The legendary P.T. Barnum once said ‘Every man should make his child learn some useful trade or profession, so that in these days of changing fortunes they may have something tangible to fall back on’.
Well Laura Pitt-Pulford’s parents didn’t force her into a career of acting but they were very supportive of her choice when she was growing up in Warwickshire. Now, after moving to London to train at Mountview Academy, she has an Olivier nomination tucked into her belt and is currently rehearsing her role in the award-winning musical Barnum.
Even so, this lady who is fast earning a reputation as a theatre legend, took time away from rehearsals to talk to Weekender and was keen to tell me that acting was something she had loved doing from an early age – ‘but it wasn’t ’til I was about 13/14 that I realised this was something I could potentially consider as a career’. She recalls how her parents were behind her theatrical pursuits and ‘they’ve been there through the tough times as well,’ she says.
In 2015 Laura received her nomination for her portrayal of Milly in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, which she says was ‘a huge honour and something I only ever dreamed of happening’. She added that ‘an Olivier nomination brings a huge sense of achievement’.
But it is now 2017 and there is new work to be created. I asked Ms Pitt-Pulford what drew her to Barnum. ‘I’m always excited by the idea of taking a huge show and fitting it into an intimate space, like the Menier Chocolate Factory,’ she begins. ‘It requires extreme imagination and truth and really enables us to focus on the story… There is a lot of heart in this show and this space really lends itself to that.’
She plays Charity Barnum, P.T.’s wife, a ‘strong, straight talking, no messing woman who is incredibly practical… Some would say she is quite cold but I disagree. To be a strong, practical woman doesn’t mean you have to be shut off and this very much shows in the scenes between her and Barnum.’
The Barnum role will be played by Marcus Brigstocke and Laura reveals that rehearsals are going ‘incredibly well’ and that ‘a very happy, supportive company are having a lot of fun putting this show together’. She talks excitedly of the ‘many challenges to overcome’ and the magic tricks and circus skills to be learnt, but also that it is very rewarding.
I have no doubt that this spectacle of circus and side-show legends will be just as rewarding for audiences.
Barnum is on at the Menier Chocolate Factory, 53 Southwark St, SE1 1RU from 25th Nov – 3rd Mar 2018, Tue – Sat 8pm, matinees Sat and Sun 3.30pm. Admission: £39.50 – £47.50. Phone: 020 7378 1713