Sunday, 13 November 2022

INTERVIEW: Parisa Shahmir, currently playing Alwyn in Fisherman's Friends the musical on its UK and Ireland Tour

Parisa Shahmir is currently playing the role of Alwyn in the UK and Ireland tour of Fisherman's Friends the musical after also being part of the show in its UK premiere in Cornwall. Her other credits include Gerda in The Snow Queen, (The Rose Theatre), Layla in We Live in Cairo (American Repertory Theater), Young Meg in The Last Ship, (Northern Stage, UK & Ireland Tour) and Mamma Mia! (UK Tour, NGM/ Littlestar).

Having not long opened the show, we caught up with Parisa and chatted about all things Fisherman's Friends! 

Fisherman’s Friends the musical is based on a true story and the 2019 hit film, what was your experience of the story before auditioning for the show?

I’d actually never seen the movie before auditioning, but my parents had and they loved it, my dad in particular! I was careful not to tell him about the audition until after I’d got the job because I didn’t want to get his hopes up. Needless to say, he was thrilled when I got the part. He plays the shanties in the car all the time, Drunken Sailor is his favourite.

Tell us a little bit about the show and your character, Alwyn.

The show tells the story of a sea shanty band made up of a group of Fishermen from Port Issac, Cornwall and their voyage to greatness with the help of Danny Anderson, an A&R representative from Island Record. My character, Alwyn, is the daughter of one of the fishermen, Jim Penburthy. She goes on an emotional voyage of her own throughout the piece. Similar to me, she is a singer-songwriter and plays and sings for the folks at the local pub, the Golden Lion, regularly. She’s got a tough exterior but she feels fiercely and deeply and music really is everything to her. Alwyn is an incredible character to get to play every night and I honestly resonate with her and her story so much. This is such a luxury as an actor and I feel so lucky to get to play a part that feels like it has so much of me in it.

When you received the audition, what interested you most about the show?

I love working on new writing, so Fisherman’s Friends, being a new stage production, was immediately interesting to me. I also LOVE folk music and having a show made up of actor-musicians is also incredibly exciting and magical. So that, combined with the beautifully nuanced script I read upon receiving the audition, it was a no-brainer for me really.

You were with the show when it did a run in Cornwall last year, how has the show progressed since that run?

It’s a real luxury to be able to do a development run of a show before doing a long tour like we’re on now, because it gives you the opportunity, as a company and creative team, to try things onstage and see what works and what doesn’t. So, coming back to it this time, the show has come on leaps and bounds. There are a couple of new songs and some great rewrites to the script and it definitely feels stronger and slicker than ever now.

Our script writer Amanda Whittington is a force to be reckoned with and she writes with such depth and understanding. All the characters are incredibly nuanced and a real joy to play with and explore on stage.

You’re touring with the show through to Spring next year, are there any venues you’re most looking forward to?

I’m really excited to take the show back to Cornwall where we did our development run last year. That was a truly amazing experience and the people there really loved and resonated with the songs & the story.
Anywhere by the ocean or open bodies of water, I’m excited to visit, that’s my happy place! So Newcastle, Cardiff, Brighton and Cornwall are all up there on the list!

I also have family and friends in the North so I’m excited to go to venues such as Manchester & Glasgow to get to share the show with them.

You’re also heading over to Canada with the show and spending the holiday season in Toronto. What are you most looking forward to with that?

Weekly touring can be a little intense sometimes, so a 7 week sit down in Toronto will be lovely. I’ve never been to Canada before so I’m really looking forward to going. I’m sure a cast trip to Niagara Falls will be on the cards, but I’ve also heard that it will be -20 degrees at best so I’m planning to buy some new thermals and a snowsuit of some description in preparation!

You’re no stranger to touring having been part of the UK tour of Mamma Mia for two years, what would be your top tips for touring in a show? 

Book your digs (accommodation) in advance and make them good! Touring a show can be hard and tiring at the best of times, and it makes such a difference to have a comfortable space to return to after the show every night.

Something a friend of mine also recently suggested to me is to tour with your own pillow with good neck support – sounds silly but moving to different digs/beds every week can be tricky on your body and having a pillow that supports you makes the world of difference when you’ve got 8 shows a week! Also, don’t be afraid to ask for space when you need it. Touring can be so fun, and there’s always lots going on, social events, drinks, company meals etc. But when you’re touring with the same group of people for a while in a high-pressure environment, tensions are bound to get high and frustrations will arise. Learn to ask for what you need and take time for yourself to rest, recover and decompress – that’s a big thing I’ve learned on this tour so far and it’s serving me so well.

Looking through your CV you’ve been part of many workshops, with this and the fact you’re part of the original cast of Fisherman’s Friends, what makes you continue to work on new pieces?

I love being a part of a new creative process. There is something amazing when you work on a new piece of writing, where you’re all collaborating in the room together. The writer, the director, the actors etc. It’s a real group effort and you get to bring so much of yourself and your creative ideas to the table. It’s something I think I’ve really resonated with since I started writing music myself in the past couple of years. Originating a role in a new musical has been a dream of mine, and for it to be this part in this show is really something quite special. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity.

You’ve only just opened the show ahead of its UK tour, what has the reaction been like so far?

We opened the show in Plymouth and we were quite spoiled with our audiences there as, being so close to Cornwall where the play is set, it was received so well. However saying that we’ve just finished our 3rd performance in Birmingham as I’m writing this and we’ve had standing ovations every night (in Plymouth and Birmingham) so we are feeling truly spoiled. Having only ever performed in the South West with this show, we were a little unsure it would be received by places further north, but if Birmingham is anything to go by, we’re doing alright so far! It will be exciting to continue to bring the show to new places and see what the different reactions are!

And finally, in one sentence, why should people come and see Fisherman’s Friends?

This is the feel good story the world needs right now – full of heart, soul and shanties, this is a night at the theatre you won’t regret.
Blog Design by pipdig