Sophie Kandola is currently in rehearsals for new musical Stardust at Belgrade Theatre Coventry, which claims to be the first south Asian-led production in the UK to feature a same-sex marriage. Kandola tells Giverny Masso how the ‘reincarnation thriller’ is inspired by real-life rumours from the Bollywood industry…
What is Stardust about?
It’s a musical thriller, set in the music industry within the Asian community. It’s going to be one of the first times an Asian LGBTQ+ story is told on stage. Reincarnation is discussed within it. The reincarnation genre is really successful in Bollywood films because of the idea that love, or romance, never dies. There are parallels between the story from 30 years ago and the story from today. It centres around a gay relationship, and whether or not to come out and whether you’ll be accepted within the industry.
Which character do you play?
I play Amor, and all of my scenes are flashback scenes. It’s 1989, so there are great costumes. Amor is described as the Whitney Houston of Bollywood at the time. When working on my character, we talked a lot about stars who faded out too early.
How is the musical inspired by the real-life Bollywood industry?
There are stories you wouldn’t believe from within the actual Bollywood industry itself about these stars who go to great lengths to protect themselves. If you’re held in such high esteem, sort of Michael Jackson-level, then you can get away with so much. One of the characters in the musical, Cyrus, is hiding the fact that he’s bisexual, and he’s got away with murder for 30 years, because people thought there’s no way he could have done it.
How did you get into theatre?
I’ve been doing it my whole life. I started ballet classes, as a lot of little girls do, at three years old, so had quite a dance-heavy childhood. Then I trained at Guildford School of Acting where I developed the acting and singing side of it and graduated three years ago. My first job was Bring on the Bollywood, with the same company as Stardust. We were on tour for six months and I loved touring and seeing the country. It’s amazing when you come out of drama school and realise you’ve changed your hobby into your career. Earlier this year I toured the musical Fame in Italy and I’ve recently been branching out, hoping to do a bit more screen work.
What has been the biggest career challenge for you?
Realising that the auditioning is part of the job. It’s about getting used to all the rejections. It’s just that you want so much to do the job that you’ve trained for. It’s about learning that you need to play the audition game. It was at least nine months after I left drama school before I got my first job, and I’m not from London originally, I’m from Leicester, so I was living away from home. It’s also knowing that you can’t possibly compare yourself to anyone else; everyone is hired because they can do their own part.
Training: BA in musical theatre at Guildford School of Acting, 2013-16
First professional role: Bring on the Bollywood, Rekha (2017)
Agent: Mark German Management
Stardust runs at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, from September 14 to 21. For further information: belgrade.co.uk/event/stardust.co.uk