After interviewing Andy Moss earlier this week, I’ve taken the opportunity to chat to one of his Knights Of The Rose co-stars, Katie Birtill. Previously appearing in The Last Five Years, Priscilla Queen Of The Desert and Sweet Charity, Katie is making her way to the West End stage for just eight weeks for this brand new story.
Tell me a little bit about Knights Of The Rose and your character, Princess Hannah.
Knights Of The Rose is an epic tale about love and war and betrayal. It’s got such a luscious book; Jenny Marsden, the creator, has made a script that is full of Shakespeare and Chaucher and Keats, and some fantastic poetry in there. It’s really lovely being part of a show that the script has such gorgeous language, and then we get to belt out some gorgeous rock songs which combines the classic language with the contemporary score, giving it such a great energy. The lyrics of the songs work really well into the story.
My character, Princess Hannah, is very charming, and starts in the beginning as very innocent and joyous and just full of live. She represents all the joys of home, because the men have been in battle for five years, but throughout the show she has a really wonderful journey where she falls in love and it opens her eyes to the world of heartbreak and loss. It’s such a great role for me to play because I’ve just got so much for me to work with.
Are there any aspects of your character that you’d say you’re like in real life, or would you say you’re very different as a person?
One of the things they said to me in rehearsals is that there are parallels between the two of us and that I should keep those aspects, which is a little strange because you see things on paper and think ‘Oh gosh, is that what I’m like?’
I think I’m quite a bright, positive person. I’m quite smiley, but I suppose there are certain aspects of Hannah that aren’t just like that. I get to be really firey and she has a lot of passion for injustice and I really can relate to that. But also the feeling of not wanting to be belittled or misunderstood, and I get to play that aspect of myself. She’s not just a pushover, and I get to play two sides of me.
Talk me through a typical day in rehearsals.
This afternoon we have a run through of the whole show, but usually we just come in and there a few studios above the Arts Theatre which is great because we’re in the building we’ll be in for the next few weeks. We usually have a physical warm up with Ian (Gareth-Jones), our dance captain, then we have a vocal warmup.
If we’ve all been called, the way that Racky (Plews, director of Knights Of The Rose) works is that she allows us to collaborate and be really part of the scene, making sure we all really understand what all the characters are going through so that we’re all on the same page. We then start blocking the scene with a lot of the work already done, but then still have lots to play with, then we start putting the scene together. It depends on whether it’s a scene or a song or a dance, but it’s a really collaborative process, and we have that 10am-6pm most days.
Last week was West End Live. Was this your first West End Live experience, and what did you think of it?
This was my first West End Live experience; I have done a little performance on that stage but it was for St George’s Day and I was at RAMA. I’ve sang to that many people in that space before, but there was an amazing vibe about it. Everyone was so supportive as they’re all fans of musical theatre, so it wasn’t just a big group of tourists. It was all the fans of so many different shows, and we just got such great live feedback. It was such a thrill and such a buzz, and it was really great for us as well because we hadn’t opened – we still haven’t opened – so it was a really great opportunity for us to show everyone the work we’ve been doing. Even though we took songs out of the context of the show, we were still able to give it that energy and have fun gigging together.
The show has some really well-known songs and some real belters. Which songs are you most looking forward to singing night after night?
I think Holding Out For A Hero which is sang by me, Isabelle and Emily. That was so fun to create, and it’s’ just a real girly moment. We’re still quite strong, but we’re three really great friends away from the world and get to let go a little. I’m really looking forward to that number. I’m also really looking forward to singing Don’t Speak by No Doubt, because I get to really embody that song in a completely different way that I’d known is just as a pop song. There’s a lot of meat to that song and it’s so well-timed in the show and it works so well with the way I’m feeling as a character at that time.
Do you have any opening night rituals you’ll be fulfilling when Knights Of The Rose opens?
I either do it on opening night or press night – depending on how much time I’ve got – but I often write cards for people. In terms of rituals, it’s show dependent. I did The Last Five Years a few years ago and I had some rituals for that: there were certain songs I’d listen to before the show that would get me in the mood for it. But for this show I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m not really sure, but what I love about opening night is that there is such a great energy. You’re usually so excited to just get it out there by opening!
Knights Of The Rose is playing at the Arts Theatre from 29th June.