British actress Emma Kingston is currently playing what she calls her “dream role” aka the leading lady role of Eva Perón in the international tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s award-winning musical Evita. The smash hit which spawned the 1996 film adaptation starring Madonna follows the life of actress-turned-political leader Eva (or Evita), wife of former Argentine president Juan Perón, from her humble beginnings to her rise to power, and eventual death from cancer at age 33.
And the 27-year-old thespian’s ties to the role run deep: Her mum is Argentinean, and her grandfather lived through the Perón era. “I think when you’ve got family history and family ties to the period of time and to the country, it’s a huge responsibility to portray her in an honest light. She’s a very big political figure, and it’s very cool to be able to play her,” Emma says. The stage production features some of the most beloved songs in musicals, including classic hit ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’. Evita makes its way to the Grand Theatre, Mastercard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands next month. And here’s why you should turn off your camera flash when Emma is on stage.
8 DAYS: What are the best and worst parts about doing a musical like Evita?
EMMA KINGSTON: The best thing is that I get to tell a story through so many different mediums — song, acting, and movement and physicality. It’s particularly amazing to me how I can move from portraying a 15-year-old bubbly girl to a 33-year-old woman with cancer. The worst thing is that I have to be very disciplined. I can’t go out and be a party animal ’cos I’ve a show to do and a paying audience [to consider]. And I’ve to be very careful about [my diet]. Like, I can’t eat tomatoes before bed ’cos they may rumble in my stomach and [disrupt] my sleep. I have to adopt a lifestyle change when playing a role like this so as to keep myself healthy.
How did you prep for this role?
In terms of research and how I prepared to take on the role, I had the opportunity to go to Argentina and I’ve been to Eva’s foundation house and I went to all the political museums. Also, I tried to read as much as I could about her to try and develop a three-dimensional character.
After your performance of Evita in Cape Town, you tweeted: “To the lady in the 2nd row who filmed ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’ with the flash on....Live theatre is BEST when you experience it LIVE!” If there’s an audience member who’s texting, talking loudly or opening a candy wrapper, does it distract you from what’s happening on stage?
I’d say it’s more distracting for the other audience members. Obviously, when someone sat there with a flash light, it’s very distracting ’cos I saw light that wasn’t a part of the show and sometimes, it takes me out of my character. But I try to stay very, very focused. And I think theatre is best when you experience it live — there’s nothing like hearing that amazing live music and seeing people’s emotions roll on stage. I’ve always said I’m a fan of theatre and I love seeing an audience completely encapsulated by theatre. So I hope that we get the opportunity to do that to our audience.
What are some of your biggest theatre etiquette pet peeves?
I’m quite a positive person. So I don’t really let negative things consume me, especially when I’m at the theatre. It’s my happy place. (Laughs)
Your co-star Jonathan Roxmouth said that his role came as a surprise, and that he didn’t realise how fun, stimulating and cathartic it would be. Was it the same for you?
Yeah. I mean, I think you experience and understand so many more things, like your character, once you get a chance to play them. And there are so many elements in the show that are incredibly fun and enjoyable to play. But also, the thing about playing a character day in, day out, is that you realise things that you didn’t see before. Every day is different and what makes it so wonderful, especially for an actor, is that you can find so many different things to play.
What’s one thing you learnt on the job that they never taught you in school at the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in the UK?
We audition for so many different jobs and we get rejected [all the time]. And I think rejection is the hardest pill to swallow when you’re an actor. It’s part and parcel of the business, but it doesn’t get any easier. But for every job that I don’t get, I’ll get the one job that’s absolutely amazing and right for me. So it’s about biding my time and waiting for the right role, and not letting the rejection affect me.
Evita runs from Feb 23 to Mar 11, at the Grand Theatre, Mastercard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands. Tix from Sistic.
Photo Credits: Wolf Marloh/Pat Bromilow-Downing