Spotlight On… Star of Follies, Sarah-Marie Maxwell

Last year I saw an outstanding young actor in the ensemble of The Fix at The Union Theatre, Sarah-Marie Maxwell stood out for all of the right reasons and somehow I knew this was just the start of a fantastic career for her. Since then she has appeared in The Braille Legacy and She Loves Me. However, until 3rd January 2018 you can see her in The National Theatre’s critically acclaimed production of Follies and I’m so excited for her! Sarah-Marie was interviewed for Break A Leg last year and I’m delighted that she agreed to chat to me again, so without further ado…

Thank you so much for talking to Break A Leg again. Tell me about Follies and your experience so far.

Follies has been an incredible experience so far. At 24 having the opportunity to work with such fantastic people and in The National Theatre of all places is so overwhelming. I honestly pinch myself most days I’m in the building. 

What are the challenges of the show?

This is a mammoth show with moving set, a revolve, huge costumes and a cast of 37 strong so it does come with its challenges. I think, certainly for myself anyway, staying completely connected with my older self purely by observing throughout the first 45 minutes of the show, wearing a relatively heavy headdress is a challenge but one I enjoy and discover new things during each performance. 

What are your personal highlights?

It’s so difficult to choose just one highlight as the piece is stunning in its entirety. If I narrowed it down to 4 moments they would have to be the duet between our gorgeous Alison Langer and Dame Josephine Barstow. ‘One More Kiss’ is so haunting, so beautiful that it goes straight through you and Alison and Josephine’s voices are pure perfection together. It’s very moving and has had us all crying since rehearsals.

The second is singing ‘Beautiful Girls’ at the top of the show after we’ve seen the Follies ghost showgirls take the space and the Follies ladies re-enter the theatre after many years. Every single cast member is on stage and it feels like a phenomenal celebration of the past and present. It’s magical! A truly special moment. 

I just have to mention Imelda Staunton’s version of ‘Losing My Mind’ it’s hard to put into words how fascinating she is as a character to watch and she has been my idol for many years so it’s madness I get to share the stage with such a fiercely talented woman. She blows the roof off the Olivier stage after that number and with her performance it’s inspiring. 

And my very own highlight would have to be opening the show as a 1930’s Swarovski encrusted, feather wearing showgirl. I feel nervous every time standing at the top of the tower waiting for my green light to go. I can’t quite describe the feeling when I step out onto that high balcony and see the faces in the audience, it’s hard to put into words but it’s certainly a feeling I’ll never forget. 

Did you have any ideas of what you wanted to bring to the character?

When I learned I was the younger self of one of the Follies ladies I did a fair bit of research to bring as much to the room as I possibly could, mostly on the 1930’s era in Paris as that’s where Solange is from. But after working one to one with Geraldine who plays Solange, we discovered things together and made choices based on what we both thought of the character. I felt I had a responsibility to capture all the things my co-worker envisioned her younger self to be before leaving the Follies. It was interesting and lovely to work closely with the lovely Geraldine Fitzgerald.

What do you think the strengths of the show are?

The show has so many strengths. I think not having an interval is the biggest strength in this particular piece. I know as an audience member having no interval seems daunting but Follies was originally written this way and it’s great that we at The National get to honour Sondheim and how he intended the show to be. It keeps the audience invested in every character till the very last beat. They come out really feeling like they have been on the journey with us.

Which character could you see yourself playing in future years and why?

If I could be one character in the show in the future I would really love to play Phyllis. She is such a complex character and has a huge emotional journey that I would love to explore and delve into in future years when I have more life experience. Watching Janie Dee as Phyllis in the show is mesmerising. I just constantly want to know what she is thinking as her character it’s so detailed.

Finally, sell the show to me – why should everybody beg, borrow or steal a ticket? 

The show really does sell itself but I can tell you, you do not want to miss it. From the set to the sensational costumes, the storyline and out of this world performances from industry legends. It’s a no brainer. 

Follies is the must see show of this year. So make sure when it comes to January 3rd 2018 you haven’t missed out! 

Team Break A Leg are in on 19th December and we can’t wait! Thanks again to ‘Young Solange’ for her time, Sarah-Marie Maxwell, you deserve every success and I can’t wait to be able to see you where you belong. 

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