‘I’m a big fan of
Lucky Laura lands leading role in stirring stage show “So much emotion” “It is a real honour” Youngsters follow their own script
THE Phantom is set to stalk His Majesty’s next week ... and the prospect has Laura Rowley’s nerves jangling.
From left, Saileiti Songe, Megan MacBeth, Georgia Harkins, Catriona Burt and Paige Smith. Laura. “I have such a passion for singing, it’s just something that makes me happy. “You don’t have to think about anything else, you just sing and get on with it and it makes you feel so much better. “When I sing, no matter what mood I’m in, everything seems fine.”
DIRECTOR Marie Skene scores a hat-trick at the Aberdeen round of a national drama festival next week. Performing in this year’s Scottish Community Drama Association Festival of OneAct Plays at Aberdeen Arts Centre, three of her groups compete for the youth trophy. Act Two and Act Daft, two youth groups based at Aberdeen Arts Centre take part, as does Cornhill Drama Group from Cornhill Community Centre. They will be up against a fourth group from Ury Players at Stonehaven. Each group is performing devised dramas, created by the young actors themselves with the help and inspiration of 26-year-old drama expert Marie. She says: “Normally when we devise a piece, we do an improvisation and then it’s a rehearsed improvisation so they know what they are doing. “With the SCDA, they need a script, so they had to get a script together for their pieces. “Over the last few weeks they’ve been working on how to lay a script out, working on sub-text and writing stage direction, which are new skills for them all.” There has been no chance of Marie – or indeed the audience – getting fed up of the pieces as they are all very different. The director explains: “Act Two’s play is called Oh What A Train Wreck and it’s based on a train coming up to Aberdeen from Edinburgh.
Which is understandable, given it will see her debut as a leading lady in a main stage production – just like the character she plays, Christine. But Laura isn’t at all nervous about how audiences will react to this, the Scottish premiere of Phantom, staged by Aberdeen Opera Company. She is confident they are going to love this different take on a familiar story, of a talented young girl who is propelled to fame by a mysterious, Svengali-like figure. It is Phantom, but it’s not Phantom Of The Opera, the Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical. “It’s based on the same story, but it’s different,” said Laura, of the show with music and lyrics by Maury Yeston. “I take it as more of an operetta genre than musical theatre – but the songs are just soaring, especially the chorus pieces,” said Laura. “There is so much emotion in the songs. My True Love, one of the last songs Christine sings, brings tears to the eye. “I think it is just amazing and I can’t get that one out of my head.” The Lloyd-Webber version is known for its spectacle, but there are more than a few jaw-dropping moments in this version of Phantom, too, Laura said. “The audience can expect the unexpected,” she said. “We have a crashing chandelier, which was quite a challenge to stage. “I think the boat journey is one of the most atmospheric scenes ... there’s even an electrified staircase. That’s shocking. “I think the audiences will lap it up because there’s so much to see on stage and the stunning costumes are from Scottish Opera. I know they will be amazing. But I think the chorus pieces will be the wow factor. When we
PRACTICE: Aberdeen Opera Company rehearsals for Phantom. practise the room shakes.” Laura, who by day is a high-flying accountant with a city oil firm, is looking forward to playing Christine, starring opposite Peter Weston as the Phantom. “I’m really enjoying the challenge of it. It is a real honour to get the lead in a premiere,” said Laura, 27, who has been rehearsing the role for months. “I’m not new to the stage, but I’ve never taken on a lead role, so it’s a bit nerve-wracking. “The main challenge was the acting side. I have always sung on stage, or danced, but acting was something I hadn’t had any previous experience with, so it was humbling to have people put so much faith in me to do it. “But with so much support from the company, I’m a lot less nervous about it than I have been.” The fact that she is playing a character who makes her debut as a leading lady isn’t lost on Laura. “I suppose there are parallels there,” she said. “She feels out of her depth and it’s all very new to her, which is very much how I felt. I think I related to it somewhat. “I thought ‘this is me’. “Towards the end, Christine gets her confidence and does a spectacular job. I hope I do as well.” It’s a dream come true for Laura, who has had a lifelong love of music and singing. She was so passionate she had hoped to go on to study and perform at university, but was unable to find a place. That was a blow that stopped her performing for eight years, until she moved to Aberdeen from her native Burton-On-Trent three years ago. She decided to return to her first love, while meeting SPECTRAL: Peter Weston and Laura Rowley in action. new people, and joined Aberdeen Opera Company for their 70th anniversary production last year. Laura, who lives in Turriff, made such an impact she was able to win the coveted role of Christine – and hasn’t looked back. “I love singing, it’s something you can do to take you away from the humdrum, I think,” said