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A chat with the Everyman Company’s Emily Hughes

By Andy Green

THE Everyman Company is about to embark on its second season starting with Paint Your Wagon. Last year’s inaugural outing featured the much-talked-about professional debut of Emily Hughes – a local girl who wowed audiences with her performances in Fiddler On The Roof, Conquest of the South Pole and The Sum.

She’ll be playing the female lead in Paint Your Wagon.

“Yes, I play Jennifer Rumson who is the daughter of Ben Rumson, the mayor and founder of Rumson Town.  I’m the only woman in a camp of 400 men and then it becomes 900 men and there’s only me which, as you can imagine, causes some problems.”

Paint Your Wagon is a very well-known and well-loved piece but readers may be surprised to know that this is the first major stage production in decades.

“Yeah, it’s great, I don’t know why it’s not been done more often. There’s so much in it and yes it hasn’t been done since the 1960s.  The estate are really excited for us and really want to see how a modern approach can breathe new life into it.

“So many people know the film and the big songs Wandrin’ Star and Maria so I think that will bring people in and the curiosity of what it will be like on the stage without Clint Eastwood!”

Emily in rehearsal for Paint Your Wagon

The original Paint Your Wagon features a large cast. How is the company of 14 going to tackle that?

“There’s lots of hat swapping and gender flipping. We have one particular part at the start of the second act where we’ve got everyone playing women. It’s so much fun and it doesn’t even look strange, you know when you’re going along it doesn’t stick out. It’s just the company you’ve got, everyone swapping and changing to do what it takes to get it on.”

This must be a dream job for any young actor.

“Yeah, it’s every actors dream job I think. The opportunity to work not just on one play but four plays with the same group of people, all over 6 months – yes, it’s a dream job. And you really get pushed in every direction- you’ve got musical, theatre, Shakespeare and the big company shows and they do push you in every way – it’s the best kind of training.”

I know it’s the nature of repertory theatre but it must be difficult doing more than one show at once – I saw you in The Sum in the afternoon and then Fiddler in the evening!

Emily in The Sum. Photo by Stephen Vaughan

“It was bonkers! And my God we were we fit by the end of it because doing a full show like Fiddler in the afternoon and then a different show in the evening – you know how physical Fiddler was –  but it was great. It was like a standing joke but we’d come in the morning and wardrobe had set the costumes for the day and we’d joke that that was the only way we knew which show we were doing next cos we were so all over the place.”

So is there a favourite from last year?

“I loved them all and you couldn’t  have picked a more different group of plays but I think Fiddler for me, because it was the first show we did together, it was the launch of the company so that will also have a special place in my heart.”

We know what Emily did for 6 months last year and we know what she’ll be doing for the first half of this year  but what has Emily been doing in between her stints at the Everyman?

“I’ve moved back to London and I did what most actresses do and got myself a day job. So I’m a very good waitress! But I did a few other bits and pieces. It’s really interesting because this job has opened up so many conversations, people are so curious about it. Actors and directors were saying ‘How was the rep?’, everyone is so fascinated by it and I’m so proud to have been part of the first company and Liverpool has paved the way and I think – I hope – that a lot of other theatres are going to start doing a similar thing. It’s just a great opportunity for local actors.”

And its 6 month’s work too.

“Exactly and it’s so rare. And it’s not 6 months in the same show were you get to the end of the 6 months and its lost its spark. Yes, 6 months of real variety. It’s magic”

Emily will also be playing Desdemona in Othello but rehearsals haven’t begun yet.

“I can’t wait to get stuck into that one. At the moment the people doing A Clockwork Orange have started and the rehearsal pictures look so exciting – it’s so different from the musical. Again, the variety is so great. We start rehearsing Othello when Paint Your Wagon is up and running. We have a little bit of grace time.”

Is it hard rehearsing one show while appearing in another?

Emily in The Conquest of the South Pole. Photo by Gary Calton

“Last year I was in Conquest of the South Pole which was the second play and that was mental because you’ve got two plays going on at the same time. But this year I’m in the third play so I’ve got a bit of a break. But you just kind of do it! Because they’re so different, you just use a different part of your brain.  But we all want them to be as ready as they can be and I think they picked people who were ready to get stuck in – it’s not for the fainthearted.”

Emily was more than thrilled to be signed up for the second season…

“I got the call and I instantly said yes, it was a no-brainer and I’ve been really lucky with the parts I’ve got so that’s an added bonus but whatever parts they offered me I would have come back.”

Last year’s performances resulted in being nominated for The Stage Debut award.

“That was surreal, I was just walking to the train one day and I got a call from The Stage saying: ‘We’d just like to check something with you’ and I thought it was like a picture they were going to print but they asked me if I was free on blah, blah September and I was like ’What?!’ I never expected that and it was an amazing experience.”

Emily trained at Oxford School of Drama but she’s pleased to be working in Liverpool.

“Being in Liverpool is so special because it means that my family and friends can see me – sometimes six times! Which they would never have got to do if I was elsewhere in the country. I mean I’ve had primary school teachers come and see me – it’s so special.”

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if, one day in the future, I’m watching TV and on comes Dame Emily Hughes and I can say: ‘I interviewed her when she was first starting out!’ That’s my ambition, what about Emily’s?

“You know what, if I can make a living from acting and not do anything else that will be enough for me. Everyone has ambitions and aspirations and of course I’ve got loads of them but just to be able to live as an actor and not have to waitress, to do it full time, that would be the dream.”

This was the first time I’ve actually met Emily – I saw her in last year’s shows, some of them more than once – and she surprised me. I suppose it’s testament to her great acting ability but I wasn’t expecting her to be quite so self-assured, so confident, so radiant and at the same time so bloody lovely! She oozes the best possible charisma. Watch out for Emily Hughes, she’s going to be a star.





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