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Wicked - Louise Dearman interview

Wicked, Louise Dearman

Interview by Rob Carnevale

AS THE second Wicked Young Writers’ Award is launched today (Monday, March 28, 2011), Louise Dearman, who plays Glinda in the West End production, talks exclusivey to IndieLondon about the importance of the award and her passion for Wicked.

She also discusses her career to date, including learning to dance from the age of three, performing Guys & Dolls with the late Patrick Swayze in Adelaide and singing alongside Michael Ball at the Royal Albert Hall.

Q. Can we begin by talking about the Wicked Young Writers’ Award and its importance?
Louise Dearman: The Wicked Young Writers’ Award was launched last year and it was a huge success. We literally had thousands of fantastic entries. It’s split into five categories, between the ages of 5 and 25, so a huge range of ages. Basically, there are three main aims: to encourage creativity, to develop writing talent in young people all across the UK and Northern Ireland, and just to recognise excellence in writing. And myself, I believe that it’s very, very important to encourage young people to express themselves creatively and to get involved.

Q. You began dancing at the age of three and were in Joseph at the London Palladium at the age of 13. What inspired you? And was it easy for you to follow your dream?
Louise Dearman: I used to go and watch musicals and watch other people and just desperately want to do what they were doing, and so I would dance and sing as a hobby and the train professionally. I think it’s similar with writing. We all read as young kids, we all have these huge imaginations and so much to put out there. I think teachers, parents and guardians should encourage children to do this. I have a niece and nephew now and I’m always reading to them and get them to read to me and to see the books that they’re bringing to me to read to them are the same books that I read as a young person is brilliant. I love it.

Q. Wicked is obviously an inspirational musical. What is the secret behind its global appeal?
Louise Dearman: It all began, or was inspired by Gregory Maguire’s novel, Wicked, which inspired the Wicked Young Writers Awards! The story is incredible, it’s very moving, it’s about the journey that two completely different people go on – to never judge a book by its cover. A young girl who is the most popular girl in school and very used to getting her own way becomes best friends with a girl who she never usually would… a girl who is green, who is an outcast, who really gets bullied. She really takes Elpheba under her wing and they become the best of friends. Lots of children, lots of young people can relate to that, I think, and that’s what makes Wicked so popular with young people, which is why we encourage the to get involved. The music is fantastic, the scenery, the sets… everything comes together to make a phenomenal masterpiece I think.

Q. Had you read the book before joining the production?
Louise Dearman: I had…

Q. Were you a fan?
Louise Dearman: A massive fan. It’s a lot darker than the musical and literally I really had to take my time reading it. I’m very much the kind of person who picks up a book and it’s just a bit of escapism – I just want to read something that’ll take me to a completely different place, whether I’m sat on the Tube or on holiday. But Wicked took me a bit longer to absorb because it’s very intense and quite dark. But it’s absolutely brilliant and that book works so, so well for the stage.

Q. I take it you’d also seen The Wizard of Oz?
Louise Dearman: Of course! Yeah, Wicked is about what happens before, during and after and it’s an incredible story and everyone loves Wicked – whatever age they are, male or female.

Q. What’s your favourite memory of being a part of Wicked so far?
Louise Dearman: Just getting the job, having wanted it for so, so long, and then coming down in that bubble on the first night. But every night I get to do that is just wonderful.

Q. What do you like about playing Glinda? What makes her tick?
Louise Dearman: She’s such good fun to play. She’s perky and excitable and a bit spoilt but she has a heart of gold under there and to see her change and grow throughout the story… I love playing her, I really do.

Q. What surprised you about last year’s Wicked Young Writers Award? And how involved were you in them?
Louise Dearman: Last year, a few cast members were asked to come along and read some of the finalist’s pieces and I read a young girl’s piece called Ruby The Raisin Who Liked Raisins, and it was brilliant. But all the pieces were so completely different, obviously because we have the five age categories, but they were all brilliant in their own way. It was mind-blowing., actually, to see what these young people were coming up with and to realise and appreciate how much writing talent there is out there.

And because it was such a huge success it absolutely had to go on for a second year. We are backed by Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cornwall, she champions it, and also best-selling author Michael Murpurgo. So, we have some great people behind it, who will be here also at the awards. We also have a wonderful presentation ceremony, that’s actually on stage ay this theatre, where we’ll read some of the young finalist’s work and then present the awards.

Wicked, Louise Dearman

Q. What was it like for you looking into the children’s eyes and seeing their reaction as you read their work? It must be a magical feeling…
Louise Dearman: Oh, it’s brilliant and as much as we’re very proud to read them, they’re sat there with their parents, or teachers, or guardians and they’re all very, very proud of what they achieved. But then everyone who submits a piece of work should be very, very proud of it because it’s all come from what they’re feeling ore thinking and it’s incredibly important to encourage people to do it and submit their pieces. I don’t know how they do it, to be honest. I love writing and have written poetry and short stories when I was very small, but I don’t remember being as good as that.

