Ellie chats to Olivia-Faith Kamau from Sunset Boulevard.
(Interview conducted ahead of opening.)
Firstly, how are you feeling ahead of opening?
Excited doesn’t quite cover it! Rehearsals have been a joy to take part in. I can’t wait for audience’s to see all our hard work and Jamie Lloyd’s incredible reimagining of this iconic show. It’s truly special.
For those who don’t know the story, can you tell us a little about Sunset Boulevard?
Sunset Boulevard is about a silent movie star who refuses to accept that her career is over. She meets a young writer who agrees to assist her in her RETURN to the big screen.
What are you most excited for in working in this production?
I’m excited for the challenge. This production has allowed me to explore many new skills. My track in the show is wildly different to anything I’ve done professionally or even in college. And for those who have seen previous incarnations of the show or the movies, we’ve got quite a few surprises in store…
Particularly in the opening number, this show highlights the experiences of young creatives trying to make their way in “show business” – do you see yourself in these experiences as a performer yourself?
It’s so funny because I see myself in all the characters, specifically in Let’s Do Lunch. There is so much room for us to bring our personal experiences to our characters. We portray various creatives, actors and writers trying to get a foot into the film industry. I definitely relate to the hustle.
What would you say is the main message of the show?
The show explores the themes of identity, fame and sacrifice. However, as for the message of the show, I’d say it’s open to interpretation. Each audience member will take something different away.
You’ve already been in some amazing productions, including Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella and Million Dollar Quartet. What would you say has been a career highlight so far?
Million Dollar Quartet definitely has a special place in my heart, it was my first show with a tiny cast of just six of us so we all got very close. However my absolute highlight has to be participating in the Hope Mill Theatre’s First Curtain initiative. We raised money for 1000 children to have their first theatre experience watching Cinderella. I met some of them afterwards and it was so rewarding speaking to young children of colour who felt represented on the stage. Seeing young kids get excited about theatre and wrapped up in the story and production really brought joy to my heart
Things in live theatre don’t always go to plan – do you have any funny or memorable onstage mishaps from past productions you could share with us?
Well during Cinderella we had a running joke of placing Jaffa Cakes around the stage. Well one day in a scene where I had to pour some wine (water) and hand it to the character, Jean-Michel, I looked down at the cup to find a soggy Jaffa Cake staring back at me. It was too late to warn him so I just handed him the goblet and let him drink the chocolatey water. The show must go on, and luckily he handled it like a pro!
Sunset Boulevard is such an iconic show – how would you say this production has been adapted for modern audiences?
I think the most obvious thing most audience members will notice is the diversity of the cast. The show was written at a time when the Global Majority was woefully underrepresented in Hollywood and theatre, especially in celebratory roles. To take that dichotomy and examine it and turn it into the show we’ve got for you is quite the achievement.
Are there any numbers from the show you’re particularly excited to perform?
This time next year is so much fun ! It’s a 7 minute number where I get to boogie just like I would in freedom on a Friday night!
Do you have any advice for young people wanting to start a career in the theatre industry?
Stick at it. This industry can be a tough place but there’s so many wonderful people I’ve met who’ve been nothing but supportive and helpful and I wouldn’t be where or who I am today without them. Know that getting a “no” after an audition isn’t the end, there’s always another role, and when the right one comes along, it’s the best feeling in the world knowing you get to go on stage and do what you love with people you love.
And finally, why should audiences buy tickets to Sunset Boulevard?
I’m not sure we’ve got enough time for the full list! First of all Nicole is obviously a powerhouse, her voice brings the house down and her performance is so moving. If you want the chance to experience this show in a new way, if you want to laugh and cry you should buy a ticket!
Sunset Boulevard is currently playing at the Savoy Theatre. Find out more here!