Frances Barber: ‘Everybody in LA’s on prescription drugs but they frown on a glass of wine’

the Guardian | 7/27/2019 | Michael Hogan
blacky (Posted by) Level 3
Frances Barber, 62, was born in Wolverhampton and studied drama at Bangor and Cardiff universities. She began her stage career with the Hull Truck Theatre Company and in 1984 won an Olivier award for her RSC debut in Camille. Her film roles include Prick Up Your Ears, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid and Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool. TV credits include Silk, Doctor Who and Mapp and Lucia. She stars in the new Pet Shop Boys musical, MUSIK, which premieres at Edinburgh festival fringe.

How are rehearsals going for the Pet Shop Boys musical?

Run-through - Play - Front - Pet - Shop

I’ve just got back from my first full run-through, doing the whole play in front of Pet Shop Boys. Not in the least bit frightening! Chris Lowe took his sunglasses off, though, which is high praise indeed.

The show has been 18 years in the making. How come?

Closer - Pet - Shop - Boys - Character

I nearly fainted when I realised it had been that long! When we first did Closer to Heaven [the first Pet Shop Boys musical] in 2001, my character Billie Trix was quite minor but as we workshopped it, the role expanded. She’s this old rock chick in the vein of Marianne Faithfull, Anita Pallenberg or Nico. Neil [Tennant] and Chris adored writing songs for her and kept saying we should do a one-woman show. And finally, together with the brilliant Jonathan Harvey who created her in the first place, we have. Last year, they took Jonathan and me to lunch at the Delaunay and went: “Right, it’s now or never. Let’s do this.”

How many songs do you perform?

Six - Brand - Music - Decades - Bit

Six, four of which are brand new, spanning her music through the decades. It starts off a bit Lotte Lenya, then she leaves Berlin for New York and there’s a song about Andy Warhol’s Factory, a Vietnam protest song, a disco anthem, a torch...
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