Andrew Lloyd Webber and Ben Elton’s The Beautiful Game is to return to London’s West End for the first time in over 12 years.
The show tells the story of an ordinary group of teenagers in an extraordinary situation and is directed by Lotte Wakeham.
Niamh Perry stars as Mary in the show. We caught up with her tofind out more about the show, talk about her character and discuss her time on reality TV.
Tell us about The Beautiful Game and what audiences might expect from this production?
The Beautiful Game is an amazing story about a Catholic football team and life during The Troubles in Belfast from ’69. It is humorous at times and heartbreaking at others. Our production (led by Lotte Wakeman, Tim Jackson, Tom Kelly and Benjamin Holder) has a new twist, as we mark the first viewing of the musical in its current form, with some recent changes made by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Ben Elton. It’s going to be dark and truthful.
What do you make of the character of Mary you’re playing?
It’s very interesting and slightly daunting for me to play a wife and a mother for the first time. She has quite an epic journey from a prudish, equality seeking teenager, to a young romantic, to a newlywed, to a heart broken woman, then to a single mum. She is a strong Irish woman, something I like to think I am too.
The backdrop of the piece is The Troubles of the 1970s. What reaction do you have to the nature of the story?
My dad grew up in St James Place, right in the middle of the Falls Road in Belfast during The Troubles. Many of the themes in this musical are so close to my family’s reality which is amazing for me. I grew up and lived just outside Belfast until I was 17. One of the lyrics from the show is “Each new generation will rebuild the nation”. I am so proud to be from Northern Ireland and definitely feel like I am part of the ‘new generation’ that embraces equality and doesn’t care about peoples choice of faith. It is still very shocking to hear what life was like back in the late 60’s/ early 70’s for both sides. The history surrounding The Troubles always has and always will have huge significance for The Perry family.
It’s one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s lesser-known pieces, even though it was critically acclaimed. Why do you think this is the right time to revive it?
I feel like we have moved on so much from where NI was in ’69. For a lot of my peers in London,this is new information to them. The original production was back in 2000 and there is a new audience who have never seen this show before.
You competed in I’d Do Anything in 2008 which launched your career. Was that quite a baptism of fire, and did the experience help you to face the challenges of the industry you work in?
I will always be so grateful to Andrew and the BBC team behind I’d Do Anything for such a wonderful and challenging experience. It is quite difficult to explain just how intense and overwhelming that chapter was for all of us. No other audition would be quite as daunting as audition in front of 10 million people every Saturday night. Our schedule was insanely busy, we worked our butts off and we had a great time. Six years later, I still come up against people who feel like I haven’t worked hard enough to be in this industry as I didn’t go to drama school but I try not to let it bother me anymore.
You have a good rapport with Andrew Lloyd Webber. What’s he like to work with, and have you grown used to the idea of having him championing you yet?
Andrew is a wonderful person to work with. He is so passionate, intelligent and enthusiastic about theatre. I will be forever grateful for all that he has done for me and I really hope he likes what we have done with The Beautiful Game. I feel very fortunate and lucky.
You originated the role of Fleck in Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies. Tell us a bit about that experience.
Love Never Dies was an awesome roller coaster experience filled with every possible emotion! I began working on the show at the age of 18 in the original workshops and continued my journey through many more workshops, the soundtrack recording and then finally the opening of the show. Without sounding silly, I feel like I learnt a lot about myself during that job. I was so young, with a lot of responsibility. Every day presented a new challenge. I was so fortunate to have Andrew write the part of Fleck for me. I made some life-long friends during that contract too, which is very important to me.
Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions that you’d still want to work towards?
I am constantly working towards new challenges and I don’t think anyone is ever content in this industry. Throughout my very short career I have always tried to play really different parts so I hope to continue pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I also write my own music and I would love to be able to dedicate more time to that side of me. It can be quite difficult to juggle at times but I’m determined to make it work. You only live once.
The Beautiful Game plays at the Union Theatre from Wednesday 3 April – Saturday 3 May. For more info and tickets visit www.uniontheatre.biz