Thursday, 10 October 2013

The Light Princess - interview with Rosalie Craig

BEING offered the opportunity to learn exciting new skills must surely be one of the perks of doing any job. And for Rosalie Craig this has certainly been the case with her latest project.

The Crystal Palace-based actress is currently starring in The Light Princess at the National Theatre.

But far from being merely a stage play where she keeps her feet firmly on terra firma, this new musical sees Rosalie float above the stage for much of the proceedings.

Written by award-winning singer-songwriter Tori Amos, its central characters are a prince (Digby) and princess (Althea - played by Rosalie) who live in opposing kingdoms. Both have lost their mothers but deal with their grief in very different ways.

Digby becomes so heavy-hearted that he can never smile and trains as a warrior and Althea is unable to cry, becomes light with grief and floats.

"It's a fantastic story and very well crafted," says Rosalie. "It's about growing up and deals with those who may not be socially acceptable and how people react to them.

"Althea grieves for her dead mother and floats up to be near her but Digby is very grounded.

"That lightness is an aspect of many things - being light of mind and in her relation to things that are difficult to deal with."

To get her character to drift above the stage, Rosalie had to train with aerial artists and acrobats, something which, far from terrifying her, was an exciting proposition.

"I've never done anything like this before," she enthuses as we chat ahead of the show's opening.

"Marianne (Elliott, the director) came up with the brilliant idea about how Althea should float. It involves acrobatics so I had to train with an Acroyoga teacher and had to do aerial training.

"I have done a few musicals and lots of general theatre so that's not new territory but the demands of the physicality of the part really was. But it's a new journey that's been a complete joy."

However, this journey was not for the faint hearted as Rosalie had to train for 18 months, not just how to get to grips and feel comfortable with all the equipment to keep her up in the air and move around, but also to feel safe.

"It's not without its risks and it's been pretty full on but it's been such a luxury to learn a new skill and use it in a new job," she says.

"Physically and mentally it was exhausting but it's been so exciting and fantastic fun, especially working with Tori as she's incredible and so generous," she says.

"She totally understands how a musical should work and that songs need to be story and character driven, rather than writing a song for the song's sake. She's completely normal and approachable and not at all starry!" she laughs cheerfully.

"She has been there every single moment of every single day in rehearsals to make sure it's the best it can be - whether it's to change the music slightly or to give encouragement and that's been invaluable for me especially given what I have to do!

"I've also had to learn to trust the rest of the cast in a completely different way and to just go with it."

But despite the demands of the role, Rosalie says she has rarely felt nervous.

"I've just thrown myself into it," she laughs.

"I think I've been of the mindset that if I worry about being up in the air then I won't be able to do it."

This mindset has extended to other potentially nervewracking situations on stage, including her recent appearance in Table at the National's Shed stage in which she stripped off.

"It was one of those things that if I'd thought about it, it could have been a problem," she admits. "It was just another part of the show but was handled so respectively, sensitively and tastefully it really didn't feel as though it was a big deal."

Rosalie puts her "get on with it" and "can do" attitude down to her training at Rose Bruford College in Sidcup.

"I can't really remember not wanting to be an actress and part of a theatre company," she says.

"I love that I always felt like that. It made things very easy and my parents were supportive and I was so lucky to go to Rose Bruford.

"It was great training - hard work and long hours but was an incredibly good foundation and gave me a good grounding and attitude to work."

And as for the future Rosalie says she just wants to keep working.

"I don't have a role that I covert particularly but I'd love to stay at the National!" she says.

"It's such an amazing theatre and it attracts people who are creative and brave which is fantastic. There's also a sense of community here which is rare. I love it and I'd like to stay here for the rest of my life," she laughs heartily.

"Also, I live in Crystal Palace so it's very easy to get to work which is a massive help - it's a great place to be based. I've lived here for four years and I love it.

"It's just fantastic - it's green, there are lots of lovely independent shops and it's lovely to just be able to potter around.

"There are also a lot of festivals and food markets which I love!"

As well as the National, Rosalie admits to ambitions of working on screen.

"I'd love to do a bit of TV and film which I have not done much of," she says. "The good thing about this job is that there are so many possibilities and I'm keen to grab as many as I can - I've been very lucky so far.

"And this role has really inspired me and has been a great thing to do to banish any fears within myself.

"I'd also like to keep up this new skill and use it in the future - it will feel quite bizarre to put my feet on the ground again!"

Whatever she does next, it's clear that Rosalie is quite literally a rising star.

The Light Princess is on at the National Theatre's Lyttelton stage until Thursday, January 9.

Tickets from £12. Call the box office on 020 7452 3000.

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