This Cruella is one cold criminal

Poppy Crawford shrugs on the furs to play the wickedly fabulous Cruella De Vil in The Hundred and One Dalmatians.
Poppy Crawford shrugs on the furs to play the wickedly fabulous Cruella De Vil in The Hundred and One Dalmatians.
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You might well have bought an ice-cream from 18-year-old Poppy Crawford when she’s been working front of house at Chichester Festival Theatre.

But this Christmas, she’s going to be where she really wants to be: on the CFT stage.

This festive season, Poppy is playing Cruella De Vil, the nastiest, cruellest villainess, in Chichester Festival Youth Theatre’s Christmas staging of Dodie Smith’s The Hundred And One Dalmatians in a new adaptation by Bryony Lavery (December 20-January 3).

She’s hoping it might prove a stepping stone to drama school. Once the production has run its course, she will be setting out on the auditions trail. It should prove great experience for her career ahead.

‘I did The Snow Queen with Chichester Festival Youth Theatre in 2009. I was on the waiting list for a good year and a half before that. Someone dropped out of the year group I was in, and I got the chance.’

She’d auditioned as an extra for the professional production of The Music Man on the main-house stage.

Unfortunately she didn’t get the part. She was too tall. But the experience fired her up.

‘That was what really sparked it for me, and ever since I have been involved with the theatre. I work front of house, and I just love it here. I just love being here!

‘It’s a local theatre, but there’s still the thing of it being one of the greatest regional theatres around with so many fantastic productions being staged here. I love the fact that I get to perform with the youth theatre on the same stage Imelda Staunton and Michael Ball have performed on. When you first go up there, it goes through your mind, and you think ‘Oh crikey!’ but then obviously you have to put it from your mind. But it’s a great thought.

As for Cruella, Poppy believes she’s a character who goes on a journey. She is not just evil. There is much more to her than that.

‘I think I am not just evil. I am cold. I am physically cold. There is a vulnerability about her because she is just so cold all the time. She can’t get warm. She constantly needs warmth, and I think that is a metaphor for her, needing warmth because her inner self is not happy. So that’s what I see as the journey.

‘You have got the Disney Cruellas where she is just evil, and I take that on board, but I think she’s a character who just gradually gets more frustrated with certain situations. She’s a great character to play.

‘That justifies why she does things. She can’t be without fur.’

And for Poppy, it’s all part of the great fun which comes with being involved with Chichester Festival Theatre.

‘I just love being here. I work with great people, and you meet so many great people, and there is also such enthusiasm, always such great productions.’

Inevitably, though, this time, there is a degree of sadness. This is, after all, her final show with Chichester Festival Youth Theatre.

‘I have definitely grown as an actress (through the youth theatre). It has given me lots of skills. It’s great to be back in the refurbished theatre, and I am going to enjoy it as much as I can.’

PHIL HEWITT