BWW Interview: Rachel John Talks WEST END WOMEN
Rachel John recently finished her Olivier-nominated run as Angelica Schuyler in Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre. She has also been seen in Memphis and The Bodyguard.
What made you want to be a performer?
I had always sung at church in the choir, but I never thought about being a performer. At university I did my degree in English Literature and Drama & Theatre Studies.
This sparked my interest in the fact that performance could be for me. It took a few years for that thought to become a reality.
What can we expect at West End Women?
West End Women is going to be a night of incredible songs. We will be walking you through a century of women in theatre, and it's an opportunity to hear three women that you wouldn't expect to hear together in one production.
How are rehearsals going?
Rehearsals are going well - it's been thrilling to hear the ladies' solos! The first time our voices blended together, I got goosebumps.
Who are your role models in the industry and why?
One of my role models is Sharon D Clarke - she's a force to be reckoned with. Every time I see her strength on stage and screen, I am in awe.
I grew up watching her in productions and I can honestly say she has been a source of encouragement, sharing pearls of wisdom and championing others in the industry. Her strength, poise and power make me admire her.
What is your impression of the state of female representation in the West End?
I would love to see more women across the West End in many positions. From producers, the bands, directors, MDs, it would be great to see more of a female presence.
Roles are changing, but we need more female writers to have the opportunity to let their work shine. I fully support 50:50 initiatives and look forward to the day when it is normal for women to be everywhere.
If you could play/gender-flip any musical theatre role, which would it be?
If I could gender-flip any role, I would love to play Aaron Burr. To be allowed to play grit and complexity, and also tackle those songs, would be an honour.
What was your favourite thing about playing Angelica?
My favourite thing about playing Angelica Schuyler was knowing that she was a real woman who did extraordinary things at a time when women were not regarded as equal to men.
She was very educated, bold and owned her voice. Her voice still resonates and I was honoured to play her.
What was your favourite moment of Hamilton to perform?
"Schuyler Sisters" - the feeling of coming out with my sisters was a buzz every night. To look so different, but to be one, spoke volumes. It felt like the first time in every performance.
Historical musicals are popping up all over the place at the moment (Hamilton, Six, Sylvia etc.). What other stories do you think should be told on stage today?
I think that we need to keep telling historical stories. I would love to see pieces about Windrush and the history of the British Empire.
These stories are not highlighted as much and they are a part of our British story. It would be great to have many perspectives of how this Empire came to be. It would be exciting, engaging, enlightening, educational - and is essential.
Any advice for those wanting to pursue a career in theatre?
My advice would be study, train and enjoy. This is a challenging career and there's no point even considering getting into it if you do not love what you do.
Don't be afraid to fail or get it wrong. You learn so much from the lows, as well as the highs! Watch shows, support others in the industry, and keep believing.
Why should people come to West End Women?
You should come to see West End Women because you will hear songs that you love, we will take you on a journey, and we are going to blow your socks off! It's not a night to be missed.
Photo credit: Lambert Jackson Productions, Matthew Murphy