WITHIN two minutes of joining Claire Price and Damian Humbley it is easy to see why the pair were cast as a couple in the Crucible’s joyful offering of Company.
“Don’t bring up the award, please, we try to shut her up in rehearsals,” says Australian Damian, referring to the gong the Derbyshire actress earned for her supporting role in recent Studio hit The Pride.
“I’ve been unbearable. I’m always right, never wrong, because I’m award-winning,” she counters with a grin.
Claire, a Crucible veteran with Don Carlos, The Tempest and Richard III, plays diet-crazed wife Sarah in Sondhiem’s searching musical about commitment. Pride co-star and artistic director Daniel Evans, who plays Company’s central character Bobby, suggested she try out after catching her singing.
“He’d heard me in the shower and backstage, just being daft in rehearsals. I’d never sung in anything so I don’t think of myself as a singer. I did a lot of music when I was younger but have never been in a musical production.”
Damian says she made a wise decision: “There’s so many people who don’t do musicals, but she just fits into it perfectly. There’s a musicality she’s got that many people don’t have.”
And he’s right. Claire has one of the strongest voices in this Christmas offering, a piece she believes has more in common with the festive period than might appear.
“The whole of Christmas is about how you can’t choose your family. You’re brought up against all the problems you have in the relationships you’re in, some of which are negotiable, some not. The musical is absolutely about that.
“It’s all about how you negotiate being in a relationship with yourself and with other people. Christmas brings that up, to a kind of clichéd extent.”
Damian plays Sarah’s drink-loving hubby Harry. Together the childless pair are competitive and, like other married couples in the show, see Bobby as something of a project.
Damian was previously in Sheffield for Fiddler On The Roof and Little Shop Of Horrors as Seymour. Company is his first Sondhiem.
“Sondhiem is a complex beast and I’ve always wanted to do Company specifically.
“The thrust stage is different to any other I’ve worked on. You don’t have limitations, you can always be seen by someone. It’s exciting. You never feel there’s time to rest or any time you solely have the responsibility to run the show.
“There are a lot of layers of enjoyment in this show, so many scenes that are so much fun. Ultimately it’s a fun show that has some very moving qualities about it. It’s also a very different piece, unique in that it was written as a whole heap of one act plays to begin with and then songs were added in.”
Company runs until January 7.