Lauren Samuels | The West End star discusses empowerment, pay-gaps and playing a prostitute

Lauren Samuels is a face to look out for in 2017.

She’s graced the West End stage in Grease, Bend it Like Beckham and Vanities: The Musical, was a finalist on BBC’s Over The Rainbow, proving Samuels to be a female force to be reckoned with.

WeAreTheCity spoke to Lauren about gender parity in the arts, and why her new production, La Ronde, empowers women.

Lauren Sameuls
Image via Ray Burmiston

La Ronde is like nothing you’ve ever seen before

An adaption of the 1887 German play, La Ronde explores lust, desire and sexuality through four actors playing a cast of ten. Lauren describes the moment she knew this production would be unlike anything she’d done before: “When meeting with Max (the director), he gave me a very serious look and explained that he required four very brave actors to take on this show.” Of the process, she explains,  “Rehearsals for La Ronde were completely terrifying to begin with! It’s been really exhilarating because there’s a roulette wheel on stage, which will decide for us who we play. So each performance is completely different and in the moment.”

The play has given Lauren the chance to portray all different types of women

“Because we all could potentially play any of the characters, I get to go from a bus driver to a prostitute, to a lesbian, all in the space of one night! I now have a real perspective of every kind of woman. I’ve just spent the afternoon being spanked by a ruler, but it’s actually been so empowering. We’re showing real women on the stage. It’s fantastic”.

La Ronde also flips gender norms on it’s head: “What’s interesting with this piece is that I’d look at some of the scenes and assume that the man would be overpowering the woman but actually, it’s the polar opposite of what society would expect. Women have the chance to finally be the heroes of a story.”

She doesn’t want to be typecast anymore.

Samuels is grateful for the direction her career has gone in, but feels that it’s time for a change: “I’m usually type cast in that typical girl-next-door role, and I’ve played that for a few years now. So when this opportunity came along to play so many women of different classes, ages and professions, I jumped at the chance. At first I felt so far removed from each character, but finding the human aspect in all of them has been so exciting.”

Her salary has been significantly less than her male co-stars in the past

Lauren describes the moment she realised a male co-star’s salary was way higher than hers: “For one particular show I was essentially playing the exact same role as my male counterpart and he was getting an extremely higher salary than me. I was completely horrified, but wasn’t in a position to say anything. Now more than ever, I think now it’s important for women to stand up and say ‘That’s not OK”

Andrew Lloyd Webber is like an uncle figure to her

A runner-up in 2010 for BBC’S ‘Over The Rainbow’, Samuels reflects on her time on the show: “Over The Rainbow was just such a bizarre experience. I’ve almost blocked those six months out because I was just running on adrenaline the whole time.  It was the longest public audition ever. But for a young female graduate, the opportunity to be on prime-time television every weekend was life changing.”

On meeting Lloyd-Webber for the first time, Lauren recalls: “He was terrifying at first. Arriving at that first audition for him, suddenly it was like; he’s a real person for the first time. Andrew’s an incredibly kind man, and we’re still in touch. He’s very proud of the platform he’s given to so many of us.”

She believes there needs to be stronger roles for women

“There is absolutely gender parity. In so many stories we see on stage and screen, the hero of the story is a man. The man has the higher status.” She explains: “I’m pretty sick of playing damsels in distress. Men are always the bigger part or the funnier part and the female is the secondary notion and that needs to change. This is definitely just the start for the arts getting a bigger platform for women. Pretty soon there will be no parts for men left!”

 LGBT and female representation are the future of theatre

She strongly believes in the arts representing everyone: “It’s so important for theatre to now be representing gender fluidity, LGBT and sexuality in all forms. I really think everyone who sees La Ronde will relate to a different character in some way which is important because now we go to the theatre to see true representations of ourselves in these stories.”

Samuels goes on to describe Denise Gough as an inspiration: “People, Places and Things was just wonderful. It won so many awards and has really paved the way for women in arts. I’d love to work with her and now that I’ve been on this musical theatre ride, I’m really looking forward to doing more plays. There’s been a few all-female versions of Shakespeare of recent and I’d love to get involved in a project like that! How empowering would that be?!”

La Ronde Lauren Samuels
Image via Ray Burmiston

La Ronde is playing at The Banker from 11th February – 11th March 2017. Get tickets to see Lauren Samuels here.

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