INTERVIEW: Natalie Paris chats all things SIX, the recent cast change & her favourite on stage blooper…

Natalie Paris as Jane Seymour in SIX – Photo Credit: Idil Sukan

Natalie Paris has been delighting audiences for the past two years as Jane Seymour in the global phenomenon that is SIX the Musical. Natalie was part of the original cast of SIX (post its original Edinburgh Fringe debut) and has seen the show grow from its humble beginnings courtesy of Cambridge University third years Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss to literal world domination. Natalie’s powerful and beautiful vocals will forever be immortalised on the shows Original Cast Recording, which continues to sell and stream like the proverbial hot cake. Her iconic version of the haunting ballad ‘Heart of Stone’ will forever be associated with this incredibly talented, gifted and generous performer. We caught up with Natalie to chat about the ongoing success of SIX, how emotional the recent cast change has been and she recalls her favourite on-stage blooper.

Describe SIX in one sentence – SIX is fun, vibrant, modern, empowering and just an amazing theatrical experience for anyone and everyone.

You have been with SIX since the very early days. Can you take us back to start and tell us about how you came to be involved in the show? I got the audition brief from my agent and it read something like ‘musical about the six wives of Henry VIII, pop concert, Beyoncé’ and I was like what the hell is this? It was completely original and unknown and I thought brilliant – pop, sign me up! I had to prepare one pop song for the audition and it was the most surreal experience. Normally you go into an audition room and the panel gives nothing away and sit there very pokerfaced. At the end of my song, Toby and Lucy started crazy clapping and I felt like I was having some kind of out of body experience! There was still no material available at the recall so I just had a day with a bunch of other people auditioning which was really fun. We had a look at a section of the opening scene but looking back, our interpretation was hilarious because no-one really knew what it was meant to be. I just thought I really love this and I really want this job and luckily, I got it. This was actually my first job as an adult as I did quite a lot when I was younger. I was in a room with Aimee Atkinson, Genesis Lynea, and Christina Modestou. Me and Renée (Lamb) were like the newbies and it was a bit of a pinch-yourself moment. It was kind of still a workshop version and was put together quite quickly yet we all thought the music and message were amazing but we weren’t really sure how it would be received. The first night we came off stage we didn’t say a word and just looked at each other and thought ‘well that was pretty cool!’ Then the tour kicked off and myself and Aimee stayed with it. Even after the new girls came in and as that tour kicked off nobody really knew what was in store. Edinburgh 2018 was definitely a defining moment for us and that’s where it went a bit mad! It’s just such a special show to be a part of and that was my journey.

The popularity of the show has been further heightened by your performances at the Olivier’s, various TV shows and West End Live to name a few. Has the phenomenal success of the show shocked you? Yes, but don’t get me wrong, I knew from the start that the show was amazing; Toby and Lucy are geniuses and it’s phenomenal. The girls and I talk a lot about the fact that shows just don’t blow up like this that often. The show has not been around long, yet it feels like overnight it has gone mad! I am very lucky because you normally start your career, work your way up and if you are fortunate, find yourself in a high-profile role at some point. I feel incredibly lucky to be involved in something that has just taken off so quickly. So, for me, it has been surprising, but it’s been the craziest year of my life, amazing, but crazy. All of us are pinching ourselves a little bit with the incredible journey and success story of SIX.

What do you think is the magic ingredient behind the show’s success? The amazing thing about SIX is that it has something for everyone. You might not necessarily like musicals but you might like history for example. I think every single person can relate to it in some way. It’s also really fresh with a really special and important message and I think that message comes across in the right way because of the fans we have. When all six of us are on stage with our amazing band – all females literally kicking butt in this show; it’s just the most special thing. We had our singalong not so long ago and we all cried because it was so amazing. You just don’t get this in other shows. At any given time, there are ten strong women on that stage who genuinely love each other, it’s like a family and that’s the magic.

You are currently playing Jane Seymour, a role you originated – can you tell us how you approached the role? The great thing about the script is that in addition to playing the queens historically accurately, I had the freedom to add some of my own personality into Jane. We all researched the queens and they are incredible women and it’s so amazing to be able to tell their stories. I knew Adele was the inspiration behind the song and Jane is very different to the other queens. She is the one that brings the tempo of the show down to the ballady moment and a kind of calm. Jane is very stripped back, there is no complex choreography in the number and I think for me I really wanted to get that right. I was also very conscious of not being insincere or making people thinking eurgh here comes the token slow number. She might have a heartfelt ballad but Jane is actually really funny and a bit silly. I just took everything from the script and from the song because the song is the main thing for me. In doing that I was able to incorporate the real Jane in moments; the Jane that Toby and Lucy had created and me as Natalie. The key was bringing those component parts together as a natural blend and merge the three into the Jane that you see today.

With each of the queens being based on real historical figures but also on various pop stars, is there a queen that resonates with you on a personal level? I have always said if I was to play another queen it would be Parr… I just think she and everything she did was brilliant. For me, her moment in the show really gets me, especially the bit at the end of ‘I Don’t Need Your Love’ because that is the moment that pulls on my own heartstrings. In the context of the show, she summarises the whole message. In Edinburgh, there was a moment where that felt very profound and it also felt very powerful at the last singalong. That line that Parr gets to deliver rings so true to me. Also, Parr’s song is incredible!

