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jaydarcy
11th September 2023

“I’d cut off a limb to play that part”: In conversation with Carrie Hope Fletcher

The Mancunion sits down with Carrie Hope Fletcher, the reigning Queen of the West End, ahead of the regional premiere of her new play, ‘The Crown Jewels’
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“I’d cut off a limb to play that part”: In conversation with Carrie Hope Fletcher
Photo: Carrie Hope Fletcher

Carrie Hope Fletcher is, indisputably, the reigning Queen of the West End. She is the dream interview of any British theatre journalist; I have been wanting to interview her for years.

Carrie is currently starring in The Crown Jewels, a brand-new comedy play based on Colonel Blood’s attempt to steal the Crown Jewels of England from the Tower of London in 1671. Following its world premiere run in the West End, the play is set to embark on a UK tour, with its regional premiere at The Lowry in Salford.

Carrie began her singing career as a YouTuber, long before TikTokers were a thing. Her brother, Tom, had found fame in McFly, and Carrie was determined to follow in his path.

“Did you ever think that this would be your life?” I asked – a big question, I know. “Did you ever consider what [YouTube] might lead to?”

“I always hoped. I always had my fingers crossed because this was the dream. I always wanted to be on West End stages,” she admitted. “Not even West End stages, just any stage. Any stage that anyone would let me perform on.”

However, she was not naïve; she knew how “competitive and saturated” the industry was, even ten years ago, so she does pinch herself quite often.

“I actually get to do this. I get paid to do this. This is my job,” she said proudly.

Whilst Carrie is best known for musical theatre, The Crown Jewels is a play, so this is something of a departure for Carrie. There seems to be a new musical opening every week so I’m probably not alone in wondering what drew Carrie to a play, especially because she has not starred in a musical since last summer, when Andrew Lloyd Webber decided to close Cinderella early. Since then, she has starred in a play, a panto, and three musical concert productions, in addition to touring the UK as a music artist.

“Well, we say play [but] there are four sings in it, all of which I sing,” she said.

Carrie has cemented herself as a West End star; she’s not appeared in a touring production since The Addams Family, back in 2017, so some fans were probably a bit disappointed that her return to touring productions is a play, not a musical – but, hey, she still gets to sing!

Carrie fell in love with the script, which was penned by Simon Nye, whose credits include Men Behaving Badly (he has even cast Neil Morrisey in the play). She’s also something of a history buff so she was excited by the prospect of starring in an historical play.

“I was terrible at history at school, but I was always interested in it,” she said.

In particular, she was fascinated by this story because it is “a weird little bit of history that has gone astray.” She admits that she could not believe what she was reading.

She summed up the story in a nutshell: “Colonel Thomas Blood attempted to steal the Crown Jewels because they were literally kept in a cupboard and guarded by a 77-year-old man – so he very easily stole [them].”

Another selling point for the play was the all-star cast. This play is “a chance to work with comedy royalty, some national treasures: Al Murray, Mel Giedroyc, Neil Morrisey, Joe Thomas, Aidan McCardle–”

“And Carrie Hope Fletcher!” I interrupted.

“Oh, stop it,” she said, before admitting that she did ask the director, Sean Foley (The Play What I Wrote), how her name came up. “You don’t say all of those names and go, ‘Oh yes, and the missing link is Carrie Hope Fletcher.’ That’s a very strange jump to make.”

It turns out that Sean had seen Carrie in Cinderella and found her funny. Now she gets to work with actors that she admires, who “are just as funny offstage as they are onstage.”

Of course, casting Carrie is bound to attract younger audiences, who might not be as familiar with the comedians and actors in the cast, or quite so interested in an historical comedy.

“Talking about the leap from Cinderella to The Crown Jewels, you’ve had a very varied career. You’ve done Les Mis – Éponine and Fantine – you’ve done Andrew Lloyd Webber, world premieres, UK premieres, pantos, plays, and a concert tour – whatever next? What could Carrie Hope Fletcher do next?” I asked.

“Oh, God, I’ve no idea,” Carrie admitted. “That’s always the dreaded question because even when you think you’re at the height of your career, it’s still so temperamental; you still never know what is coming next, if anything is coming next. It’s also down to what shows are in England at the time, what you’re right for, what you think you’re right for compared to what the casting director thinks you’re right for. And there’s a new, incredible talent that are coming into the industry that are younger and… probably a lot less tired than you are!

“So you really never know what’s coming next, and so I’ve never really [thought] of it as an upward trajectory – I can never say this word – I’ve never tried to think of it as ‘How can I top what I’ve [just done]?’” she explained.

Rather, she looks for jobs that are interesting, which make her feel creative, and which she is excited to wake up to do every morning.

“If that’s not being onstage; if that’s writing a book or maybe concentrating on making some videos for a while, or just concentrating on myself because I’ve just had a year of back-to-back stuff. Of course, I’m very lucky and grateful, but I also need to make sure that I’m cared for because whatever I go on to do next won’t be as good if I’m not on a hundred per cent.”

