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Megan O'Hara - Wallis Edinburgh Fringe Interview

Jane Bramwell and Michael Brand  (“bring a lot of variety to their memorable songs” - The Scotsman) have penned a brand new musical telling the story of Wallis Simpson, through her own eyes.

After their success with 2023's Guilty of Love, BramwellBrand's latest musical tells the story of a woman swept away by circumstance, and the King who gave up his crown for her. Prince Edward, bored with the constraints of monarchy, falls in love with an American divorcee, Wallis Simpson, and gives up everything for her. 

Megan O'Hara as Wallis Simpson. Photo by Peter Langdown

We were fortunate enough to sit down with leading lady Megan O'Hara who will take on the role of Wallis Simpson to learn more.

Our chat began with Megan introducing herself.
I am a musical theatre performer based on the south coast of the UK. I graduated from drama school in 2020, you know, the pandemic, it's been a fun time. And have been really fortunate to work since leaving drama school in the performing industry. And have had random, I say random, with enthusiasm that all of my work's been quite varied, so I feel very fortunate to be in that position. And I am heading up to the Edinburgh Fringe at the beginning of well, the show starts in the beginning of August. I'm heading up a little bit earlier than that for rehearsals to take on the role of Wallis Simpson in the new musical Wallis. And that is me in a nutshell.

When did you know you wanted to be a performer?
Wow, okay, that's a very deep question. My journey with performing actually started when I was a kid. In my family, my brother and my sister and I initially, when I was about six years old, were in a marching band. My brother played on the drums. My sister was waving the flags around, and I had like a little xylophone and was wandering around in the pit. And so that was kind of my first experience of performing, if you like, because we were on a big field, and people would come and watch us play. And I didn't know then that that's what I wanted to do, because I was still so little and didn't really understand what it was. I just joined in because I thought it was, you know, what the family did. And then we actually ended up moving house, and I moved to school, and I met a girl at this new school who did dance in her free time, and I was like, oh, that sounds kind of fun. Can I come along one day? And she was like, Yeah, sure, come along. And I really enjoyed it, and I found it, but I don't know why, something inside me was like, I just don't feel like this is the school for me, but I like this. 

I look back now and go, I'm a really cool eight year old because I must have got onto Google somehow and found a different like kids school to go to, and found that school went on my first day there. I remember it was this really hot, summery day meeting all these new people for the first time. And I remember coming down to the hall and seeing this girl singing and being like, Oh my God, that's so cool. And that said, girl is still my best friend to this very day. We've been friends for like, 20 years now, and yeah, it kind of blossomed from there, really. 

I did it all throughout school, like in my free time after school, on the weekends, and then it wasn't until I sort of had to start making decisions about whether or not I wanted to go to university, what I wanted to do. And there was no question about it. I was like, Well, I don't need to decide I want to do dancing in and acting. However, at that point, I auditioning for drama school is like taking on another A Level, and I was already doing four A levels, and I was like, this is too much. I need to take a year out to prepare. And weirdly enough, I fell into a comfortable job. And was like, oh this is nice. I could I get money every month, but maybe I don't want to go to drama school. And kind of just parked the idea for a little bit.

A company, local to where I was living, did a show of A Chorus Line. And I was like, oh, that sounds like a bit of me. I'm just gonna do it for fun. Auditioned. I got the role of Cassie, and I remember sitting in the wings being like, no, no, this is, this is what I meant to be doing. I'm not meant to be working this day job. I'm meant to be doing this. And again, locally in my area where I was living, a new drama school had opened up, and I went, you know what? I'm just gonna go to the audition see what. Again, it means I gotta go. If I don't, I'm working, it's fine. Yeah, and I went to the very last audition date that they had available. Auditioned. They gave me my place on the spot. I didn't tell anybody that I was doing this. I haven't told anyone, if I do decide to go, I need to give my notice tomorrow at work to start drama school on time. My mum and dad had no idea. I need to sort out accommodation, right? Let's go. And then, yeah. And then ended up going to drama school completely on a whim, and it was one of the best three years of my life. And I always said, like, even if I don't end up performing, I will always live in the gratitude of at least I went, and I'm not living in the what if I went, you know. And the rest is this kind of history Mark, I'm not gonna lie.

