Lauren Hall has got all sorts of reasons to be delighted to be back in Chichester where she joins the cast on stage in Shadowlands.
This year, she is playing a range of roles including waitress and clerk and ensemble. Last year, she was in her more usual kind of role in the big musical Me And My Girl. Eight years before that, she was also in the big CFT summer season musical, 42nd Street in 2010 – and that’s when she met her husband.
“Chichester is my favourite place to work, and we always try to come back here once a year. We always try to come along on a matinee and evening performance day.”
Shadowlands, which runs on the main-house stage until May 25, is actually Lauren’s fifth CFT production. The two others she joined after they had left Chichester, Gypsy and Singin’s In The Rain, the latter taking her to Tokyo.
“That was 2013 and they had not had many big musicals there at that point and they loved it. They just went wild for it. And it has been back there again since. It was such a huge hit – and that was all that fantastic production which had started in Chichester.”
For the moment, though, the focus is very much on Shadowlands, a moment of personal significance for Lauren: “This is really different for me. I have never done a play before. I am feeling incredibly lucky to be able to do a play like this and to be able to do it in Chichester with the cast that we have got!
“It is great to be given that opportunity. I wanted to do a play. Everybody wants to do a variety of things in their career, and this came up, and it went my way.
“It can be quite hard when you have got a musical theatre background to make the change, but I am just very lucky that (director) Rachel (Kavanaugh) gave me the chance.”
Celebrated writer C S Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia, splits his time between an ordered domestic routine at home with his brother, Warnie, and the academic rigour of his dispassionate, all-male Oxford college. His evenings are spent replying to his many correspondents. One stands out: vivid, expressive, New York poet Joy Gresham.
When she arrives in England with her young son, Douglas, everything Lewis believed to be true about life and love is thrown into question. And a relationship begins which will take them both to the extremities of pain and joy…
For Lauren, it is all quite a change of direction: “In musicals you have got to spread your talents across acting and singing and dancing, but with a play you have just got to focus on one of them and really go into the detail of the acting. It is story-telling purely through acting, and you have got much more time to play with all the detail that you are going to need.”
Lauren loved her time here last year in Me And My Girl: “I had been desperate to work with (director) Daniel Evans for a long time. I had admired his work at Sheffield, and I adored him as an actor when he was doing all those Sondheims. I just think he is one of the greatest.
“I was desperate to work with him and we had an amazing time even though we had some hiccoughs in the run when Matt Lucas wasn’t able to do the press night.
“But Ryan Pidgen was a hero. He absolutely smashed it (as understudy). It was very emotional. He hadn’t been rehearsed. He did it all himself. The understudy is there behind the scenes before you actually open. They just have to do it all themselves, but what a guy. He was brilliant!”