VIVA interviews Harriet Thorpe as she prepares for her performance in MAME

Megan Chapman | 30th September 2019

The classic 1960’s musical, MAME, has returned to Britain after a  50 years absence.


Last seen in 1969, MAME is the story of the eccentric and free-wheeling Mame Dennis and her Nephew Patrick, who is entrusted in her care after the death of her brother. Mame’s crazy life is thrown into turmoil at the introduction of the boy and the 1929 Wall Street Crash. That doesn’t stop Mame however and hilarity ensues after a series of failed job attempts and marriage she tries to gain back her fortune.


The show is currently showing at Mill Hope Theatre in Manchester before embarking on a limited tour across the country. Directed and choreographed by Nick Winston and starring Tracie Benett (Hairspray, Blood Brothers) playing the outlandish Mame, the play is set to be a hit.


VIVA interviews Harriet Thorpe ahead of her performance in MAME

Harriet Thorpe as Vera in rehearsals
Credit Pamela Raith

Harriet Thorpe (The Brittas Empire, Absolutely Fabulous) plays Vera, Mame’s best friend, who is just as funny and kooky as Mame herself. Harriett caught up with VIVA to talk about all things about the show, from it’s beloved music to it’s relevance to audiences 50 years later.


What is the show about?


It’s about finding love, purpose in life and friendship. It’s about an extraordinary woman, Mame who is played by the iconic Tracie Bennett, and she has this amazing life full of showbiz and partying. Then one day she is with all of her friends and this little boy turns up and it turns out it’s her nephew. Her brother has died, and she suddenly realises she has to look after this child who totally changes her life.


It’s moving and funny and what you get is a fantastic night. Whether you are young or old you will identify with it and have a laugh.


Liam Wrate as Junior in rehearsals
Credit Pamela Raith


I play her best friend Vera who is a self-important, funny and thinks she is the next actress of the century. They are great friends even though they argue. “Bosom Buddies” is their song which again is such an iconic song from the show.


How is working with Tracie?


I’ve worked with Tracie a couple of times before and it’s always an absolute joy, we just laugh all the time and it’s such fun.


It’s lovely to have a shorthand when you work with somebody.


What attracted you to Vera’s character?


What doesn’t? I’ve never played anyone normal they are always slightly psychotic and thank god for that as I never want to be or could be – I’m always the crazy lady.


She is wonderfully witty, a wonderful friend and is full of her self-importance and grand ideas of her talent but she has a heart of gold.


The cast of Mame in rehearsals
Credit Pamela Raith

Why do you think Mame and her Nephew’s relationships is important to show?


The importance of Mame and her nephew is that it doesn’t matter if you care for someone and love someone. It doesn’t matter if you have two parents or go to church because life isn’t about that. You can find and help people throughout your life that doesn’t have to be culturally “acceptable or desirable”.


There is a pre-requisite of a perfect relationship or life that’s all a lovely idea but reality is more important and what do I do today to make that difference. That’s what Mame does.


Are you excited to bring the show back to the UK?


It is an honour to be apart of this production at the amazing Hope Mill, which is an extraordinary and intimate venue. It gives you an immediacy and accessibility to the characters which you wouldn’t get if you were somewhere like the Palladium. This is immersive and wonderful.


Tracie Bennett as Mame in rehearsals
Credit Pamela Raith

How is bringing such iconic characters back to life?


I think one can’t take on the mantle of “Oh my God we are bringing something back” because then you get lost in that. Actually what you have to do is be present and try and create this wonderful world from the text.


It has to be your own. I can’t be Bea Arther who is absolutely brilliant, definitive and fantastic I can only do what I can do. That’s the Job.


Also, a lot of people won’t have context on something that was around 50 years ago anyway so for them it will all be new and that’s what they will love and enjoy as that their first experience of it.


What keeps Mame relevant today?


The thing that binds us all together is the madness of human nature. That’s what’s important through history. Whether it’s Shakespeare, the Greek Tragedies or this we identify with it and that’s what matters.


It’s why theatre matters because we bring to life what people identify and relate to. So although it’s a different context, in a sense of period, what you understand and completely connect with is everyone’s frailty and longing for love.


Why should come people come and see the show?


Audiences should come and see the show to be utterly fulfilled by the end of the night. You will come out singing, dancing and realising the choices you have to make your future happy. It’s a must-see.


Buy tickets here.