Returning to past glories

Frances Ruffelle. Photo: Caroline True
Frances Ruffelle. Photo: Caroline True
Stuart Piper
Stuart Piper is managing director of Cole Kitchenn Personal Management Ltd
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As an agent, all of my advice to clients is based on one mantra: go forwards not backwards.

Yet sometimes I am faced with a dilemma: if a client has been acclaimed for a particular job, perhaps creating an iconic role in a TV drama or West End play or musical - should I advise them retread old ground?

The answer is not always no.

Generally, the decision should be based on what an audience wants. There's a reason why rock stars sing their biggest hits amongst new material - that old adage: give 'em what they want.

In classic Sean Connery style - sometimes it's good to return to a role, and remind people why you were best Bond.

[pullquote]There's a reason why rock stars sing their biggest hits amongst new material - that old adage: give 'em what they want[/pullquote]

In the land of TV soap, it's a well trodden path. In theatre perhaps less so and many frown upon the idea of 'renewing' a contract, or returning to a role. But when you achieve a 'moment' it is something not to let go of too quickly - especially when there are a great many people who want to see a performance in the flesh, and have thus far not been able to. As Mark Rylance understood when he reprised Jerusalem in the West End post Broadway.

Recently, my client Paul Baker was asked to reprise the role which won him an Olivier Award - Phillip Sallon in Taboo. It was not an easy decision, as when you've been universally acclaimed for a role in a definitive production, it's easy to think that perhaps it's best to quit while you're ahead. Yet such was the brilliance of Paul's performance, and considering the fair amount of time that has passed between productions, that we decided to go for it: and a whole new generation of theatregoers are enjoying his hilarious turn, and those that enjoyed it the first time round are loving the chance to catch it again. With the show extending, great notices for him, and several new award nods under his belt, it turned out to be the right decision and I'm excited to see what might happen for him in 2013.

Meanwhile, Paul also makes a brief appearance in the Les Miserables feature film - alongside someone making a slightly different return of sorts: Frances Ruffelle.

Frances of course created the role of Eponine on stage, at the RSC, in London and on Broadway where she won the Tony Award. You may have spotted her in the trailer for The Most Eagerly Anticipated Film of The Decade standing behind Anne Hathaway, in a brief cameo as Whore #1. Frances is one of several original cast members who pop up in the film: Colm Wilkinson plays the Bishop - and eagle eyed viewers will even spot original Factory Girl Jackie Marks (and first British Fantine who took over from Patti LuPone on its West End transfer) in the Factory scene. The film is jam packed full of West End regulars – our other clients that appear include Fra Fee (Courfeyrac), Iwan Lewis (Bahorel), Rosa O’Reilly & Nancy Sullivan (Prostitutes), Matt Harrop and (my wife) Robyn North in that integral role of ‘Santa’s Whore’ (so proud).

Frances though, is having her own revival of several sorts. She originally won the role of Eponine by singing a song by Edith Piaf, Hymne a l'Amour. And as Les Mis returns to the zeitgeist, so Edith comes back in Frankie's life for the second time - this time as she plays the title role in a major new revival of Piaf starting at Leicester Curve next February.

The Les Mis film credit also helped build momentum for her to return to screen in a bigger role in a new British independent feature film Devil’s Tower which is released in 2013, as she hits the stage in Piaf. So as she retreads familiar ground, she also explores new territory, satisfyingly coming full circle.