Carrie Hope Fletcher is one of the leading stars of the British stage, having starred in West End productions of “Les Miserables,” “Heathers the Musical” and, most recently, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cinderella” in which she played Cinders herself. In her spare time, she also writes novels, including her most recent spooky children’s book “The Double Trouble Society.”
As she begins her new role as Grusha in the Rose Theatre’s production of Bertolt Brecht’s “Caucasian Chalk Circle,” Fletcher sat down with Variety to discuss the music-infused play, the theater industry at large and what she thought about Andrew Lloyd Webber’s abrupt closure of “Cinderella” earlier this year, after which he called the show a “costly mistake.” (Lloyd Webber is now moving the show to Broadway, with a new cast and a new name).
What attracted you to the role of Grusha?
It’s something entirely different. I’ve never done a play before. But that being said, there are 28 songs in this version of “Caucasian Chalk Circle.” So it’s kind of a nice transition from musical to play. It’s got a script that’s really meaty, it has a lot of dialogue, which is something I don’t usually get to play with in musicals, and the music is very, very story-driven, and really funky and from all over the world. The story of Grusha, it’s just a really interesting one all about motherhood and what motherhood means. I’ve never really got to play many maternal roles like that – Fantine [in “Les Mis”] is pretty much the only maternal role I’ve ever got to play and so Grusha is something very new and very different.
It’s a tough time for the theater industry, what with the pandemic followed by the energy crisis. Do you worry for theatres?
I just want the arts to be taken more seriously, to be completely honest, just generally. They weren’t really taken massively seriously before the pandemic. But I think then we suddenly saw how much entertainment, in all forms, was the only thing we had to cling to to get us through. And I think to now dismiss the arts industry would be completely and utterly ridiculous knowing what it did for us when we were all at home driving ourselves crazy. I do worry for theater, I’ll always worry for theater, because it’s the livelihood of so many and not just the people on stage, it’s front of house, backstage, crew, lighting, wigs, wardrobe.
Were you upset about the way “Cinderella” ended so abruptly?
Yeah, I mean, no one likes to hear that their job’s closing early, especially through the rounds of social media or through hearsay, that’s never fun. But one thing I will say about “Cinderella” is that going into work every day was an absolute joy because of the people who were in that building. Everyone, no matter what department, whether it was cast, crew, sounds, wigs, front of house… Going to work everyday and seeing all of those people was incredible. And it was upsetting the way that it was all handled but I think it brought us together in a way that it may not have [done] had all of that not happened. I just found my lucky stars that I was working with the people that I was working with, because we all got each other through it.
Were you in touch with Andrew Lloyd Webber while you were on the show and have you heard from him since?
There was contact through “Cinderella,” especially through lockdown, he was very much at the forefront of trying to get theatres open again. So definitely there was contact but ever since the end of “Cinderella” I’ve not heard a word.
Is that disappointing?
Oh, yeah. I think I think we all [wanted to hear from him]. I think we all wanted just some sort of, I guess not even an apology – an apology would have been lovely – but an acknowledgement, I think would have been… – and a personal one. But what can you do? That’s showbiz, unfortunately, sometimes.
Do you have plans to do more writing or try your hand at directing?
Yeah, I think the older I get the more I want to take a backseat, the more I want to hide. I think my youthful days wanting to [do] like ‘jazz hands’ are slowly diminishing. I love performing, I don’t think I’ll ever stop performing. I write books and I do love that element of creating characters as opposed to performing the characters. I’ve been very, very fortunate to be part of processes like “Caucasian Chalk Circle,” like “Cinderella,” where it’s the first time these versions of these shows are being told, so there’s an element of creativity you get to have as an actor. But when we’re doing a very old show like “Les Mis,” for instance, a tried and tested, well-oiled machine you’re now becoming a part of, and they know where you need to stand, they know how you need to say the line in order to get the laugh, the margins for your own creativity are much slimmer. But when you’re in charge, when you’re the one writing the book, writing the play, writing whatever, directing, you’ve got much more scope for creativity. And I think as I’m getting older the want for more creativity is greater.
What are your plans after “Caucasian Chalk Circle”?
I’m doing panto [a pantomime version of “Sleeping Beauty”] at the end of this year, which is my last thing for the year, which I’ve never done before. I’m very excited about it. I feel like it’s the perfect way to end kind of quite a crazy year going from “Cinderella” to Brecht to panto. It’s quite the journey within one year. And just a nice way to end of the year, with getting ready for Christmas. But yeah, I mean, I’m always looking for the next thing. I can’t ever rest. My family always make fun of me because I can’t ever just chill, I always have to be thinking about what’s coming next, whether that’s a writing project, or an acting project or something entirely new. But I think for the first time ever I’m going to finish panto and then go, “I just need to breathe for a second after the year that I’ve had.” I think I just need to take some time out, maybe explore the world a little bit and then see what happens.
This interview has been edited and condensed for space and clarity.