Louise Francis graduated from Guildford School of Acting last year and made her debut in the 50th anniversary of Hair. After growing up in Birmingham, she returns to the Midlands with the Hope Mill Theatre’s vibrant new tour.
Born and bred in Birmingham, Louise studied musical theatre at Birmingham Ormiston Academy for her college years before heading off to drama school in London. “It has been such a whirlwind,” she said. “It’s my first job and funnily enough Hair was a show I did at GSA. I played Dionne and so now to be doing the show on a professional scale is just amazing. I get to really be part of a journey as I move into the professional world.”
Louise covers three parts in the show and went on for Dionne in Manchester earlier this year. “It was insane, we hadn’t done a cover run or anything as it was so early on but luckily because I played the role before it was really inside me,” she explained. “Drama school training really gave me so many skills but one of those was to always be prepared. It’s so important to always keep on your toes, be alert and be prepared.
“As I went on for my cover in the third week, I am really glad that I’d been so observant and prepared throughout the rehearsal process. I knew I was doing three covers, so doing swing maps and preparation like that really helped me.”
After a hugely successful run at the Hope Mill Theatre and then the Vaults in London, it was beautifully intimate production. “You’d think because of the nature of the show that it needs the intimacy of being immersive, but it really does work well on a big stage,” she said. “I think especially with the amazing set; it is just a visual spectacle. There is so much to look at and the story really carries through. Everyone in the cast is so passionate and I think that really translates to the audience.”
Based on life in the 70s, it’s a story that doesn’t have a set narrative but spans the hippy culture, the civil rights movement and the start of the LGBT movement. “It is based on a really poignant time in history,” Louise explained. “I always tell people not to read too deeply into it, because it is a crazy show. You’ll see some crazy things but you just need to take it with a pinch of salt, be present and watch it to enjoy it.”
It’s a cult musical and Louise sees the same audience members return to the show countless times. “We have some amazing people that have seen it in almost every city,” she said. “There is a guy that always used to see it at The Vaults and he came to Wimbledon, Cheltenham and even Cardiff.
“At the end, you might have seen on social media, but we get everyone up dancing and even have them up on stage. People really love it. It is just contagious and such a feel-good show.”
Despite being the 50thanniversary, it is a musical that has so many themes that are still relevant today. “All the issues brought up in the show are things that aren’t attributed to a time period. It is things that are still relevant today and probably still will be in fifty years time,” Louise said. “The main essence of it is equality and freedom and they are things that we fight for day to day, especially the legalisation of gay marriage that is still happening in other countries.
“Gay rights, black rights, it is all in the show and I think it is things that will be recurring throughout history. This show advocates be who you want to be, do what you want to do and that is what it really truly does.”
Returning to the Midlands is really special for Louise as she gets to bring the show that means so much to her home. “It is so nice for me to be reminded why I started doing this,” she explained. “Being home and seeing all the little trophies from doing theatre at as young as six years old is so important for me.
“I am seeing my dreams coming true, it is a really big deal for me and I am just really grateful to be here and share it with all my family and friends who supported me from day one.”
Photo credit // Pamela Raith