Tuesday, 5 June 2018

INTERVIEW: Jessica Daley, currently playing Lynette in An Officer and a Gentlemen on tour

Jessica is currently starring in the UK touring production of An Officer and a Gentlemen, her other credits include Frenchy in Grease The Musical (Dubai), Factory Girl/Cover Fantine in Les Miserables (International Tour), Ali in Mamma Mia! (West End), Tess Durbeyfield in Tess of the D'Urbervilles (Stepping Out Theatre), Baroness Elberfeld/Cover Maria Rainer in The Sound of Music (UK/Ireland Tour) and Maria Rainer in The Sound of Music (Woking). She took some time out of the tour to answer some questions for us! 

Tell us a little bit about the story of An Officer and a Gentlemen and your character, Lynette.

An Officer and a Gentleman is set in Pensacola, Florida, in the 80s. It centres around the story of Zack Mayo and his quest to ‘get jets’, as he trains to become an Officer in the U.S Navy. Along the way, he falls for local factory girl, Paula Pokrifki, and forms a strong friendship with fellow Officer candidate, Sid Worley. His life is not made easy by drill Sergeant Foley, who works him down to the bone when he arrives with just a little too much swagger!

Lynette is Paula’s best friend, who also works in the paper factory in Pensacola. She dreams of a breaking out and making something more of her life, after a very rough upbringing, and thinks the only way she can do this is by marrying an Officer and to quite literally fly out of there. She’s determined, self-assured and absolutely always up for a good time. She meets Sid Worley and thinks that he might be her lucky ticket out of there!

What was it like to create this character and show with the creatives and cast? What was the process like?

I was part of the last workshop at Curve, one of the best creative establishments around right now, back in August 2017. We sat around a table for a week and a half with the glorious Douglas Day Stewart - the writer of the movie and co-writer Sharleen Cooper-Cohen, reading and working through the text and songs. My love for Lynette became apparent as the week went on. I found myself relating to a lot of different qualities that she has and thus, formed a strong connection to her. I remember vividly at one point defending her and yelling out ‘I just don’t think she would do such a thing!’. It was then that I knew that she’d got me. When the workshop came to a close, I didn’t feel quite ready to let her go, so I was over the moon when I got the call to be a part of the production.

The rehearsal process was a completely new experience to me. I’d only worked on long-running shows previous to Officer and within these shows I’d only ever understudied or alternated major parts, so I’d be lying if I said that stepping into the shoes of a lead character in a brand new piece wasn’t remotely daunting!

But to be given the artistic freedom to create a character from scratch is an absolute gift, to any actor or actress, and this was certainly no exception.

We have the most incredible cast and creative team, led by our wonderful director and Artistic Director of Curve, Nikolai Foster. I’ve been lucky enough to work with Nikolai twice before and he never fails to make you feel valued, supported and trusted as a creative, something that I think reflected on our company as a whole during rehearsals. I also knew a lot of cast members before we began rehearsals, so I felt like I was embarking on this mad new adventure with a massive bunch of mates. It’s funny how that can have such an effect on you, I immediately felt comfortable enough to fall flat on my face on the first day - something I think is really important in any creative process. It really is an ensemble piece and I think Nikolai and the team absolutely nailed putting together this wonderful cast. They are some of the most passionate, honest and committed people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with and as a result, this whole process has felt very special from day one!

How is it taking a new musical on tour around the UK? What kind of reactions have you been getting so far?

It’s been an incredibly exciting few months. The audience reaction has been insane and completely overwhelming. As much as it is a new musical, it’s also a very much loved film so it’s great to be able to deliver the story of such an iconic film to the masses every night.

We’ve really discovered that this is a show for the people. People like you and me. People who have a genuine love for the theatre and the ability to escape for a few hours. People who may not get out to the theatre often or people who may not have EVER been to the theatre.

The shows been going for a little while now, what’s been your favourite discovery about this piece along the way?

It’s a story about triumph for the underdogs and I think audiences relate to this with today’s current climate. Also, being a proud northerner (and nothing against southerners), northern audiences are on ANOTHER LEVEL!

Are there any venues you’re especially excited to visit on this tour?

I’m super excited to get back to the North East. The closest theatre to my hometown of Middlesbrough is Newcastle Theatre Royal. I can’t wait to see lots of familiar faces in the audience there!

As theatre critics here at Pocket, we like to see the show how the audience would. What mind set do you think people should come into this show with?

Leave your everyday life behind for a few hours and come ready to be entertained. I believe that there’s something in this show for everyone. Whether you love the film, you love 80s music or love a happy ending, I can guarantee you will leave the theatre feeling uplifted.

You came to fame on the reality show, Over the Rainbow, the search for Dorothy. You’ve had such a varied career since then, what’s been the highlight so far for you?

Every achievement since Over the Rainbow has been a highlight. I’ve had an incredibly varied, fun-filled 8 years since flying off on that moon, starting with my training at ArtsEd leading right up to this present moment. Each show I have worked on upon graduating has been artistically and logistically different to the previous show and I’ve learnt different things from each show.

Travelling Asia with Les Mis was an awesome experience and one that I know doesn’t come around often, so I felt very lucky to be a part of that. My Mam and Nanna flew out to Singapore to visit me and I just happened to be playing Fantine for a day when they were visiting. I grew up watching the Les Mis 10th Anniversary concert with my Mam every Sunday night, so that was a really special day!

And you’ve had both experiences of going through a reality show and professional training, so what do you think you’ve learnt from both those experiences that you think is invaluable? 

You know, there were some things I learnt during Over the Rainbow that I’d have never learnt at ArtsEd and there were things I learnt at ArtsEd that I’d never have learnt from Over the Rainbow. Both were incredibly big life experiences. I learnt to be very independent during Over the Rainbow, it forced me to grow up and take charge of my own path. ArtsEd helped me to hone my skills, develop my technique and to become more disciplined, skills that I have taken into my career to ensure I can master the classic ‘8 show week’. Both of these experiences also brought me life-long friendships which I am so grateful for!

Do you have any dream roles you’d like to play?

Charity in Sweet Charity, Fanny Brice in Funny Girl and Sally Bowles in Cabaret!

Do you have any onstage embarrassing stories you can share with us?

I once nearly forgot the words to My Favourite Things in The Sound of Music. I mean, how do you manage that?!

And finally, sum up why people should see this show in less than 5 words! 

The cast are MINT!
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