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Isolation Interviews: Kate Robson-Stuart

Next up on the Isolation Interviews, I have actor and musician Kate Robson-Stuart. Kate was recently part of the original UK cast of Amelie The Musical which toured the UK in 2019 and transferred to London's The Other Palace where it got 3 Olivier Award Nominations. Her previous credits include Once (New Wolsey, Ipswich and Queens Theatre, Hornchurch), Crazy For You (UK Tour), Untold Stories (Watermill Theatre) and Chess (UK Tour and Toronto).

Q - What was the first show that you have memory of seeing?
A - I have various memories of going to The King's Theatre in Glasgow as a kid with my family to see touring productions of musicals. My Dad loved music and he would get obsessed with something just like me; on more than one occasion we would make a return visit in the week of a touring show. We would normally sit up in the Gods, and a distinct memory is ‘Return to the Forbidden Planet.’ That was probably the first time I saw actors playing music live on stage and I was totally mesmerised. I loved it. I had no idea at the time that Bob Carlton who created and directed the show would become a bit of a mentor to me and would direct me four times. When I went to GSA to study musical theatre I still didn’t really think I would necessarily do a lot of ‘actor-muso’ work, but I saw John Doyle’s production of Sweeney Todd on tour in Woking while I was training and again I was completely absorbed by it. It was a whole new world of actor-musicianship in terms of integrating the actors playing within the show. Again, Sarah Travis who arranged that became a massive inspiration to me and I’ve been lucky to work with her twice. I always wanted to be an actor and was writing plays and forcing my poor friends to put them on in the playground from about five years old. Music was a big part of my life and as I said, my Dad was a big music fan so my sister and I both grew up steeped in that. I never really thought I’d be able to combine both, but actor-musician work has become a big part of our industry and I’ve ended up playing in quite a few of my jobs now. One of my first auditions out of drama school was for Rufus Norris’ production of Cabaret in the West End in which he wanted a few of the Kit Kat girls to play portable instruments and dance at the same time. I hadn’t really played my violin for two years and I narrowly lost out on the gig after four rounds of auditions. Rufus Norris gave me the first feedback I ever received from an audition process...’ practice your violin’. That was probably the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given!

Q - What is your favourite musical movie?
A - My favourite movie musical is definitely Bugsy Malone. Another childhood obsession. Children singing and playing New York gangsters with splurge guns shouldn’t work but it does. I was desperate to play Tallulah!

Q - What are your favourite show tunes?
A - In terms of show tunes, I love a classic standard, so all the Cole Porter and Gershwin stuff is a treat. I love getting a shot at a big ‘number’ and maybe my favourite part ever was playing ‘Little voice’ and having a crack at impersonating some of the greats.

Q - You recently completed the UK Tour/Other Palace run of the wonderful production of Amelie. How was the experience?
A - My most recent job ‘Amelie’ was an interesting process because it was a massive collaborative experience of completely reworking something that already existed in a very different form. It had been a big Broadway, very musical theatre style production and we were creating a small, quirky actor-muso piece of theatre with all-new orchestrations and a markedly different feel. That was a full-on experience, but also obviously one that was exciting to be part of and to feel a sense of ownership over. I do think it is a beautiful piece of theatre and I’m proud to have been part of something that I feel benefits from being actor-musician based and integrates that fully. I know that if I had watched Amelie from the auditorium then I would want to be in it!

- The show picked up 3 Olivier nominations (richly deserved!). I bet that was the cherry on top for you all as a company after all the work you put in?
A - Being nominated for three Oliviers is brilliant and a lovely acknowledgement of the work that went in from everyone involved.

Kate and the company of Amelie. Photo by Pamela Raith

Q - 
You've worked on some shows that use the actor-musician method. Is that an easy style to adapt too for you as an actor?
A - Apart from creating the characters, as musicians, we were very much adapting and adding to the piece all the time, so it really does feel like we’ve all created the production and to have that production recognised by the industry is a lovely thing. I personally love the challenge of doing four things at once and I love trying to integrate my playing with a sense of character and the movement of that character. It’s one of my favourite things to do. If you can create something that means the action or essence of a character is driven forward by the playing of an instrument, rather than them becoming separate things, then I think you’re doing your job as an actor-muso performer. That’s after you’ve memorised a full score, added the singing at the same time and learnt all the choreography!

Q - Away from the theatre what are your other favourite hobbies?
A - Apart from theatre and music, I’m a bit of a fitness fanatic and I’m always trying to squeeze in a class!

Q - Can you tell us something we might not know about you?
A - I’ve run the London marathon and climbed Kilimanjaro and I’m looking for my next challenge!   

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