Caro Meets Musicals & Opera Interview

Stuart Saint: Princess

By | Published on Monday 7 November 2016


If you’ve seen hit shows like ‘Royal Vauxhall’, and the annual panto at Leicester Square theatre, then you are already aware of the work of multi-talented multi-tasker Stuart Saint, whose latest piece ‘Princess’ goes up at LOST theatre later this month.
I spoke to the veteran performer-writer-director-choreographer, to find out more about what we can expect from his new show.

CM: Can you start by telling us what the show is about?
SS: In a nutshell it’s about self-acceptance. Learning to listen and believe in who you are. It sounds a bit airy-fairy but there are so many of us who constantly battle with going against who we are, changing ourselves inside and out to be accepted. When you notice you are “different” to the “norm” there can be that inner voice that says “oh no, change everything so you don’t stick out and just fit in”. This is something I’ve personally struggled with, but it becomes very tiring denying to yourself who you are. So what the show says is be you and that’s all you need. Just be you because it’s who you are.

CM: What’s the story?
SS: We meet a young girl who is very much different but she dreams to fit in, she’s a bit of a loner and her comfort is when she watches her fairytale princesses. She longs to be like them and to be rescued be some man, prince or ideal of perfection, believing that only then will she be happy in her ever after. However we know life doesn’t work like that. A twist of fate forces the young girl to see those famous stories in a very different light.

CM: And what can we expect in terms of style – does it fall neatly into a specific genre?
SS: I’d love to say yes, it’s my style of music, theatre and dance, but it would be very arrogant of me to state myself as a genre. I am influenced by so many greats like Bob Fosse, Tim Burton, Luc Besson, Matthew Bourne, MGM Musicals.

My music is a kinda electro dirty pop,rock, I grew up listening to the likes of Soft Cell, David Bowie, Eurythmics, Erasure, Falco… and I love bands like Goldfrapp, Fischerspooner, No Doubt… so I suppose they all feed into how I write and create. In my heart I know I don’t fit in and when I stopped trying to be like everyone else all this came out and I think this show and the company is just me and it’s for everyone who wants it.

CM: It appears to tackle some pretty contemporary themes. Can you expand on them?
SS: Sure. Well, the main one everyone picks up on is the feminism element, it rings pretty strong. I didn’t set out to write the story that way, it happened totally by accident, a great accident of course, as it’s a pretty hot topic right now and rightly so. However, the show doesn’t scream or rant any of its themes, I hope it asks a few questions and provokes thoughts, it’s up to the viewer to take from it what they relate to. What’s fascinating though is the more we explored and discussed these fairytale princesses the more we realised what terrible lessons they teach, especially at such a young age.

CM: So you are trying to make serious points about the way we view women?
SS: The show is quite manic, eccentric and frivolous in places, and it’s very twisted, so I never see it as serious, but I suppose when you put it that way, it is. I am so intrigued that these female characters are seemingly forced into these stories and their destinies. They all tend to be trapped in a personal prison waiting to be rescued in one way or another, only to enter another prison of sorts. To me they seem shallow, having to change themselves to be noticed and accepted, they never really rescue themselves. Until recently that is; Elsa in ‘Frozen’ is breaking that mould. I think we can all relate though, it’s not gender specific: as a young gay boy I related to those gals, so I think it’s more about the way we view ourselves, that’s the first step.

CM: What made you want to take on this kind of subject matter? What was your inspiration for the show?
SS: The initial inspiration was way back in 96’, twenty years ago, when I discovered a movie called ‘Snow White Tale Of Terror’ a sort of B Movie horror take on ‘Snow White’, this was way before the modern fad of twisting fairy tales, I really enjoyed the idea of the darker side, so I went back and re-read a load of Grimm’s Tales and saw what lay underneath them all. They are pretty scary, and I loved that. Did you know the stepsisters in ‘Cinderella’ cut off their toes to fit the glass slipper?

I was also heavily into the Kylie Minogue album ‘Impossible Princess’ which came out around the same time. It was a very dark album for her, more personal and edgier. It was inspired by a book called ‘Poems To Break The Harts Of Impossible Princesses’ by Billy Childish, which took me an age to track down as it’s out of print, but after reading it and linking it to the album, ‘Princess’ began to blossom. I loved the idea of taking that word and delving into the other side of what a princess is meant to be.

CM: How do you feel about Disney?
SS: I love Disney, I’m not trying to mar them, or rebel against them. I have issues with them, in that it’s now 2016, we are moving much faster in society and they really need to keep up. Like I said, ‘Frozen’ seems a step in the right direction, but I would love them to be much bolder and stand by something more progressive with the ideals they perpetuate.

CM: You’ve been involved in a lot of well received productions in recent years. Do you have any specific highlights?
SS: Thank you very much. I’ve been very lucky, working on amazing shows and with some brilliant people, so it’s difficult to choose. Working in town is always a delight. I use to have this dream back in college that if I could make it into a West End show I’d be happy, but now I get to write and direct them, that’s pretty incredible. I love my annual filthy adult panto at the Leicester Square Theatre. It’s our fifth anniversary this year, that’s pretty cool. I also got to play Kenny Everett (in acclaimed musical ‘Royal Vauxhall’), who is one of my idols, I felt very honoured to play such a legend.

CM: How did you get into this career? What made you want to do this kind of work?
SS: I have no idea. It’s just been something that’s always been there and I’ve had a passion for it. It was back in ’96 that I took the plunge and strutted my stuff off to stage school, so that’s really when it all began properly. I am eternally grateful to Frances Clayton and the Midlands Academy of Dance and Drama for taking me under their wings.

CM: You write, perform, direct, choreograph… is there one thing that you prefer or find easier?
SS: I love it all, I don’t perform as much as I did and I do miss that. We are in rehearsals with ‘Princess’ at the moment, and I feel so at home in the studio surrounded by the cast and my team of creatives, it’s a cracking place to go to work every day. On the other end of it all, I do enjoy the solitariness of song writing. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to the next show once Princess has steadied herself.

CM: Is there anything else you’d like to do? Any unfulfilled ambitions?
SS: Oh my gosh, so many! I want to travel the world – I haven’t done much- but I’d like to travel with the company and the shows we are producing. New York, Vegas, Tokyo. There are a couple of roles I’d like to play, I have a huge love for the Phantom of the Opera and I’d love to play one of the managers, they have some great numbers to sing.

CM: What’s next for you?
SS: After ‘Princess’ I go straight into rehearsals for ‘Dick!’ at the Leicester Square Theatre and then, more work with ‘Princess’, hopefully a tour and visits to some of the major arts festivals, plus we’ve also talked about making a film of it, which is an exciting avenue to explore.

But first, a holiday, relax, and I’d love to begin writing my next show, which I have lots of ideas for, and it will be nice to have some head space to start playing with it musically.

‘Princess’ is on at LOST Theatre from 15-19 Nov, see this page here for details and booking info.

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