at the Royal Exchange. I’ve been to see stuff here before but I’ve never worked on this stage before, so it’s really exciting. The thing with regional theatre now is that it’s just so cool. It’s not perceived how it once was. I haven’t done much in the regions to be honest, so it’s a really nice experience. I’ve been mostly London-based, but it’s so lovely and a great change of scene.

How has your past work prepared you for this role?

I played Elle Woods in Sweden a couple of years ago, and that was a similar sort of part in that you’re hardly ever off stage, it’s relentless. There’s a lot more dancing in this role than I’m used to, so it’s a bit of a triple conundrum for me. But it’s a challenge and that’s what’s fun about it.

You have been working in straight plays more than musicals more recently…

I haven’t actually done musicals for a while now. I started off in musical theatre. Mamma Mia! was my first job, so it’s my first love. I graduated and went straight into musical theatre, which was what I wanted to do, but I wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t get pigeonholed, so have really tried to diversify my CV. I’ve just spent five months doing Holby City, which was the first time I have done regular filming. TV is great, but there is that buzz that you miss if you know what theatre is. There’s nothing like it.

How do you juggle your work in the UK and your work in Sweden?

That is something that I always wanted to do, straddle both countries and go back and forth. Sweden has a thriving theatre scene and I’ve also been going back to do some filming, because there’s a lot of TV, and crime dramas obviously are huge. I grew up in Sweden and trained for two years there before doing a postgrad in London. At first I didn’t dare to make a plan to work here, even though I always wanted to, and then before I knew it 15 years have gone by. It’s nice that now I am able to work in both countries, but I think that’s the climate these days. There’s more exchange today than there has ever been. The world is just a lot smaller, and with self-tapes it’s a lot easier to audition for things. That’s made a huge difference.

CV: Kaisa Hammarlund

Training: Malmo Musical Academy; Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, 2001
First professional role: Mamma Mia!, Prince of Wales Theatre (2002)
Agent: Belfield and Ward

Sweet Charity runs at the Royal Exchange, Manchester, until January 28. royalexchange.co.uk

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