Lauren Kempton hadn't been intending to return to the stage quite yet after taking a break from the amateur dramatics scene to become a mother.
But when she was offered the role of Eliza Doolittle in CCADS’ forthcoming production of My Fair Lady, it was too good an opportunity for her to pass up.
Lauren says: ‘If someone offers you the chance to play Eliza Doolittle at the Kings, you don’t say no, you just say yes, and then you worry later about how you’re going to make it happen!’
It was John-Paul McCrohon, the founder of CCADS, who came knocking on her door. John-Paul, who won the Special Achievement prize at this year’s Guide Awards, is directing the show and will also star opposite Lauren as Professor Henry Higgins.
‘It’s a part I’ve always wanted to play. It’s probably the show that made me want to do musicals – I remember watching it when I was little and I was a big fan of Audrey Hepburn and all of her films.’
Eliza is a young flower seller with an unmistakable Cockney accent which keeps her in the lower rungs of Edwardian society. When Professor Henry Higgins tries to teach her how to speak like a proper lady, an unlikely friendship begins to flourish.
This celebrated Broadway, West End and film hit is widely considered to be one of the greatest musicals of all time.
Based on George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, it features one of musical theatre’s greatest scores, including: Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?, With a Little Bit of Luck, The Rain in Spain, I Could Have Danced All Night, On the Street Where You Live, Get Me to the Church on Time and I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.
Lauren’s last turn on stage was in Goodnight Mr Tom in late 2017. Her daughter Alice is now 15 months old, and Lauren was initially reluctant to leave her little girl.
‘It was nerve-racking at first because I hadn’t really left her that long, but I think it’s done me a world of good, as you can stop being a mum for a moment and remember who you were before – before all of the nappies and the sleepless nights!’
The actress last played opposite John-Paul in CCADS’ Dirty Rotten Scoundrels in March 2017.
And she was previously in the ensemble for South Downe Musical Society’s production of My Fair Lady in 2008, but this time she steps up to take the lead.
‘I absolutely love the part of Eliza. It’s been fun being a cockney and trying to be posh as well. Because the dialogue is so well-written, you don’t want to drop a line or get any part of it wrong. I feel like I’ve got a duty to do it justice and make sure I get it absolutely right.’
So will we be seeing Lauren back on the stage more regularly after this?
‘I think I would have to be careful – it would depend on the show, and I perhaps wouldn’t take on such a big role again, unless it was one you just couldn’t say no to.
‘The next production is Chicago, and that doesn’t come around very often, so again, if I’ve got the opportunity to be involved in some way… it’s something you need to experience!’
MY FAIR LADY
The Kings Theatre, Southsea