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Oliviers 2017: Rebecca Trehearn – ‘plenty of casting directors won’t go to musicals’

Rebecca Trehearn. Photo: MUG Photography

After appearing in musicals including City of Angels, Floyd Collins, Dogfight and Ghost, Trehearn has just received an Olivier nomination for best actress in a supporting role in a musical for her performance in Show Boat. She talks to Tim Bano about working across musicals and plays…

How does it feel to be nominated for an Olivier award?

It’s really surreal. It’s something you dream about at the beginning of your career, and then you look back and think: ‘How the hell did that happen?’

You’ve just been in a play, Diary of a Teenage Girl, at Southwark Playhouse in London. Was it a conscious choice not to do a musical?

It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a really long time. You get pigeonholed very quickly in this business. I’ve auditioned for one play since I left college and that’s the only audition I’ve even been invited to, it really is that restrictive, so when this play came along I leapt at it. I’ve never understood that distinction and judgement that comes with working in musicals, but it’s there, undeniably.

Do you think people are negative towards musicals?

Rebecca Trehearn in Show Boat. Photo: Johan Persson

I do. Plays are afforded this legitimacy from the word go that musicals aren’t. You have to work twice as hard to convince people that it’s something worthwhile. Plenty of casting directors won’t go to musicals full stop. It’s a real shame, this blanket judgement.

Is there a difference getting into character for a musical compared to a play?

Not in terms of character development. I take each performance on its own merits. You have your big commercial ‘tits and teeth’ musicals, but there are plenty of musicals out there that have a really deep and meaningful book. The main difference is that I can get into work later for a play, there’s no physical or vocal warm-up. It’s easier. Musicals tend to be physically harder. There’s a difference between looking after your voice as an actor in a play, and when you’re having to crack out big old songs night after night. It just takes a different sort of stamina and self-care.

You got into performing at your local drama group – how important was that?

It was a life-changer for me. It essentially belonged to the kids, we were paying something like 50p a week for classes and those that couldn’t afford it went for free. We would write a show, cast it from the people in the room, pick out costumes, cobble together a set, run the sound desk, the lighting. It was a hell of an experience. Funding’s being cut left, right and centre for things like that across the country, but it’s so essential.

Before training at drama school you were in a girlband. What was that experience like?

It was a strange, surreal and amazing experience. It taught me a lot about what I don’t want to do. It was at that time when Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Steps were becoming huge, that whole manufactured band thing. We came along a little bit too late, all that had started to peak. It was an amazing experience for an incredibly shy girl, but you realise that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

CV: Rebecca Trehearn

Training: Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, 2004
First professional role: Aladdin, City Varieties Music Hall, Leeds (2004)
Agent: Jonathan Arun


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