Monday, 14 October 2019

INTERVIEW: Harriet Thorpe, currently starring in MAME at the Hope Mill Theatre

Harriet Thorpe is best known for her roles as Carole in the BBC’s The Brittas Empire and Fleur in Absolutely Fabulous. Harriet has performed extensively with French and Saunders, in Girls on Top, Mirrorball and The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle. Most recently, Harriet has appeared on television as guest lead Miranda Hill in Doctors (BBC One), Betty in Hollyoaks (Channel 4), Casualty, Our Friend Victoria, The Three Musketeers, Celebrity Antiques Road Trip alongside Gok Wan, The Secrets – The Conversation, Doctors, Material Girl and Midsomer Murders. She also worked with Victoria Wood in Victoria Wood’s Mid Life Christmas. Her extensive theatre credits include Mamma Mia, Wicked, Crazy for You, Ruthless!, Sweeney Todd, Les Miserables, Cabaret, The Girls, The Dresser, All my Sons, Richard II, Great Britain and many more. 

You’re starring in the first professional revival MAME at the Hope Mill Theatre, with a short tour following. How does it feel to be a part of this production?

It’s an honour and a joy. It has a wonderful cast and creative. It’s spellbinding and heartwarming. 

And for those who don’t know, tell us a bit about the show. 

It’s a classic 60’s musical about friends, love and purpose in life. 

You’re playing the role of Vera, could you tell us a bit about her? 

She’s a lovely lush with a lot of laughs.

Your career is one that people dream of. Spanning from TV and films to musical theatre and plays. Looking back, what are some of the most poignant jobs that you’ve done? 

It sounds like a cop-out but it’s every job that I do. They have all resonated on some level and strike a chord of human emotion, not matter whether a comedy or tragedy. 

And are there any jobs you regret doing? 

No, never. You always learn from every job – even if they are difficult or testing you learn about yourself and your craft, and that all that matters. 

You’ve experienced such variety in the jobs you’ve done, for example Wicked and Mamma Mia!, two shows people absolutely adored you in. What’s it like for you to jump from all these different genres?

That’s the actor’s job – it’s what we do. For me it’s not about which genre, it’s about what we can take from the pieces. 

Looking back at some of the characters you’ve played, which ones are the most and least like you as a person? 

Every character I play, inhabits an essence of me because it comes from your imagination. Having said that, for example, I’m not a murdering Shakespearean Queen in real life, but I understand her motives to help her children survive. It’s about imagination and emotion, combined. 

And if you had to return to one show you’ve previously done, which one
would you chose?

I loved the Brittas Empire and Ab-Fab. I loved doing Wicked and Mamma Mia and Les Mis – there’s no way I can choose. Each one gives you something different. 

A more mainstream thing people know you from is your TV work, most likely Absolutely Fabulous and The Brittas Empire! What difference have you experienced with TV work to theatre? 

In essence, it’s the same job but a slightly different craft. For example, you don’t use the same projection in the Olivier Theatre as you do talking to Mr Brittas. 

And do you have a preference between the two? Stage or Screen work?

In short, no!

You’re also quite well known in the industry for donating your time to charities, working for Mousetrap Theatre projects, events for the MADTrust and being an ambassador for Walk the Walk and Acting for Others. How important is it to you to use your platform as an actor for these causes?

I just find it incredibly important in society to give back wherever I can. 

What advice would you give someone who wanted to become an actor and looked up to you? 

Follow your heart. Go where you are wanted, not where you want. 

In one sentence, why should people come and see MAME?

It’s witty, wise and wonderful.
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