Hair Comes “The Girl”! Michael Starke talks to Chris High about what playing the role of Edna means to him.
Its been a busy year for Michael Starke, appearing on stages across the country in Pantomime, Comedy Dramas and, also, filming episodes of Casualty. Now he is about to take on possibly his biggest challenge to date by following in the high heels of Michael Ball and Brian Conley to play the larger-than-life, big-hearted Edna Turnblad in Hairspray.
‘I’m absolutely loving being involved with the show and playing a character like Edna is a huge privilege,’ Michael said. ‘This production has a big Broadway feel to it, which is very exciting. When I got the part, I went to watch Michael Ball in Manchester and Brian Conley in Nottingham to try and study the mechanics of the show, but Edna’s is such a big character it’s almost impossible not to get sucked in because it is such a great show. Its really important not play the part like some camp Pantomime Dame who is all boobs and bum because Edna’s just an amazing woman who has such a beautiful journey. She’s also quite troubled, an agoraphobic who runs a laundry business from her apartment, she knows all of her dreams have faded away and lives for her daughter’s happiness. Edna is determined that Tracy’s life doesn’t go the same way as her own.
‘I have to say that, early on, I did think I might have bitten off a bit more than I could chew. There’s me, who’s a pretty big guy anyway, wearing a fat suit and high heels trying not to crush these tiny little dancers to death; that was really daunting at first, but once things got rolling I was fine and those doubts quickly disappeared. Michael Ball has been a huge help and shown me such amazing amounts of generosity while I’ve been preparing. He let me trail him and his assistants showed me how things worked to the extent that I’m really looking forward to it now.’
Michael’s stint as Edna begins at The Empire in Liverpool, which for the actor is another added bonus. ‘I don’t think this a role the Liverpool audiences would ever have expected seeing me play and it’s just a really happy coincidence that I happen to be starting in my home city. Of course playing alongside fellow Scouser Les Dennis who’s playing Edna’s husband, Wilbur, for part of the tour before Micky Dolenz and Nigel Planer take over, will be a big help and offset some of the nerves.
‘I know my mum, Margaret, is looking forward to it and I’d like to dedicate the shows to her and, also, to a very dear actor friend of mine, John Axon, who sadly passed away recently. This was a role I felt straight away that I had to grab with both hands when the opportunity came along and it’s rare as an actor to feel like that about any role. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward getting into my frock and getting the party started.’