McQueen, a fantasy tale of arguably one of the most famous fashion designers in the world and a girl who hides in his garden tree, transfers to the West End’s Theatre Royal Haymarket with previews beginning on August 13th. Nicole Evans catches up with new kid on the block Carly Bawden to talk about playing Dahlia, wearing posh frocks and the magic of theatre.
How exciting is it to be part of something that already has such amazing critical acclaim?
It’s really exciting, and also the part is a complete gift and the company are incredible! They’ve been very welcoming to me and have embraced me with open arms. I’m just so thrilled to be doing this piece and to be honouring such an amazing talented man.
The rôle of Dahlia and the journey she embarks on is every fashion lover’s dream; it must ignite some sort of ‘inner girl’ fantasy when you transform yourself into character?
Oh my gosh, completely! I had a photo shoot yesterday and it was the first time I’d got to properly wear my wig and put the coat with golden feathers on and it’s absolutely beautiful. Something he believed in was protecting women and making them feel like they were wearing armour and that they were powerful and David [Farley] the designer has done such an incredible job with the costumes that when you do put on this coat, you just feel it, it just does something to you and gives you this power and excitement, it’s fantastic. So yeah, I’ve lucked out with the costumes, completely! There is an incredible scene in this play, and I probably shouldn’t give away too much, but there is a dress that’s created and it’s just breathtaking.
It must be quite different from some of the things you’ve done before in terms of elaborate costumes?
Completely, apart from an interesting parallel with the story of Dahlia and what she goes through being similar to Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, both in terms of their journey through the show and definitely in terms of their journey with their wardrobe. Interestingly enough my character actually references Audrey Hepburn, Eliza, Henry Higgins; it’s the whole idea of transformations, which is something that drove McQueen, the sense of transforming somebody and making them become what they were, what they are, what they want to be. It echoes that through the story.
You’re taking over from Dianna Agron – how does it feel to be the new girl for the West End run?
It’s really exciting and, like I said, everybody has been so welcoming and encouraging and just having a new energy in the room. I’m excited to be flying the flag and taking over and seeing what I can bring to the rôle. Also, I saw it in its last week at the St James and I absolutely loved it.
Did you know you had the part when you were watching it?
No, I didn’t, not at all, but I knew about it anyway and I wanted to see it so I went and checked it out and loved it. I read the script and I knew it was something I would absolutely love to do, and it worked out!
Previews are getting close now; is everybody ready, are nerves jangling a little yet?
We were just talking about this today and we realised it’s a week tomorrow that we open. I won’t lie to you, I’m very nervous but it’s also partnered with extreme excitement. Everybody is so wonderful and I’m not the only new member either so it’s nice that I’m not alone in my new-ness so I’m just eager to really find my feet and feel secure. I’m well on the way I think and hopefully I’ll be more than ready. I’m really looking forward to diving in and getting into the theatre. That’s always another chapter, getting to the theatre and getting a real sense of where you are going to be.
So you don’t get long between getting in and opening night then?
It’s quite quick, it always depends on what’s in there before you. We’re taking over from The Elephant Man so they’re in there at the moment. A couple of us got the chance to have a look, I’ve not been in the Haymarket before so I got to have a little look around and a little stand on stage and have a seat in all the different tiers in the audience. It’s beautiful and there’s not a bad seat in the house. So we’re excited to get in.
Rewinding a bit and coming away from McQueen, you were called up for your rôle in Evita before completing your final showcase; did you expect to get a break into the business so soon?
No, of course not. I was just pushing my luck, it was a big leap of faith and I thought “why not? Let’s give it a go”. I didn’t expect to be so lucky and find something. I was all done and dusted for my academic year and we were just doing rehearsals to get showcase together when I auditioned and then I got it, so they let me go before the showcase. I was over the moon for that to happen to me at that point in time. Definitely unexpected, and a very wonderful surprise.
You’ve dabbled in a bit of radio and television in your career so far, is the theatre where the heart lies or are there other avenues you’d like to take things down?
I love variety so I always strive to try and be involved in different areas of performing. This year was my first TV job and I learnt so much as it is really very different to the theatre. My heart will definitely always be with theatre because it’s where I started. I’d love to be involved with film and TV but if I was lucky enough to have that variety I’d still always want to come back and do theatre. There’s something so magical and unique about the experience you have with a show and it’s like a second family when you do shows together and you really get to know people, the camaraderie that ‘s involved in it all. There’s definitely a special place in my heart for it.
Is there a dream rôle you’d really love to take on?
You know, I don’t think there is. There are wonderful incredible rôles out there, playing Eliza was a huge dream come true so that was extraordinary, but I’m more compelled by what’s out there that hasn’t been found yet, I’m excited about the possibility of what might come up, creating somebody new and it being yours, so that’s what drives me. So I wouldn’t say there is a dream rôle as such, just something that I could create.
All that’s left to say is best of luck with the West End run of McQueen. For people who have yet to see it, could you describe it in one word?
Oh my gosh, that is difficult… I’ve got no idea. It’s so multifaceted and deals with so much and is on so many levels. It’s kind of impossible to summarise.
McQueen is at the Theatre Royal Haymarket from August 13th – November 7th.