Q. Who inspired you at an early age… either as a writer or from the world of theatre and song?
Louise Dearman: The books I loved to read were things like The Famous Five by Enid Blyton and all the Roald Dahl books. I read all of those and loved them. But I was also very much inspired by singers and actors as well as authors… anything that takes you to another place. I also love performing. In a way, putting your thoughts and creativity down on paper is another way of performing if you don’t want to literally stand on the stage.

Q. So, what’s your earliest memory of being spellbound by something you saw on stage?
Louise Dearman: Well, my first musical I went to see was Cats and I remember thinking: “Wow, I just have to do this!” And then I went on to play Grizabella in Cats.

Q. How was that?
Louise Dearman: Oh, absolutely brilliant! To think I was eight-years-old watching the show and seeing those performers up there… and then got to do that.

Q. You’ve played some amazing roles during your time in theatre, including Eva Peron in Evita
Louise Dearman: That was an incredible six months. It was very, very demanding but that’s what we do this for – to play a hugely diverse amount of roles. And that’s what I’ve done. I loved playing her as much as I love playing Glinda and everything in between.

Q. I gather one of your favourites, though, is Guys & Dolls?
Louise Dearman: Yes! I love, love Guys & Dolls, I really do. It kind of was the first time I really explored myself as an actress. I worked with some incredible directors on that show and had a brilliant, brilliant time playing Sarah Brown. I also got to cover Adelaide and played opposite Patrick Swayze.

Q. Oh wow, really? What was that like?
Louise Dearman: Incredible. He was a fantastic man… very generous off-stage as well as on and an absolute pleasure to play opposite.

Q. You’ve also sang opposite Michael Ball…
Louise Dearman: Again, brilliant, because he’s a good friend and a lovely guy. Touring with him was another fantastic job for me and one of those that’s right up there. We played venues like The Royal Albert Hall and such wonderful venues. It was a brilliant experience.

Q. Do you still get nervous before a performance like that or an opening night?
Louise Dearman: I do… I get a little bit nervous every night. It still hasn’t completely gone. But I think I’d be very worried if I didn’t get nervous. In my head I think it would mean that I didn’t really care because I want the people out there, who have maybe never seen Wicked or read the book, to have an incredible experience and walk away thinking ‘wow’. I would absolutely hate to think that someone walked away disappointed by my performance, so I’ll always give it the best I can.

Louise Dearman

Q. When I saw it, the production was greeted with a standing ovation. Do you have a favourite memory of an ovation you’ve received afterwards? I mean the adulation must occur pretty much every night?
Louise Dearman: Yeah, pretty much every night. But probably opening night, I guess… to get to the end of that first show when the nerves were so intense and to just get through them and see that reaction. I mean, as well as lots of Wicked fans, and people who had never seen the show, there were also friends and family there, which made it very, very special indeed!

Q. When did you first see Wicked?
Louise Dearman: This is quite embarrassing [blushes]. I first saw Wicked the week before I opened in the show! I kind of left it… I got offered the show and started rehearsals and was actually told: “Don’t watch it yet, find your own way to play the character.” So, once I’d established that and found exactly how I was going to play her, I then went to watch it and was just itching to get up there and do it.

Q. Were you surprised by how differently you’d maybe interpreted the role to your predecessor?
Louise Dearman: A little bit, yes. Dianne Pilkington played it before me and she was incredible but completely different to how I play it. So, it’s nice to have found my way before seeing her otherwise I think I might have stolen a few things or tried to mould myself into something else. But it was also amazing to see her and think that the following week I’d be up there doing the same thing.

Q. Can we just say a final word about the awards and how people can enter? What the deadline is…
Louise Dearman: So, entries for the Wicked Young Writers Award have to be submitted by Sunday, July 31, and all information can be found at wickedyoungwriters.com and entries can be submitted ether online or by post. So, people need to get cracking really because there’s not too much time. I think 100 finalists are shortlisted in the autumn and then later on we have the final ceremony here at the theatre.

Q. Do you have any advice for someone who may be inspired but shy about actually putting pen to paper?
Louise Dearman: I would say just go for it. You have absolutely nothing to lose. If you have a story, or a poem, or any subject or theme in your mind, just put it down on paper. You don’t have to do it on your own – you can get your school friends involved, or a friend outside of school. Do it together. There are lots and lots of different ways you can enter.

Find out more about how you can enter The Wicked Young Writers’ Award 2011