Janis Joplin: Full Tilt arrives in Stratford
- Credit: Startford Theatre East
Actress Angie Darcy talks becoming the iconic singer as the Edinburgh Fringe hit transfers to Newham’s Stratford East Theatre Royal.
Janis Joplin’s unmistakable voice has long hypnotised listeners with its gravelly melancholy.
The blues legend, who died from a heroin overdose, would have turned 73 in January.
Despite her untimely demise aged 27 – putting her alongside other notable heroes from James Dean to Amy Winehouse – Joplin’s popularity has never waned.
Now an award-winning production charting the singer’s life has proved so successful that an extended version of the show has opened at Stratford East Theatre Royal.
Janis Joplin: Full Tilt meshes the singer’s iconic songs with theatrical monologues and is performed by Angie Darcy in the title role, supported by a live band.
Angie’s prowess in the role has already won her Best Female Performance 2014 in the Musical Theatre Network Awards.
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Somewhat wisely, she refrains from impersonating Janis’ hoarse delivery during her performances, choosing to concentrate on the singer’s vulnerability and largeness of character instead.
“It is about the performance and essence of her,” Angie explains. “It is about trying to emulate her but in a way that is right. Her voice is so original.”
She says the role has been both “really fun and difficult at the same time” but is thrilled to be starring in the lead role once more, although she will be supported by actress and singer/songwriter Hannah Jarrett-Scott for the first time for some performances because of the show’s longer running time.
The new production has been extended to two hours in total, allowing the show’s creators – writer Peter Arnott and director Cora Bissett – to insert new scenes and lesser-known snippets of Janis’ life.
This includes a melodic train journey through Canada with Janis and her fellow band-members, plus poignant new monologues from her band.
There is even an imagined meeting with the night clerk – played by a local Stratford actor – who was Janis’ last known encounter before her death.
The show’s huge popularity at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and beyond has come as little surprise to Angie. “Janis seems to be very much in the hearts of people still,” she said.
“People come along with certain expectations, some thinking they are coming to a gig,” Angie adds. “More often than not, people have come back and brought their friends.”
The show has coincided with the star’s resurgence in the media. A new documentary called Janis: Little Girl Blue by filmmaker Amy Berg was released on February 5 – something that is sure to swell the audiences to Full Tilt.
Angie says she has become increasingly “obsessed” with learning more and more about her character after admitting she “didn’t know an awful lot” when she first took on the role at the end of 2013.
“I thought why have I not sat down and discovered this woman before.” Angie says. “One of the things I have loved is discovering she always had dogs and cats. She was really into horoscopes and spirituality.”
Much like Amy Winehouse, it’s Janis’ vibrancy, relatability and vulnerability – behind the characteristic voice – that seems to fascinate people.
“As much as she was a strong, outspoken woman, she was at times a vulnerable, little girl looking for her parents approval,” says Angie, explaining the singer would regularly send home letters and press cuttings about her success.
Little Girl Blue in the Full Tilt’s new repertoire is one of her favourite songs. “Every time I listen to it, it makes me emotional. I will have to learn to control myself,” she jokes. It would only be fitting that, if like Janis, in fact she doesn’t.
Tickets from £5 to £22.50, concessions available. Visit Stratford east.com to book Janis Joplin: Full Tilt. The show runs now until Saturday, March 5.