A Star Is Born

West End actress Debbie Kurup talks to Saloni Saraf about her role in The Bodyguard

Posted: 26.07.13

How old were you when you knew that theatre and the performing arts was something you wanted to do?
When I was around 12 or 13 I remember going to see a show called Starlight Express, and that’s when I completely fell in love with theatre. I’ve always loved pop as well, so Michael Jackson was a massive inspiration for me. But as I grew up that interest developed into an interest for theatre.

Did you ever see Michael Jackson live?
I did actually, I saw the Dangerous tour twice when I was around 13 at Wembley. And then when I was 18, I saw the History tour.

What were your early days in the industry like?
I tried to learn as much as possible from the people around me. I started as a dancer in the show Boogie Nights with Shayne Richie. I observed how he times everything, the comedy and how he works the audience perfectly. And when it comes down to the singing, I would just listen to my idols and get tips from them!

Any memories or stories from previous plays you’d like to share?
In Rent, we started off on a UK tour, and we travelled for around a year before we got to the West End. So as we were living together we really bonded as a company and developed a strong sense of community. The show itself is all about community and love, it really added to it. We all really looked out for each other, so I think that’s one production that will always stay in my heart, there are so many memories attached to it.

You’re no stranger to the West End, having performed in shows like Rent, West Side Story and Chicago. How have you found working towards your more recent performance, The Bodyguard?
Well I love drama, and The Bodyguard is a dark show with dark themes. The character I play Niki Marron is quite a fiery and passionate character- it is my dream part.

Tell us briefly what The Bodyguard is all about.
It’s a romantic thriller, and the main character, Rachel Marron who is a superstar hires a bodyguard to protect her from a deadly assassin. Both of these characters are very stubborn but little do they know that they’ll eventually fall in love with each other. And without giving too much away for those who haven’t seen the show, it’s quite a sad ending.

How similar is this production to the film?
We’ve definitely tried to stay true to the film, we have kept the main plot lines. There are a few changes, but those are purely to enhance the story and to make it clearer as a stage production. All I can say is that anyone who has previously seen the movie, won’t be disappointed.

How would you describe your own association with the Whitney Houston songbook?
Whitney Houston is one of my idols. I have grown up listening to her music, and wanting to be able to sing like her. So when I got the part, it was a huge honour, but at the same time I knew that it would also be a huge challenge.

What is your favourite Whitney song?
That’s a hard decision because I love so many of her songs, but I think it might be Saving All My Love For You and from The Bodyguard, probably Run To You.

You’ve received very strong reviews for your performance in The Bodyguard – do you ever read them?
I do. I find them quite interesting. Actors that say they don’t - I actually think are lying a little! I mean when someone writes about you it’s human nature to know what they’ve written and what they’re saying. But yes, I have read them, and I have been very pleased with them.

The duet you sing with Heather Headley become the highlight of the show, what was it like preparing for it?
I was very honoured to sing it. Not only is it one of the best songs in the soundtrack, but it really does stand out as it comes at a very gripping point in the story.

Any backstage rituals before going on stage?
I drink a large cup of lemon and ginger tea, because it’s very calming and also good for the throat.

You have a young daughter, how old is she?
She is seven.

Has she shown any signs of being like you when she’s older?
I really feel she might! She goes to theatre school right now, and this year won the trophy for best singing. She’s seen all of my shows; I definitely want to support her throughout. There might have been a time I would have said no, become a doctor. But now, as long as she’s happy doing what she is, then I think that’s all that matters really.

How do you manage motherhood with being on stage and working so much?
Well I really rely on support from my family, my parents live down the road from me. Hours in theatre can be very long sometimes so I’m very lucky that they live so close by as they take care of her when I’m working.

Last year you spent some time with your family in India right? Tell us more about that
Yes I did, and we had an incredible time! We travelled for two weeks. We started off in Delhi and we had this driver that took us pretty much everywhere. We went to Gwalior, saw all the forts, went to Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and then took an 18 hour long train journey back to Delhi. It was an amazing experience and I’m so happy that my daughter came and shared it with me.

Do you have any messages for those wanting to follow your career path?
All I want to say is that it’s all about learning, just be open and willing to take advice, never be too proud. Never stop training. There’s one thing I’ve noticed in the American culture that we don’t have, that there isn’t a stigma to go back to study. Even the top a list actors continue their training throughout their career. But over here, it’s like you train, but then once you get a job, that’s it. So never stop training, because you will always learn something new with every job that you didn’t know before.

The Bodyguard is currently showing at The Adelphi Theatre in London.

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