Photo Credit: Idil Sukan
Grace Mouat is currently treading the boards of London’s West End as part of the cast of one of the UK’s hottest musicals, SIX. With bags of talent and enough sass to rival Beyoncé, she is an alternate extraordinaire having provided cover for all six Queens. As if being part of one phenomenally successful show wasn’t enough, she is about to join the cast of upcoming new musical & Juliet which features music from legendary songwriter Max Martin, the brains behind gargantuan pop hits including Hit Me Baby One More Time, I Kissed A Girl and Larger Than Life.
Grace joined us for a coffee last week to chat about SIX’s popularity, & Juliet and what she really thinks of the Queendom.
For anyone who hasn’t seen it – describe SIX in one sentence -75 minutes of pure joy and sass which leaves you ecstatically happy long after you’ve left the theatre!
You are currently playing the roles of alternate Catherine of Aragon and Katherine Howard. How do you put your stamp on those roles and what makes your interpretation different? So my banter is very sarcastic for one! I have an incredibly dry sense of humour and the writing really allows me to capture my personality in those lines. I am definitely a sarcastic Catherine. I think the amazing thing about SIX, particularly from the musical side, is that the creative’s really accommodate our differing vocal styles. All of our voices are so different which can make it a real challenge to cover the incredibly varied roles. I often have people asking me how I am going to cover a certain person based on the fact my style is so different. I am not a really a riffer, in fact, everybody at drama school said I would end up being in a traditional musical one day and here I am in two pop musicals. I genuinely don’t know how I’ve got here, but I absolutely love it! I am so lucky that I have the freedom and creative licence to do what I want with the vocals and I do a lot of things differently to Aimie and JJ. For example they both riff but I like singing quite high but then sometimes I like to take it up or down so I definitely do my own thing with it. Courtney and Vicki also have their own style and put their own spin on the Queens. I think the girls really appreciate that because we’re not going on stage trying to imitate them. The show is short, it’s snappy and the fans get a slightly different show every night because the alternating cast keeps it fresh.
With each of the SIX queens being real historical figures and having played them all during your time with the show, is there a particular queen that resonates with you on a personal level? In terms of the real queens, I like to think I relate most to Anne Boleyn. She was made out to be this mysterious temptress when actually she just wanted to have a good time. She really was just like “ooops I destroyed the church, didn’t mean to do that” and that’s what Don’t Lose Your Head is based on. “Oh sorry, I was just trying to have some fun” so she would definitely be my real Queen pick. In terms of persona in the show (because all the queens are based on pop stars) I like to think I have a bit of an Aragon vibe. I just love doing Aragon and channelling Beyoncé, No Way is such a sassy song and I just love performing it. The sarcastic element is so me and I love the strutting around – it makes you feel so great.
SIX has quickly become a theatrical phenomenon and you have been with the show since very early on – are you surprised at just how popular the show has become and were you ready for it? No, I was not ready! This time last year I was about to start rehearsals for a show with no idea of the script or the numbers (with the exception of the few I did in the audition) I had no idea what I was in for -no one knew. I thought I was going to be doing a six-month tour and that would be it. I had no idea I would be performing in the West End every single night a few months later. I just can’t put it into words – it’s crazy! I think it’s the magic of it and the magic of new musicals and the creatives have just got it so right. Saying all that, when you actually think about it, of course, it was going to blow up. It’s a pop group based on the six wives of Henry VIII its GENIUS! It was at Edinburgh Fringe that we really got the feeling it was going to be big, it was selling out every night and people were going crazy for it. When Toby was conceptualising the show he was so frustrated at all the female characters that just cried over men, there wasn’t a whole lot of funny female roles out there. One of their key objectives for the show was that it didn’t need to be about or to include men to be engaging and entertaining. I am so proud of Toby and Lucy, they are my age and they have just smashed it.
When a show becomes such a success it’s inevitable that it will develop a fan base. SIX’s fans (the Queendom) are incredibly devoted to the show, how has that been for you? They are amazing! It’s so strange to have people literally spend hours drawing your face and making dolls of you. It’s just bizarre! If we were actually a girl band, you could almost understand it but we’re not, we’re actors in a musical – we’re just normal people. I think people really do see us as a girl band which is incredible and I think that’s where the cult following has come from. I really love the fans though, they are so respectful and their stage door etiquette is great. They have been so supportive right back since last year when we started. The show really resonates with younger people and we’re so thrilled that if there is going to be a cult following in the West End, it’s this show with this message. The fans in the Queendom have learned real lessons from SIX and friendships have been born because of it. They build each other up and it’s just brilliant.
