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Melanie La Barrie

Melanie La Barrie

As part of the Shaftesbury Stories project, we’re releasing a weekly interview with someone who has played a role in our Theatre’s story.

This could be anyone – an audience member, a performer, a former or current staff member. We’d like to tell the stories of the people who have made our building what it is today.

If you’re interested in being interviewed for this project, please get in touch! We’d love to hear from you.

Archive

Stage door of the theatre

Daddy Cool

Based on the works of Boney M, Daddy Cool ran at the Shaftesbury Theatre in 2006. It starred Michelle Collins and Melanie La Barrie, and was produced by Frank Farian and Robert Mackintosh.
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The next person in our Shaftesbury Stories series of interviews is Melanie La Barrie, star of Daddy Cool and & Juliet at the Shaftesbury, and all round wonderful human being. 

Tell us about your favourite memory of the Shaftesbury Theatre.

All my favourite memories of the Shaftesbury involve Harry [The Night Stage Door Keeper at the Shaftesbury]. The lovely conversations, the great hugs (remember when we could hug!), the things he taught me. His inimitable smile and irrepressible character. Harry and I have laughed at many a joke and teared up at much of history. I have been blessed by him.

You’ve been in two shows at the Shaftesbury – Daddy Cool and & Juliet. What’s it like to come back to a Theatre you’ve worked in before?

It’s like the memories immediately come flooding back. You start looking for all the things you remember. Rooms in particular. I sit with Miriam all the time, part of her room was my dressing room when I was there last. I remember the laughter. I laughed so much at the Shaftesbury. I make such good friends whenever I work there. It’s a magical place for friendship. They last forever when they’re formed at this wondrous place.

Do you have any stories from Stage Door, of the audience’s reaction during a show, that you’d like to tell?

Stage door at the Shaftesbury is always exciting. I remember the paparazzi during Daddy Cool and the fabulous fans of & Juliet. It’s always pretty hard to organise as well, although our guys at stage door do a phenomenal job. But sometimes you’re just looping around the street trying to get to everyone. I don’t mind it so much. It’s kind of like a Carnival atmosphere out there. Even when it rains!

Melanie with & JULIET Cast Members
Melanie with Tim Mahendran (Francois)
& JULIET Cast at the Show Launch Event

Is there anything that you can tell us about what goes on backstage or in the wings of & JULIET that might surprise the audience?

Gosh I don’t think I ever see anything too surprising. I’m such a boring old lady. I go sit in my little corners all the time and just watch the kids create and enjoy themselves. I’m always chuckling. Or sirening, terrible habit. I’ll tell you what’s great, seeing the speed and efficiency all departments work with during the show. There’s a lot to do, not a lot of space and sometimes not a lot of time! That should be a show in itself.

Even though you work in a theatre all day, do you still enjoy going to the theatre for entertainment? When you’re watching a show, do you think you notice anything that an ordinary audience member might not?

I try not to do that. I try to really just enjoy the experience like an average punter. Most of the time when I go to a show I’m there to watch a friend. I am so filled with pride and wonder at experiencing their talent, that I’m so busy beaming to have time to be critical or notice anything technically. Look for me in the theatres when I’m watching my friends, I’m the one grinning like a Cheshire Cat!

Our stage has seen many amazing performances over the last 109 years. Are there any shows that you wish you had seen, or would love to see again?

I would love to travel back in time to see Peter Straker in Phantom of the Opera, which showed at the theatre in 1991. Peter is a phenomenal talent and I can just imagine him shaking the chandelier with the sheer majesty of his performance.

With theatres closed at the moment, is there anything that you’re missing that has surprised you?

I am a real fan of staying at home and am a bit of a grump in large crowds. But I miss audiences so much. It’s unsurprising really. I miss sharing that one moment with a group of people you’ve never met and in that moment you both go ‘Ah yes, we all feel that’. I miss that implicit contract between theatre makers and the audience member, that nothing we do serves any purpose without the person watching us and appreciating us, or judging us, or just being entertained by us. Right now, the vacuum is real.

Are you finding interesting ways to stay creative and entertained in isolation? Do you have any recommendations for people out there who are missing live performances?

Do follow all of the & Juliet cast on their social media. They are incredible at creating lots of new things. Young people in general are incredible. I’ve not been creating so much. I go on to my Instagram every once in a while and go live and chat to folks. But I’ve pretty much been being still and enjoying my partner Martin’s company, and my own on occasion. I’ve been reading all the books. I’ve been watching all the television. I’ve been scratching at my cello and making an awful sound. It’s great fun. Recommendations? Do whatever makes you happy. If that means sleeping until midday, do that. At this moment, we have to do whatever we can to create joy. And you don’t always have to create joy for others.

Melania with David Bedella (Lance)
Members of the & JULIET Ensemble
The Cast on stage ready to warm up
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