Whilst Carrie might be considering a bit of a break – though she might wait a few months to take time off work because a few hours after our interview, she announced that she’s pregnant! – I proceeded to ask her about her dream role.

Carrie did not even have to think about it. She straight-up told me that her dream role is Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd.

“I think I’d cut off a limb to play that part,” she said – though the role actually requires cutting off other people’s limbs!

Carrie was obsessed with Sweeney Todd as a kid, even though it gave her nightmares. She grew up with the musical, and the Sondheim score “just does something to me.” Her love of the musical was heightened when Tim Burton, whom she adores, adapted it to the big screen, starring his long-time collaborators Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.

“I think you would be a killer – pardon the pun – Mrs. Lovett,” I told Carrie.

Sweeney Todd has not been in the West End for a while, but it is currently on Broadway, starring Josh Groban and Annaleigh Ashford, so Carrie is praying for a London transfer: “Come on, make your way over; let me audition,” she said with hands on both fingers crossed.

Whilst Carrie has had a very varied career, she often plays protagonists with a dark side and an edge, but are ultimately good deep down. It would be amazing to see her go fully to the dark side.

“Often, the villains are more interesting; they’ve got more interesting backstories. I don’t think any villain is inherently bad for no reason; there’s always a really interesting story as to why they are the people that they are, which is often more interesting than the good guys. Often, the good guys are just good because they’re good, normal, decent human beings, and why wouldn’t they be? So, I’d love to get behind an antagonist and see what makes them tick.”

Carrie has also not yet done a role that requires a great deal of dancing. She has always wanted the chance to do more dancing because she is capable of dancing; she just doesn’t have “any natural flare”. But if she is taught choreography, she loves doing it. The first time she danced onstage was during her second run in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but the dancing was minimal. She got to “let loose” in panto last year, where she “did actually play a villain!”

Whilst rehearsing, she had been told to move out of the way and let the ensemble do their dance break. She asked if she could stand at the back and learn the dance.

“If I look like a d*ck, tell me I look like a d*ck, and I just won’t do it,” she told them. “I didn’t look like too much of a d*ck, or they just lied to me, and I got to be in the dance break, which I absolutely loved.”

We then changed gears and spoke about Carrie’s marriage to Joel Montague. I was curious what it is like being in a relationship with a fellow actor because lots of actors say that being in relationships with actors can be difficult because they are often away from home (especially if they are in a touring show) – so is it easier when you’re both actors?

Carrie admitted that it comes with pros and cons, as all relationships do. Carrie and Joel understand each other’s temperamental schedules, and they are currently on the same schedule: they spend their days together and then travel to work together and meet up after work to go home.

“Saying that, he’s literally just left to do another job!”

But there are times when one of them is rehearsing during the day and the other is performing at night. For instance, there were many occasions last year when she had daytime rehearsals and Joel was in Hamilton.

For Carrie, one of the best parts of being in a relationship with a fellow actor is their ability to understand each other’s jobs and not having to preface and explain things that somebody not working in musical theatre would not understand. In particular, having relationships with people onstage, including sex scenes. She thinks that actors are more understanding of these things.

I ended the interview by talking about Carrie’s massive fan base and the responsibility she feels towards her fans.

“You do feel a huge sense of responsibility, especially when it comes to social media because that’s all down to you,” she admitted. “When you’re onstage, it’s someone else’s script, it’s someone else’s words; you’re not responsible for what you’re saying and doing onstage because it’s scripted. Whereas, when you come away from that, and it’s just you being you, you do feel a sense of responsibility… How do I want to portray myself and not only portray the best bits of myself but the real, authentic version of myself because it’s not always sunshine and rainbows, and that is just reality, and you don’t want to promote this toxic, false positivity version of yourself that isn’t real.

“Also, how do I inspire people and make them feel safe in my little corner of the internet? How do I inspire them to be the best versions of themselves, especially when [I’m] going through [my] own stuff? How can I inspire people to be the best versions of themselves when I’m not feeling like the best version of myself? So, there is a weird sort of juggling act… I won’t always get it right; no one will always get it right. When you get it wrong, you have to hold your hands up and apologise and say, ‘I’m sorry and I’ll learn and I’ll be better and I’ll grow’. But I think as long as you’re conscious of the people who are watching and making sure you are creating the safest and kindest and most respectful environment that you can, that’s all you can do.”

You can catch Carrie Hope Fletcher in The Crown Jewels at the Garrick Theatre in London until September 16 and on tour around the UK from September 19 to October 14 2023. The regional premiere takes place at The Lowry (Lyric Theatre) in Salford from September 19 to 23 2023.

Jay Darcy

Jay Darcy

Theatre Editor. Instagram & Twitter: @jaydarcy7. Email: [email protected].

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