What do you think people take away from the show? I think the amazing thing about SIX is that people walk in thinking it’s going to be a good night out with a few drinks and maybe a bit of a dance. There is a fine line between thinking wow what a great night out and thinking actually these queens really did go through so much nonsense and that is essentially the whole point of the show. Yes it’s delivered against a backdrop of some sassy pop songs but at the end of the day, we are telling the true story of what these badass women went through. With Katherine Howard, for example, All l I Wanna Do is a great boppy pop song, but actually, all those verses tell the story of how all these men abused her – it’s incredibly dark. What makes SIX so clever is that the audience have such a great time but leave having learned so much. Even for me (and I’ll be honest) all I knew about the queens was the Divorced, Beheaded, Died rhyme. It’s so historically accurate, it doesn’t offend anybody and it’s an amazingly intelligent piece with a really empowering message.
You hadn’t long graduated from GSA when you were cast in SIX – how did your training help you prepare for your first professional job? GSA really helped me prepare for doing 8 shows a week how to work and interact with people in the industry. In terms of being a swing though, that was definitely something I learned on the job. Formal training can’t really prepare you for it because you have to learn the tracks/lines in a way that works for you and everybody is different, it’s impossible to discover your own way of learning until you do it. It was so hard learning the SIX tracks on my own. That said GSA is an amazing place to go to train human beings and how to be a performer in a crazy industry.
You will shortly be leaving SIX, what are the two things that you will take away from your time with the show? Awww I don’t want to talk about this, next question! I have made eight of the most incredible friends. They are sisters, cast mates and life advisers! The cast of SIX are my most favourite people in the world, I honestly adore them and when you are in such a small cast (which is rare in musical theatre) it’s impossible not to be close. I feel like every Sunday I will be at the Arts Theatre hanging out with them in their dressing room once I have left – they have no say in this sorry!
Secondly, I have learnt a lot about myself both as a person and a performer. I have learnt how to be comfortable in my own company and most of all I have learnt not to take myself too seriously. As a cover, you can be really hard on yourself, especially when you are making a debut or performing a specific track for the first time. When I was making my debut last year, if one thing went wrong it would affect me for the rest of the show. Don’t get me wrong I still have those days, I still make mistakes but I have just learnt to laugh about it and laugh with everyone else about it. Let’s face it, the fans love a blooper. So yes, my best friends and learning not to take myself too seriously.
You will soon be joining the cast of the exciting new musical & Juliet, give us a flavour of what audiences can expect from the show? TOP bants! Incredible songs and probably a bit of shock because I was in SHOCK at how many songs this man has written. I was reading through the script thinking he wrote this one as well?? Max Martin is a genius and the most incredible man. He was with us in rehearsals and he really is amazing, I love him. & Juliet will feature incredible costumes, amazing sets and hot vocals. I literally think about it every day, I cannot wait!
& Juliet features some of Max Martin’s most iconic pop songs are there any particular numbers that you are looking forward to performing? In terms of my ensemble tracks, I love I Kissed A Girl and It’s My Life, they are such great numbers in the show. I can’t say anything about how they fit into the story-line as its top secret by they are going to be epic! Also, the Hit Me Baby One More Time, orchestrations are insane so that is definitely going to be a huge highlight.
What was the last thing you saw at the theatre and what do you wish you had seen but missed? The last thing I saw at the theatre was Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens at the Union Theatre which starred two of my best friends, Aiden Harkins and Michiel Janssens. They are both such beautiful actors and it was such an incredible show, from the stories it told to the way it was delivered. Alex Musgrave’s lighting design, in particular, was absolutely stunning. Something I wished I had seen but didn’t, and I can’t believe I am about to say this is Emilia. I am so gutted, I can’t believe I didn’t see it, I don’t know what I was even doing because I heard such amazing things.
We then asked Grace some Dress Circle Antics quick fire questions…
Favourite SIX number – Ex Wives
Dream Role – Elphaba
Favourite musical number – Larger Than Life, & Juliet, can I say that? It’s going to be epic!
Dream super power – The ability to go back in time
Favourite SIX Lyric – “Don’t be bitter cos I’m fitter” (Boleyn has all the best lyrics)
Go to audition song – Man behind the Mask from Zorro the Musical
Favourite musical – The King and I because I absolutely love Rodgers and Hammerstein. I also love Memphis – I have so many favourite musicals, Frozen is up there as well!
Favourite Max Martin track – Everybody (Backstreet’s Back) Such a bop!
Tell us something no one knows about you – I have never seen Harry Potter! I didn’t really watch TV when I was younger I was always out on my go-kart living life. Another fun fact is that I’ve got a piece of pencil lead stuck in my hand from primary school. Wow, what an uninteresting life I’ve had – I feel like I need to go off and do something interesting now!
SIX The Musical is currently playing at the Arts Theatre, London. & Juliet begins performances at Manchester Opera House on 10 September before transferring to the Shaftesbury Theatre on 02 November.