With rehearsals having already taken place for the new tour of Bat Out of Hell, Martha Kirby will be playing one of the lead characters Raven in the musical, which is currently being rescheduled due to theatres being closed. Earlier this year, Martha was part of the London premiere of RAGS the Musical at Park Theatre, as well as recording for the cast album, and having graduated from Guildford School of Acting in 2019, she made her professional and tour debut as Sandy in Grease the same year which opened in Leeds in June. Answering our questions, Martha talks about being cast as Raven in the upcoming Bat Out of Hell tour, playing Sandy in Grease and being part of the RAGS the Musical London premiere.
You’ve been announced to play Raven in the new Bat Out of Hell tour, how was it rehearsing for the role and what are you looking forward to for opening when the tour can begin?
Rehearsals were fast-paced and full of energy which resulted in us finishing the show in twelve days! The drive and efforts shown throughout this time by the cast and creative team were like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Once we are back up and running, I am most looking forward to frantically running around the stage again with Glenn Adamson. I also cannot wait to hear the live band. It is going to be epic.
What did you know about the show before auditioning?
Honestly, very little! I was very familiar with the music in BAT and had a vague idea of the show’s narrative, but it was exciting to delve further into the script during the audition process with the help of the creatives.
Earlier this year, you played Bella Cohen in RAGS the Musical at Park Theatre, how was this?
For a start, I got to work with Stephen Schwartz… Madness. I had the pleasure of being directed by the incredible Bronagh Lagan and musically directed by Joe Bunker, both of whom I have the utmost respect and admiration for.
Potentially, my favourite part of RAGS was working opposite Oisin Nolan Power, aka Ben. There was never a dull moment on or off stage with Oisin and me.
The show was making its London premiere, what was the response like from the audience and how did it feel telling the story?
RAGS gained a really positive response – with such clever direction, it would be hard to get anything less. It felt important to be telling this story in today’s political climate, and I am very proud to have been a part of this show. I hope that RAGS continues to have a life here in London.
How did you find the experience recording the cast album?
Recording was so much fun! Nick Barstow and the team at Auburn Jam Music were ace and so much fun to work with. I was even allowed a Greggs vegan sausage roll in the recording booth. A recording necessity.
How was your time as Sandy on the Grease UK Tour?
My time on Grease is the most valued experience of my career so far. Being able to observe and draw from masterminds like Nikolai Foster was an experience I will never take for granted. Not only is Nikolai an utter genius, but he is also a beautiful soul.
From the off, the rehearsal room was the most nurturing environment, which allowed everyone to speak freely and explore every aspect of the show.
The quantity of lessons I learnt from being a part of this show is unfathomable.
What was it like meeting the rest of the cast and crew and learning the choreography?
Initially, the prospect of the first day of rehearsals was terrifying to me, but once meeting everyone there was an instantaneous click and we were a massive team from the get-go.
Working with Arlene Philips on choreography was an honour. I am forever grateful for the opportunities I was gifted during my time on Grease.
What did you enjoy most about touring for the first time?
Being able to explore new cities with an incredible group of people. However, I did not enjoy the amount of luggage I very naively packed for the tour. I now know how to pack light!
In 2018, you were part of the workshop for new musical Prom Queen at The Other Palace, how was this?
I wish this show and the creatives all the success it deserves. Paul Taylor Mills, Lonny Price, Colleen Dauncey and Akiva-Romer Segal welcomed and introduced this show to us so eloquently that it was hard not to fall in love with it.
Whilst training, you played Roz in 9 to 5 and Carmen in Sweet Charity, can you tell us about performing as these characters?
Performing both of these roles was so much fun. Particularly Roz Hart in 9 to 5 as I got to become a mature woman with a little grey hairdo and live my snooty receptionist fantasy.
Had you always wanted to attend Guildford School of Acting, and how was your time there?
Yes, GSA was my top choice of drama school. Choosing a school is completely subjective, but there was an energy the school held that felt like it was the right place for me.
I auditioned twice for GSA. On my second year of auditioning, I got onto the reserve list and managed to secure a spot a few weeks before the term was due to begin. There is still hope on the reserve list!
I am very grateful for my time at GSA. I was able to work with some amazing creatives, teachers and fellow students.
Where does your love of musical theatre come from?
Musical theatre was something I could channel my energy into when I was young. It also helped me massively in a social aspect by giving me confidence to communicate – ultimately opening myself up to a multitude of life lessons. I guess that is still what I enjoy most about this industry. I am constantly learning, meeting new people and developing as a person.
Do you remember what musicals you watched when growing up and do you have a favourite show of all time?
I remember being absolutely petrified of the Cats Overture (still am), to the point of not being able to watch without the presence of an adult in the room to protect me from the cat eyes on screen.
Regarding my favourite show of all time, I don’t think I have one. My love for shows constantly fluctuates but if I had to pick my favourite at the moment, it would have to be Hamilton.
You performed in the concert, With a Little Bit of Lerner at The Royal Festival Hall, how was this?
Being in the choir of this concert was like watching a masterclass. The sheer talent involved was an honour to observe. I remember walking into the rehearsal room just as Rachel Tucker was going through her song (On a Clear Day – Alan Jay Lerner) and feeling like a starstruck child.
Can you tell us about the videos you’ve recorded whilst in lockdown?
I have been lucky enough to be involved in videos with the incredible BAT cast made by our very own Sam Pope. Sam’s attention to detail and creativity should be hugely celebrated. Hopefully there is more to come, so keep an eye out!
The most recent video I have been involved in is West End Live Lounge’s: The Show Must Go On, which is raising funds for two charities – Mind and Acting for Others. This video is also in support of the #SaveOurTheatres campaign. A campaign very close to a lot of our hearts. I feel very proud to be a small part of this movement, alongside some phenomenal performers and musicians. A massive thank you and congratulations to Shaun McCourt for producing such a poignant piece.
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