When a show becomes such a success it’s inevitable that it will gain a fan base. SIX’s fans are incredibly devoted to the show, how has that been for you? Overwhelming! In all sense of the word! My Instagram was always private, I was just little old me, wanting to perform, wanting to do my thing. So, for me to now be tagged in something every day, sent amazing messages – my brain is like what is going on, but in the best way possible. The success of the show is down to the fans. Yes, the show is fantastic, Toby and Lucy are phenomenal and the whole creative team and the cast have made this show what it is but the fans are the ones who keep it going. They keep buying the tickets and keep it out there on social media. They are brilliant. They are always there supporting us and it’s crazy that I have a fan account. My friends at home think it’s hilarious but it’s great. What else is really special is the messages we get sent from some of the fans. Fans who in their private lives are lonely or don’t have many friends or get bullied, send us messages to say that we have helped them overcome those things. I know a lot of fans have become friends just through following the show which is incredible to hear. We just get up on the stage and perform to everyone every night so to hear that we have helped somebody along the way is really quite special.

The Queendom absolutely love a blooper. Can you tell us about your funniest / worst onstage mishap? Yes, I can and I can’t believe I have this story, it’s hilarious! It was during ‘Haus of Holbein’ and it was just before the scene. We all have a specific route to take so we don’t bump into each other; I don’t know how it happened but I lost my balance and suddenly became really disorientated. JJ was the closest to me so I reached out to grab her but the only thing I could get hold of was a string on her costume. It was like slow motion as it broke and I remember thinking nooooooooooooooo… It was that completely disorientating sensation of falling and I had no clue if I could save myself. I ended up doing a head-butt / running hybrid and I knew then I was going to have to fall. I knee slid across the floor (apparently shouting ja) and I felt my whole body go red – literally, the whole theatre saw it. Everyone was laughing; the audience, the band. I could hear Katy our MD in the mic laughing. I remember thinking ‘oh my god, I’ve just fallen over in front of 500 people!!” We struggled to do the scene; we were all just crying with laughter trying to get through it. So yes, that was probably the worst moment for me, but also the funniest thing that I have ever done on stage. For the rest of the show, I had tears running down my face until it hit me that I had fallen over and then I nearly had a panic attack on stage. My palms were itchy and everything! Also, the confetti at the end is LETHAL and because the Megasix is filmed you can’t get away from it. It always gets stuck in our mouths so when we go to breathe, we just inhale it! We’re always pulling it out of our mouths.

The recent cast change must have been very transitional and emotional. How was that process for you as a group because you are clearly all very close? We are incredibly close and I think right up until the time I was in denial about it. At the sing-along, I think the emotion kind of took us all by surprise. Obviously because of holidays and things the alternates go on quite a lot so the six of us hadn’t been together on stage for a while. That was also the first time we had all done a sing-along together. After ‘I Don’t Need Your Love’, I could see tears in Maiya’s eyes, then I saw Alexia grab her hand, then I went. Then and I felt a hand on my back and Aimee went; I looked along the line and we were all just crying. I think that was the first time that it really hit us. We have been through so much together but I am excited for the new girls too, they will give the show a whole new vibe which is great. I think what makes the cast change that little bit harder is the bond that we have developed because of going on such an incredible journey together. From the show not being that well known, to it becoming this amazing phenomenon we have gone through that together and because of that, it’s very hard to see them go.

If you could change one thing about the industry with the wave of a magic wand, what would it be? There are a couple of things in terms of the industry as a whole that I would like to think are actually in the process of changing. That said, SIX is an example of everything that is right with the industry and everything I would change is not an issue in this show. For one, I am a bit of a curvy girl and I am not stick thin which I am proud of. When I was younger, I did worry that I wouldn’t get certain jobs based on how I look or I would get typecast. Yet here I am, a lead in a West End show with the fact that I am a curvier girl, not even an issue. So that is definitely one. The other thing I really advocate is giving chances to performers who perhaps don’t have a whole reel of credits or aren’t that well known on social media. I would love people to be given a chance regardless of what they have on a piece of paper. My credits are from when I was a child and I know some people struggle to even get an agent and I so wish that wasn’t a thing. I would love the industry to judge people on what they can deliver in a room and their individual merit. I was very lucky to be given an opportunity so those are definitely two things that I feel strongly about because I feel so grateful for my own experience.

You are building up quite an individual following on social media in particular, do you feel that it helps or hinders you as a performer?
I think social media is great in certain ways but also it does have its negative sides. I’m 25 and as much as this is my career and it’s all I want to do; I also like to go out and have fun. I get so paranoid about what I post on social media. I second guess everything. I scrutinise every photo I go to post. I look at them and think; do my boobs look too big, are people going to think I am this or that. Are people not going to take me seriously because I have posted a picture in my bikini, which is so silly and I have to tell myself – stop! I remember being very nervous to post anything on my Instagram Story at New Year because I thought I can’t have people thinking I go out and have fun. It’s so stupid and I really have to have a word with myself. I just went on holiday with my friend to Dubai but I second-guessed everything I put up. My friends aren’t in the industry and couldn’t quite understand why I cared so much about what people thought and I had to tell myself no! I am being a 25-year-old girl on holiday but I do find that really difficult. Social media is a double-edged sword but another great part of this show is how accepting and diverse the fandom is – everybody builds each other up. People find their friends because it’s that kind of welcoming and tolerant environment. So, we’re actually really lucky that we don’t get any negative comments or anything but I know that they are out there.

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 was Fiver at Southwark Playhouse with my mum. I wanted to go obviously because I am friends with Luke Bayer, but I am so pleased I went. I loved it! I thought the music was fab and fresh and they need to do a cast recording. It was so different, really clever and modern. I wish I had seen Fleabag, I really do. I am quite new to it and the girls were talking about it all the time and I was there thinking what’s this Fleabag thing? I literally binge-watched both series and I was like this is amazing and Phoebe Waller-Bridge is unreal and just a great actress. Then I heard it was coming to the Wyndham’s Theatre but getting a ticket was ridiculous so I missed it.

SIX The Musical is currently playing at the Arts Theatre, London, touring the UK, as well as generally taking over the world.

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