As you say now, you find yourself on the brink of being Wallis in the new musical. What can you tell me about the show?
Wow. It's a really, really exciting project. I'll take you through from start to finish. So the producer who's currently working on it, Katie Bennett, her and I have done performance stuff together in the past, and she dropped me a message, and she was like “Megan. There's a show happening, and it's about Wallis Simpson, do you know who that is?” I was like, “Katie, of course. I know who that is. I love The Crown, like I'm a part of that world”. And she said, “it's legit musical theatre, in the jazzy golden age”. I was like, Okay, right? Two big ticks already, because that's my favourite genre to sing and perform and about such an iconic historical character. I was like, “right? I'm interested what's going on”. And she said, “we've got people to come and audition for Wallis, but I think he would be a really good fit. Would you like to tape?” And I was like, Absolutely, “I would love to take and at this point in time”

I was like do you know what the performing industry is? So as everyone knows, turbulent in terms of, like, you're not always working. And I was kind of at the point where I was like, I'm okay if I don't get any auditions this year, I'm okay if I don't do a show, it's fine. So when this came out of nowhere, I was like, okay, sure, let's go. Let's just try it. If I get it great. And she asked me to audition tape, and she also asked me to do the promotional shoot for the poster. So she was that even if you don't get cast I’m on the poster. I was like, sure, anything to help you out. And I ended up having to self tape rather than audition in person, because I was away on the audition dates. And funnily enough, was really quite unwell when I had to do my audition, I had a chest infection, and then ear infection. I couldn't hear the music that I needed to learn for the tape. I was bunged up and thought, this isn't gonna happen, but I'm just gonna tape. It'll be fine, like, you know, it is what it is. I can only do my best. And so I auditioned. 

I went to the photo shoot again, still quite poorly, and met the composers, met the director already, and then a couple of weeks after that, got offered my role, which was a complete surprise given the circumstance. And now we're in the thick of the prep for it, which is we start rehearsals with the director and the rest of the cast at the end of July. But now I'm sort of in my prep. I'm deep in the world of Wallis. I've listened to what feels like every podcast about her, and just learning her beginnings, really. And there's so much that I didn't know about her that explains a lot of one her choices in life, how she, I guess portrayed herself is because there'll be so much history packed underneath her, and I think that's something that's going to be really fun to explore with this show. 

I'm quite looking forward to like, people coming and watching it and being like, I didn't know that about her. And, oh, maybe it wasn't what we all thought it was or and I think that's the beauty of theatre, isn't it? It’s taking stories that we tell over and over again, giving them something new and fresh, and being like, Oh, okay. This was different and exciting. So yeah, and that backed up with all the history, it's gonna be a fun job to do. Yeah, I set myself that challenge.

What is the challenge of playing a figure from history who was real? How is it developing the role with the historical contexts?
It becomes a little easier because you’ve got some historical context. It’s great to study her and analyse her in that, you know, she was such an iconic fashionista known for her dress, and she was known for being really witty and sharp and funny and throwing great parties, and just really, I can really do something with that and work with it and like her voice, like listening to recordings of her when she's been with Edward for a longer amount of time, it's that transatlantic, like she almost sounds British, but not whereas, probably at the time period that the show is set in around the abdication crisis, she might not have sounded as English, so to speak, as she would have done throughout history. So it's finding that balance of her voice, of we want that mix of American, but what would she have sounded like then, and interesting things like that. 

I'm a little bit off of the age that she is in the show, not by much. So I'm like, okay, I can relate to her as a woman in that we're not too dissimilar in age, and also, the standards that women were held to at that time is so different to now, and kind of getting into that mindset and the stuff that you could and couldn't do, that comes so freely and easily to me now. So that's going to inform how maybe I say this line or that line, and stuff like that. It's kind of adapting to this I say new world, historical world that I've not lived in for so it's really fun.

As you say The Crown has been quite influential on how people view Royal history. How has that changed the research?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, in reference to The Crown. Weirdly enough, to a friend of mine over the weekend in that I think the reason why it was so popular initially, is that that first couple of seasons with Claire Foy and the newness of the Queen. Yes, it's all documented in history, but it was like, Oh, we hadn't seen it like this. Like, oh, she was only 25 when she came to the throne. And like, I think people my age and younger, we hear about it through school, but it can be boring, but then you get presented it like that, and you're like, Oh, my God, actually, this is really interesting, and I want to know more. 

This might be very bold of me to say, but I would like to do something similar with the role of Wallis. Yes, this is a story we've all been told, but because it's new and fresh and different and musical. People might be like, this is actually a cool piece of history, yeah, I may not have known about So, yeah, I think that that is definitely helps with The Crown being so relevant and current at the moment.

It must be so thrilling to have the chance to change peoples perspectives on a person?
Oh, completely. I think that's one of the main reasons why I said yes to taking on the role. That’s the beauty of being an actor, it's like, I don't necessarily have to get people to like her. It's just getting to think about her in a different way, and that is my goal with the role.

