📷 : A P Wilding www.apwildingphotography.com
After playing the role of Little Cosette in West End’s Les Misérables, Isabelle Methven has gone on to appear in further productions including School of Rock as Summer Hathaway and most recently as Alternate Annie in Annie the Musical at the Piccadilly Theatre, London. The actress has made a number of TV appearances for her stage roles and had the chance to perform at the 2017 Olivier Awards and also for BBC Children in Need. Chatting with us recently, Isabelle tells us about her time in the West End, touring internationally with Mary Poppins and performing at the Royal Opera House.
How did your musical theatre career start?
My brother first started me off, he played Oliver in a local show when he was ten and I was only six. The show didn’t have enough boys and the director asked if I’d help make up numbers by playing a boy in the workhouse and wearing a wig to disguise my long blonde hair. I discovered that acting and singing was something that I really enjoyed.
Have you always enjoyed performing?
No not really, I’m naturally very shy and under confident. I do love to sing and act, but get anxious in public. I love performing though, as it allows you to be someone else.
How did you find the UK tour of The Sound of Music?
I was so excited to be cast as Brigitta and was excited to go on tour as I have always loved travelling. The show was so fun and Brigitta challenged me as a role as I hadn’t acted to that extent before. This made me figure out my love and talent for acting in particular. I got to visit many different venues across the country, and each place holds different memories.
Had you seen Mary Poppins before being cast as Jane Banks in the International Tour?
I’d only ever watched the movie with my mum, I’d not seen it at the theatre. I can’t wait for the show to come to the West End, it’s such a magical show (definitely my favourite that I have been a part of), everyone should go and watch.
How did this tour go?
The cast and crew were fantastic, we were like a family. I loved playing Jane, a mixed up sad little girl craving attention and being badly behaved who, through Mary Poppins, begins to grow up. I also found working with professional adult performers like Zizi Strallen and Becky Lock very inspiring. They work so hard and make it look easy. This show was also full of mischief and fun – at one point, me and my Michael got stuck in the lift that was supposed to transport us up onto the rooftops. Working on this show was truly magical. My acting career to date has been heavily influenced by Mark Hedges (Wedgie) and Nick Evans. Working with them was incredible and they really are the most lovely directors I have worked with.
When was your opening night of Annie in the West End and how did you prepare for the role?
I actually started Annie a couple of weeks before the rest of my team. My team, Lexington, hadn’t finished rehearsals yet, but one of the other children in the other team was unwell and I had to cover for her with short notice. I went on stage with a team I’d not worked with before, and having only learned the final few scenes a couple of hours before. I was so lucky for the opportunities I had in Annie, not only did I get to play July and Swing for all the other orphan roles, but I got to play Annie too (multiple times!) – every little girl’s dream.
Was this your longest stage run?
I did Annie for ten months, that’s been my longest contract.
What do you remember about appearing in Les Misérables as Little Cosette?
I love this show so much and it will always be part of me, it grew my confidence massively. Lots of memories come to me when I remember this show. The best parts were making life long friends with the Young Eponine and Gavroche of my team, and getting to go to the Mrs Kibble’s sweet shop on a two-show Saturday. Although it is a very serious show, we also had some funny moments – collecting beer bottles in my bucket after the “Master of the House” pub scene, and singing with my back to the audience because the stage’s revolve broke and I was told not to move (so I didn’t even turn around).
How was it having this production as your first West End experience?
I still feel honoured to have been chosen for such an iconic role, performing alongside some of the West End greats. At the time I also had no idea that working with Danielle Hope, Craig Mather and Geronimo Rauch was such a big deal. I made some life-long friends through Les Misérables, and I do hope that one day I might get to go back as an adult performer.
Had you attended any shows at the Royal Albert Hall before performing as Summer for School of Rock at the Olivier Awards?
I had performed with my school at a schools event, and performed for the Royal Variety Performance 2015 with Mary Poppins too.
How would you describe Summer Hathaway?
At first you think Summer is a real spoiled brat, but getting to know and study her character, you can see that the only way for her to get the attention of her very busy mother, is through her performing well at school. The “gold star” she secretly craves, is just some acknowledgement and attention from her mum. You really get to see that in the “If Only You Would Listen” scene where the children sing to express what they really want from their parents.
What’s the experience like performing at ITV’s Royal Variety?
It’s a huge opportunity to help raise money and awareness for charity, as well as sharing the stage with some well-known favourites. Getting to do the Royal line-up and meet Prince Harry was fantastic. The other performers were amazing to watch and really kind to me. I can’t express how honoured I feel to have performed on the Royal Variety twice at such a young age, once with Annie and once with Mary Poppins. The memories I made through these opportunities will stay with me forever.
How does it feel performing at the Royal Opera House?
It’s quite intimidating, the venue is so huge, so old and so well respected. When I was in Carmen, we even had horses, donkeys and chickens backstage. When the curtain goes up, you literally can hear a pin drop, it’s quite scary when over 2000 people suddenly stop talking. It’s a daunting experience but one I’d love to repeat again in the future.
How long did The Christmasaurus workshop last and what was your involvement?
I was only part of the workshop whilst they were still developing and refining the show. Working with Tom Fletcher was such a fun experience though. He’s just a tiny bit crazy and his love of life is highly infectious.
Did you get chance to see the show in the theatre release?
No, such a shame that I had other commitments at the time and didn’t get to see the final production. I’m going to be sure to catch it the next time it runs though.
Do you have any music plans?
No, nothing at the moment.
Are you currently in preparation for a role?
I’m currently playing Young Bonnie in Bonnie and Clyde with a local theatre company, which is super fun. I’m also attending multiple auditions and would love to work in film and TV so fingers crossed.
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