Rachel Tucker on Unleashing Her Inner Dominatrix in London’s Communicating Doors

first_img View Comments After a passionate Broadway debut in the short-lived Sting musical The Last Ship, Belfast-born actress-singer Rachel Tucker has returned to London to head the cast of the Menier Chocolate Factory revival of Alan Ayckbourn’s Communicating Doors, currently in previews and opening May 13. A onetime Elphaba in Wicked, Tucker shifts gears in the comic thriller to play a dominatrix who goes by the name Poopay—Mary-Louise Parker played the same role off-Broadway in 1998. Broadway.com caught up with the effervescent talent to discuss not singing for a change on stage and her memories of the Great White Way.You’ve got some of the best lungs in the business but there’s no singing this time around, is there?[Laughs.] Not here! I love musicals and I absolutely love singing, but I also really love acting. The older I get, the more I want to do straight stuff. I think it’s important that I show people I’m not just a set of lungs or a big voice.The character of Poopay, too, is quite a challenge.This has been a big stretch for me. I’ve never had to learn so many words in my life and in such an intense short period and with a Cockney accent on top. That’s something I’ve never done before and I’ve loved it; It’s important to keep me on my toes.How thrilled were you to get the offer?I was thrilled to be seen for a role like this. I mean, a cockney dominatrix prostitute: everything I had never played before [laughs]. It took me by surprise, I have to say, but my husband [director Guy Retallack] has done a couple of [Alan Ayckbourn] plays and I absolutely love his stuff.How do you research playing a dominatrix?That’s been interesting! I did speak to an actual dominatrix called Miss Josephine, which was quite eye-opening and it was fascinating to see the extent to which this world really does exist but quite privately and quietly. Each to their own, I suppose.What did you discover from Miss Josephine?I was struck by the fact that she’s got standards and that even in this world there are standards. She sees herself as quite a high-class dominatrix—for one thing, she wears leather and good leather, not PVC.The time-travel element of the play must be interesting in that the “future” envisaged when the play was first written was 2014, which has now come and gone.We’ve pushed 2014 to 2020 so that’s our “future,” which is only five years ahead. It’s been tricky in rehearsals finding those little things that act as big indicators as to where we are but what’s wonderful about Alan’s writing is that he is able to convince the audience of all this using just one hotel room and a couple of sets of doors.You mention acting as opposed to singing but what’s notable about your work in musicals is the way you combine both.I’m so glad you think so because when I teach kids about musical theater, my big battle is to impress upon them that it’s not about the singing: it’s got to come from your acting choices before you start the music, and I think that’s what a lot of people don’t get right. I almost feel on this play as if I could sing my lines because I know where I’m coming from with it.Now there’s an idea: Communicating Doors—the Musical![Laughs.] Oh god, absolutely! There’s definitely room to turn this into a musical. Poopay could have a good old cockney song – but the text is so rich that I think it’s better as a play.Speaking of musicals, did you follow the Tony nominations to see how The Last Ship fared?I got the news [of the show’s two nods] after that day’s rehearsals and I was just so delighted that Sting got recognized for his score and Rob Mathes for his orchestrations: I was so happy for them both.Do you think the show might have got more nominations if it had opened later in the season?Well, I don’t think it was an accident that The Last Ship opened when it did. The creative team clearly thought the show was going to run. They obviously thought it was going to be successful and be a massive revenue hit; I mean, we all did.What did you do right after the show closed?I stayed on in New York for about 10 days with the cast and we chilled out and went to parties and saw a couple of shows. That was a nice cooling-down period before getting ready to go home. I’d spent nine or 10 months on the production, so it felt important to be able to say goodbye properly to that chapter of my life.Any plans for a second album? [Tucker’s first, The Reason, came out in 2013].I’d love to do another, but they take me about three years to do and I had to work the last one into my career when I knew I had the time. It worked well because I was pregnant with my son and then had time to work on the album after I had given birth. Maybe I’ll do another album the next time we have another go at having a child!Did your son come away from his time in the States with a New York accent?He did! He’s two now and he would say words like “more” with a little American twang but now that he’s back in London it’s kind of a mixture.Do you have other musicals on the horizon?I’d absolutely love to have a go at Beautiful. I’ve got loads of Carole King’s music and love her stuff. And while I was in New York, I also went to see Cabaret, and of course I’d give my right arm to play that role [Sally Bowles]. That’s the thing about this business: you never know!last_img

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