Wallis will mark your Fringe debut, how excited are you to be there and experience it all?
Oh my gosh, like I feel. So blessed. I'm originally from Brighton, so we’ve the Brighton fringe down here, but I'm aware that the Edinburgh Fringe is very different, and stories about it. I have got loads of friends up there every year, and I've just never really had the chance. So I'm looking forward to just seeing Edinburgh, and the other shows that are on, I've said to the cast when we're off, can we all watch all the other shows as well once we're up there and and make the most of it? And I hear that it's very like Harry Potter-esque in terms of scenery and stuff. So I'm a Harry Potter fan. 

As everyone knows, Edinburgh Fringe accommodation can be hard to find, but I'm really lucky in that mum and dad have a motorhome. So we're driving it up to Edinburgh, and I'm going to be living a little motorhome for the month, which will be really fun. So I've got an amazing summer ahead of me.

How do you prepare for a run at the Fringe?
Well, it’s like a marathon. So I have done long runs before. I'm just conscious that I want to be topped up on my health, my voice, so I'm trying to sing every day to sort of get it really strong and ready and used to being used for the show every single day. We've got our scripts now, which is like our Bibles. And before I like to even start learning my lines, it’s, almost just breaking down everything into minuscule bite sized chunks, and then working out which sort of angle and which interpretation you want to go with. And I guess that all comes back to what I want to achieve with her, is just to get people to think about her differently, and that will then inform how maybe I might deliver a line.

We've got the score coming as well, and I’m going to note bash point so it’s all down and in my brain. Hopefully, fingers crossed, we get to the point where it kind of comes to the acting and the juiciness and you might have rehearsed it one way, but it might come out a different way. The amazingness comes out when you're not even thinking about it, you just deliver the line.

What keeps you inspired?
I truly did not know love like it, until I became an auntie. And I think when I was younger, I didn't really have anybody who was in the industry to look up to, and not even if they decided to go into performing or not. It's that they always come and watch me in whatever show I'm doing. And I think it's important to show them that you can get up on stage and you have a voice, and it's not scary, and you know, it's a good way to sort of build their confidence and set them up for everything else that they're going to see in life.

I think having that, and as amazing parents, my brother and sister are, but having someone who's not their mum and dad to be like, oh Auntie Meg does that. Like, I can do that too. And it comes back to even silly things, like my little niece recently, just, I say recently, back at Christmas, had her Nativity, and my sister said that she was feeling a bit nervous, so they FaceTimed me, and I was like, Sienna, do you remember coming to see me in the show like you saw? If I can do it, you can do it, and just sort of giving that encouragement and that anything is possible, and hopefully I can be a bit of a role model to them as they grow up.

I am absolutely sure you will be. If you were to be stranded on a desert island but could take three musical soundtracks with you, what would you take?
Very good question. 100% Come From Away. I’m waiting for them (David Hein and Irene Sankoff) to make a new musical because it was incredible for feel good vibes, just to keep the energy up and positive.

I’ve actually really enjoyed Everybody's Talking About Jamie recently. I went to a wedding yesterday, and the bride and groom love musical theatre, and Jamie was on was dancing and dance floor. So that's why I'm gonna go with that one.

And my favourite musical is The Phantom of the Opera so I feel if I don’t take that with me then I’m not a true fan. 

Wallis - A New Musical (Bramwellbrand productions Ltd). Photo by Peter Langdown

Great choices and mix of styles. But then simply what does theatre mean to you?
Oh, gosh, well, I think for me, the people that I have met along the way have shaped everything. I wouldn't be with my partner that I'm with now. If it wasn't for the theatre, I wouldn't have met my best friend. I wouldn't have met all of these wonderful people who surround me in my life, even if they're not doing theatre anymore. It's what made me meet them and brought us all together, and also what keeps us together. I've had a charity concert back in March, and all of the people that we did it with, I've been doing shows with for years, and even I might not see them in between shows, but it's like we've never been apart. I think it's the people. For me, it's just such a wonderful community and so inclusive, and everyone's so loving, and we all get it. So yeah, that would be my answer for that.

Finally, simply why should anyone book to see Wallis?
It's like nothing you've ever seen. If you're a fan of The Crown, absolutely sign up. Even if you like a bit of the Royals, you should definitely come along. If you like Golden Age, Jazzy, catchy musical theatre, it's also one for you. And if you're up for a little bit of a history lesson as well, like a bit of history, that's another reason to come along. 

Wallis runs at Surgeons Hall in Edinburgh from 2nd until 24th August 2024. Tickets are available from

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