Olivier-Award-winning musical theatre legend Ruthie Henshall is bringing her acclaimed one-woman show home to Epsom next month.
An Intimate Evening With Ruthie Henshall won plaudits when it toured the country last year, for its balance of humour, emotional honesty and genre-hopping musical performances.
Ruthie Henshall has lived a lot of lives, and played a lot of roles, as well as having had a much-publicised relationship with Prince Edward.
But before all of that and her West End debut in Cats, she studied in Epsom, at Laine Theatre Arts college, where she has fond memories of carefree student life and waitressing to pay the bills.
"I had such a wonderful time there," she reminisces, "Coming back feels like coming home."
She has been both Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly in Chicago, Fantine in Les Miserables and will take over the role of Mrs Wilkinson in Billy Elliot in May. Last year, she first stepped on stage as herself, inviting audiences to explore her roles and lives and what they have meant to her, through the music that defines them.
She says the show’s mixture of comedy and pathos came naturally, almost writing itself. It is her story, after all, and she does like a laugh, but there is a lot of the personal that she wants to express too, the ups and downs of an almost-30-year stage career reflected in such diverse music as folk legend Joni Mitchell, cult comedian Tom Lehrer, The Beatles and classic songs from her shows.
Smaller venues were a natural choice, allowing her to connect more with audiences - who responded and made the show a success. She is bringing it back now because people kept asking her why it didn’t stop in their town, and because it was another chance to do her own thing, to tell her own story and to try another role - producer, having started her own production company to give her more control over this and other productions.
There is another Ruthie Henshall too - the busy working mum who juggles the "feast or famine" nature of a stage career with all that raising two young daughters entails. At home she is just ‘mum’. Her children know what she does, but she says: "They don’t seem to be that impressed - I just do what mum does!"
They have seen the show, and she loved having them in the audience, but she is convinced that her stint in the Doctor Who spin-off "Wizards vs Aliens" is the coolest thing she has done for them.
"Really they take it all in stride. They do love musical theatre, but right now they’re more interested in the game Minecraft!"
In future Henshall expects to keep wearing a lot of hats alongside the one that says ‘mum’ - particularly producer and stage performer. Her ‘Intimate Evening’ is a chance to catch her in the mood to reflect, and hear her extraordinary story in her own words.
There is a lot to Ruthie Henshall that she does not share, too. When asked about her sometime relationship with Prince Edward, she says, good-naturedly, "I don’t talk about that, but good on you for asking!" Even when letting people in, it’s only human to want to keep some things to yourself.
An Intimate Evening with Ruthie Henshall; Epsom Playhouse, Ashley Avenue, Epsom; April 15, 8pm; £18-£20; 01372 742555; epsomplayhouse.co.uk
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