To celebrate the recent opening of Mrs Henderson Presents at the Noel Coward Theatre in London, I spoke to three of ‘The Windmill Girls’, Lizzy Connolly, Lauren Hood and Katie Bernstein, to find out how they’ve found baring all for this Great British show, finishing off with the lovely Lauren, who plays Vera
How has the show been going for you?
It’s been going really, really well. The audience seem to be really loving it and the atmosphere backstage is always super fun. Maybe a bit too fun at times to call it work!
With such a buzz on and off stage, how do you wind down after a show?
We were talking about that earlier this morning and I think everybody has a different feeling at the end of the show. I’m normally quite tired, so I’ll go home and within half an hour I’ll have had a shower and am already tucked up in bed. Sometimes I do read a bit, just to give my mind something else to focus on, but I’m always quite good after the show at leaving it at the door, relaxing and getting back to myself.
Has the role been challenging for you, especially as it deals with some sensitive subjects?
Absolutely. We’ve been so lucky as we’ve had so many of the articles and we’ve actually met The Windmill Girls, and now being in London you’re right in the heart of it. You can imagine what it would have been like, even more so now, as when we were in Bath it was a completely different environment but now being in London and being surrounded by the areas where the musical is set, it really has brought it home.
It is a challenging role but the nudity is the most challenging aspect of it, though the role itself probably isn’t too far away from me at times. Vera’s the one who’s not keen on the nudity and that’s how I was in rehearsals, so some of the time I’m probably not acting, I’m just being myself.
That must really help you get into the role?
Completely. My favourite scene is still the rehearsals scene because you see the characters being so socially awkward and saying things that they wouldn’t normally say, and it was very similar to what it was like when we were doing it in rehearsals – openly saying something about yourself and thinking I have no idea why I’ve just shared that, so that side of the character has been quite relatable. And these girls are real anyway. It’s not like these big musicals where characters are a heightened version of a geek or a heightened version of the popular girl, these are real women and real men, so it’s that in a sense that was refreshing and easier to approach.
How did you react when you were first approached to do the nudity?
We did the first round of auditions then from that day they called us in to discuss the nudity and Terry had had some pictures made up of what he expected the show to look like, and even just from the pictures they are true to what is on stage. It looked beautiful and it looked elegant, and that appealed to me more than anything because I thought actually this is me doing something that I never thought I would do but in a really safe and controlled way, as opposed to anything a bit risqué and a bit raunchy. We knew what to expect before we took the job and what is so nice is that all of us girls were kind of the same. I thought I’d turn up and maybe be the only one who’s never done nudity before, but that was the complete opposite – I think there’s only Emma that’s ever done it before, so the rest of us we were all going through the whole motion of it together.
Which must have been a great support?
Oh yes, we’re all close anyway but I think that’s what has brought us even closer, because we all have so much respect for each other and know that some days you’re not as keen to take your dressing gown off as you were the day before, and everybody is just so supportive to each other. Though I’m not saying that we don’t like doing it, it’s not that at all, but even now the nerves are still there with it which I hope never go. I hope we’ll always feel nervous because then you’re never acting being nervous.
Have you always wanted to do a show like this?
I’ve always wanted to do something completely new. I’ve done revivals of things and been on a new tour of something, but I’ve never done something completely from scratch and devised a character of my own, and for a lot of us that’s new and that’s been just amazing. I like thinking that, what I’m saying now and what I’m singing, that’s it, that’s going to be kind of a Vera stamp. It’s so nice to have been able to devise something from scratch.
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Images: Paul Coltas