For those who don't know it, please could you tell us a little about The Rise and Fall of Little Voice?
Little Voice is a wonderful story about people trying to survive, to find hope and follow their dreams in a northern town in the late 1980s. It is driven by two absolutely wonderful female characters, and even when just read off the page can make me both laugh out loud and cry - it delivers a sucker punch to the guts while making you howl with laughter and serenading you with the most wonderful music.
How different is the play to the film (Little Voice, starring Jane Horrocks, which many people are familiar with)?
The play actually came first, and the film was made second. I think this story is fundamentally connected with live performance – it explores the magic of experiencing a phenomenal talent up close; as a result, I believe the play works in a way the film cannot equal.
The parts of LV and Mari are such brilliant roles – but also very challenging! Could you tell us a bit about the two characters?
Quiet and shy, LV flinches from her mother's excesses and hides as much as she can in her room. Her escape from her chaotic home life are the records her father left when he died – Judy Garland, Edith Piaf, Marilyn Monroe, Shirley Bassey and the divas of the 20th Century. She plays them as loud as she can, and sings in the voices of those confident, brilliant women. Underneath her intense timidity, LV's own voice grows until it is eventually ready to be heard. The obvious challenge with this part is these impersonations – the ability to sing beautifully in a multitude of famous and recognisable voices.
When I first watched the film in my teens, I left thinking about LV and her story, but revisiting the play now in my 30s, I was thrilled to discover that Mari – LV's mother – is equally central to the storytelling. Mari is a chaotic alcoholic on the very edge of coping. She is brash, loud, crude and self-focussed. She's looking for a man, some love, a way out of this life she's found herself in – underneath the screaming and bravura she's broken and vulnerable and desperately sad.
You've directed at Theatre by the Lake several times before – what is it like working here?
I am incredibly lucky to have worked at Theatre by the Lake a lot – my first proper professional directing job was The Bogus Woman in the Studio in 2008, and Little Voice will be my fifth show at the theatre. Working in rep is really special – you get to work with fantastically versatile actors and there is a particular atmosphere amongst a company of actors who know they will be working together across several months.
I love walking so TBTL is the perfect place to be based for a few weeks in the summer. When I am in Keswick my commute to work is a half hour stroll along the old railway line; in a tea break from rehearsals I can take my mug of tea to stand on the shore of Derwentwater and look over at Catbells; and at the end of the day I can take a dip in the lake - it is blissful.
What are you most look forward to about returning to Keswick this summer?
As soon as I arrive in Keswick after a while away I always head up to Castlerigg Stone Circle; the perfect place to clear your head – and your lungs – if you've come from a busy city.