Romance, courage and South American politics in Evita at The Hawth

Lucy O'Byrne and Mike Sterling in Evita. Picture by Pamela Raith
Lucy O'Byrne and Mike Sterling in Evita. Picture by Pamela Raith

It’s now in its 40th year and the audiences are loving it just as much as ever.

Mike Sterling (The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables) is delighted to step into the shoes of Juan Perón opposite Lucy O’Byrne as Eva as Evita takes to the road once again.

It plays The Hawth, Crawley, from September 18-22.

Evita follows Eva’s journey from humble beginnings through to wealth, power and status as the spiritual leader of Argentina before her death at the age of 33.

“There was a lot of controversy about her at the time, but she did a quite a lot of good things for her country,” Mike says.

“She and Peron had a job to do and they did it. But I think what the audience respond to is the human side. Lucy and I are playing two people that fall madly in love and hold each other in huge esteem… and I think people can really read into that, aside from all the other things going on. Once they meet, the story becomes their love story, him going to prison, her rallying people around to demand his release and eventually her becoming first lady to him as president.

“When you are in the military as a young officer moving through the ranks, there is a certain way of moving. You have to become quite ruthless. People disappear… and then there is a massive earthquake. The place is decimated, but he sees that as an opportunity. Shortly after that he becomes a colonel. There are a few looks and a few stares in (the song) The Art of the Possible, and you know that he has got something in mind. He throws a big charity gala in aid of the victims of the earthquake and that’s when he meets Eva.

“He is a man in every sense. He likes the ladies and he is quite active within that, but when he meets Eva, he falls in love. I think Eva makes him a better person. Love is very empowering. It makes you feel that you can do anything. He trusts her and she trusts him and things start to move.

“When he is taken away in cuffs, they think that they are going to break them, but that doesn’t happen at all.

“Certainly with this Andrew Lloyd Webber has written a masterpiece. When you look deeper into it, you can see that he has written a rock opera in every sense. All that you need is there. But I did my research, and I didn’t know that Peron is actually of Sardinian descent originally. The family moved to Argentina, and the story unfolds from there, and it is all based on truth. It is remarkable. Eva came to be regarded as a queen and a saint after just seven years.”

The show is on a 17-week tour, and it’s been fascinating to feel it grow, Mike says.

“People ask ‘Do you go on auto-pilot when you are doing it every day?’ but you don’t at all. Every day you are recreating it as if you had never done it before, and I think each time you tell it, the story becomes more clear.

“Everybody has got a different perspective on how they see the story and on how they see theatre, and everyone in the theatre will have their own stories – the day they have had, the week they have had, the month they have had, the year they have had and the life they have had. I see it as one of the responsibilities of the actor to be as truthful to the story as possible and to bring everybody together… and it seems to work!”

Tickets cost £38-£45.50. Call 01293 553636.

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