‘It’s fantastic to be with this company’

On stage: Carly Bawden as Eliza Doolittle.
On stage: Carly Bawden as Eliza Doolittle.
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THE young woman currently commanding the stage at the Crucible to fantastic effect as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady couldn’t believe her luck to land the star role.

Carly Bawden, who is more than holding her own playing opposite Sheffield’s Dominic West as Professor Higgins, said: “It’s wonderful. It’s just so fantastic to be a part of this company with all these wonderful and ridiculously talented people.”

The young actress, who only left Guildford School of Acting in 2009, has already appeared in a lot of musical theatre, including as Swallow in Whistle Down the Wind, which came to the Lyceum in Sheffield on tour. She said she did not even have the chance to appear in the Guildford showcase for the new graduates as she had already landed a job as the Mistress in Evita, which won her a Theatrical Managers Association Award nomimation.

Carly’s other notable roles have included Susan in The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, Catherine in Pippin and Genevieve in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. She said she hadn’t especially aimed to do a lot of musical theatre, adding: “It’s not a choice at all. I’m hoping to find myself in all sorts of roles. It’s just how it’s happened and the projects that have come up excited me and have taken me on.”

Not least her present one. Carly said: “Eliza is such an iconic role and such an interesting one. She has got so many facets. She’s just an actress’s dream. My favourite thing is that she is tough and straightforward and she is very vulnerable at the same time.

“She doesn’t take any nonsense but wears her heart on her sleeve. That’s what I love about her. She’s not at all guarded. The extremely difficult life she’s had hasn’t affected her opinions and her ability to just wear her heart on her sleeve.”

Most people will associate My Fair Lady with the iconic 1964 film of the musical, starring Audrey Hepburn as the London flower girl who is coached to speak and act like a lady by Professor Higgins as part of a bet, to test whether the Edwardian aristocracy were shallow enough to be taken in by surface appearances.

Carly has only recently seem the film and loves it but was determined not to get too preoccupied with it.

She said: “You don’t mess with the icons. I’m just going to try not to think about that too much. I’m going to do my thing and work hard and just enjoy that I’ve got this wonderful opportunity.”

Born and brought up on a farm in Somerset, Carly has had a completely different life to Eliza Doolittle. She has had help with the London accent from dialect coach Richard Ryder. She said: “He is amazing. It’s all about finding her voice through my voice, which makes it honest and believable, and finding where your voice sits and the sounds you make.”

She has also been working intensively with director Daniel Evans, who is Sheffield Theatres artistic director, on the role. She said: “He’s got a wonderful approach for me personally. We’ve just spoken about her and everyone in her life and about Pickering and Higgins and her future in detail.

“It’s a very open space you have to rehearse in and to play. It’s a mix of what I’m seeing and feeling with Daniel’s vision and how he sees her. It’s a team effort. I feel very lucky that Daniel lets me have a lot of input into that and share what I think.

“There’s a lovely buzz around this with people like Daniel and Dominic. The entire company is fantastic. In such a venue like this, of course, it’s got a nice buzz around it. We’re excited to share it.”

She added: “I’m just going to throw myself into this and enjoy it.”

Sounds ‘loverly’!

Catch Carly’s star performance at the Crucible until January 26.