The Ferryman - London

The West End transfer of Jez Butterworth's new drama.

London The Ferryman Star Rosalie Craig on Singing with Hubby Hadley Fraser & Emailing with Patti LuPone

London The Ferryman Star Rosalie Craig on Singing with Hubby Hadley Fraser & Emailing with Patti LuPone
Rosalie Craig in "The Ferryman"
(Photo: Johan Persson)

About the Show

Rosalie Craig is no stranger to musicals (Aspects of Love, City of Angels, The Light Princess) and classics like As You Like It at the National Theatre but can now be found leading the take-over cast of The Ferryman, Jez Butterworth's acclaimed play at the Gielgud Theatre through May 19. (The play, directed by Sam Mendes, heads to Broadway in the fall.) Craig will return to the Gielgud around the same time to play Bobbi- as opposed to Bobby-in a gender-swapped take on Company, directed by the protean Marianne Elliott. So, there was plenty to discuss when called the charming and gifted performer for a chat.

How does it feel to have joined a production recently nominated for eight Olivier Awards, including Best New Play?
I think everyone's very happy for the original company [five of whom received acting nods] and, having seen it, the actors absolutely deserve those nominations. And hopefully the attention on the production itself just means that people will want to see it that much more, really. It feels as if the play has its own sort of energy, and certainly we all feel as if we're doing the best version that we possibly can.

Do you have a particular take on the character of the widowed Caitlin [originated by Olivier nominee Laura Donnelly]?
It's funny—I tend to think of her in chapters before I start the show. She's quite an extraordinary woman, really, in terms of being this incredibly strong person with a huge heart and capacity to just sort of adapt to the situation and to living in this home with a family that really isn't her family. She's hugely resilient, resourceful and remarkable in a sort of base-survival way.

Were you surprised to find yourself doing a take-over? (Donnelly and Irish actress Sarah Greene preceded Craig in the role.)
Well, to be completely honest, it wasn't something I'd ever wanted to do, and I don't think I'd do it again. But I love Jez's work so much that after a while I couldn't figure out why I wouldn't do this! Also, Jez doesn't write millions of plays, so I thought I better just take the jump now.

Being English yourself in a play set during the Northern Irish "troubles" in 1981, did you feel you had to do some homework?
I did feel that and I always with whatever I'm doing try never just to rely on the play. At the same time, I realized pretty quickly that it didn't matter if I watched 400 documentaries of the period: the fact is, I would still have to do my version of Caitlin within the farmhouse where the play is set; what Jez wants really is contained within the writing.

Is it a relief just vocally not being in a musical?
It's a different set of worries. This play probably is easier for me vocally because it's all set in one location, but, you know, Rosalind [in As You Like It] was exhausting in a completely different way; that was much harder than a singing role!

How do you feel about the concert performance coming up on July 1 of the Tori Amos musical The Light Princess, in which you once again get to perform the leading role of Althea, this time opposite your husband, Hadley Fraser?
Oh, it's so lovely that we're getting to do it together. The National Theatre production [in 2013] always felt like unfinished business: I really did think it deserved another life and to have been seen by more people. So, the concert feels in a lovely way sort of like closure.

Will it be odd to be singing Amos's score standing on a stage as opposed to whirling and twirling through space, as you were at the National?
[Laughs.] Yeah, I remember when we were recording the album thinking, "This is so easy to sing now!" Hopefully, I'll get to really belt it out, though maybe I can only sing it if I'm upside down!

Speaking of your talented husband, who is starring not far away from The Ferryman just now in Young Frankenstein, how is it for you both leaving your daughter, Elvie, who is still a toddler, to come to work each night?
That was a really big decision for us, but at the same time her mum and dad work in the theater so I think that's just become her reality—in the way that nurses and doctors, say, can also work nights. That said, I run out of the theater at the end of the show and have to be with her every second until I leave her to come to work. And it's not forever: I think when Company happens that Hadley is going to try and not do theater for a bit.

Can we assume from this that her own showbiz career is preordained?
God, I hope not!

As regards Company, how did you and Light Princess director Marianne Elliott conceive of the gender-bending revival of the Stephen Sondheim/George Furth classic, where you will play the first-ever Bobbi as opposed to Bobby?
Marianne and I first talked about it quite a while ago when I was in technical rehearsals for The Threepenny Opera at the National and she was there auditioning for Angels in America. She said to me, "What do you think about the idea of a female Bobby [i.e. Bobbi]?" I thought she was asking me as a friend because I had done the show before.

What was your initial reaction?
It took a while to sink in, really. I told [Marianne] that I would have a look at the script and see if it could be switched, and then the more I read, the more I thought, "This is brilliant"—but at no point did she say, "I want you to play Bobbi." Back then, it was just an idea.

Now that Sondheim has greenlit the venture, did you discuss Company with your Ferryman director, Sam Mendeswho directed a much-celebrated Company at the Donmar in 1995, and then in the West End?
We have! When I met Sam, I had just come from working on it with Marianne and he said, "You must give Marianne my love, and let me know if she wants any tips" [laughs]. His version with Adrian Lester is still hugely famous, and people watch it all the time. In our version, the base note of the piece hasn't changed; it's just shifted—the girlfriends are now boyfriends and stuff like that.

And what about Patti LuPone, who will play Joanne: has she popped by the Gielgud to say hi?
Not yet but she's coming over in April. In the meanwhile, we've been emailing, in fact just today! It's amazing when the name Patti LuPone pops up in your phone—you think, "Who hijacked this?"