Louise is just right for Snow White in first professional role

Royal appointment: Louise Henry as Princess Snow White in Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs at the Grand Opera House, York. Picture by David Harrison.

LOUISE Henry will swap flat whites for Snow White next week after being picked to lead the Grand Opera House pantomime cast in York.

Louise, 22, from Knaresborough, works at the Hoxton North café bar in Royal Parade, Harrogate, but will join rehearsals for Three Bears Productions’ Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs from Monday (December 2) for the December 13 to January 4 2020 run.

After playing Liesl von Trapp in York Stage Musicals’ The Sound Of Music at the Cumberland Street theatre, now she will star as Princess Snow White alongside Mark Little’s villainous Lord Chamberlain, regular dame Steve Wickenden’s Nurse Brexit, ’Allo, ’Allo! star Vicki Michelle’s Wicked Queen and Martin Daniels’ Muddles.

From producer Chris Moreno’s search for a local principal girl in Three Bears’ fourth Opera House panto, Louise was among 30 invited from the many applicants for a day’s auditions in May.

After queueing in the rain in the line of Snow White hopefuls that formed along the stage door wall, she won through to the shortlist of 12 for the afternoon’ s second session and was then picked for panto principal girl after a nervous wait.

Meet the Grand Opera House pantomime cast: Mark Little, left, Steve Wickenden, Martin Daniels, Louise Henry, Jonny Muir, and Vicki Michelle. Picture by David Harrison.

“The auditions were on the Wednesday, and they rang me just as I was setting off to work on the Friday afternoon,” Louise recalls. “I’d been refreshing my emails, hoping for news, and it was such a euphoric moment when the phone call came.      

“I’m so thankful to have been chosen. I’ve been beaming whenever I’m reminded that I’m signing my first professional contract. I’m really looking forward to getting into the theatre and putting the show together. Performing is all I have ever wanted to do and I feel so lucky that my Christmas this year will be doing just that.”

Although Louise has not studied at drama school since leaving school, “I’ve had acting and singing lessons for as long as I can remember and I’ve done lots of theatre work, like school plays when I was at King James’s in Knaresborough,” she says.

“From the age of nine to 17, I went to the ACTAcademy in Harrogate, run by Kelly Creates, when we took part in the Harrogate Festival of Speech and Drama and did The Big T talent show at Harrogate Theatre, and I’ve had singing tuition with Jacqueline Bell in Wetherby too.”

Louise impressed in Nik Briggs’s April production of The Sound Of Music, playing the eldest von Trapp daughter, Liesl. “I was 21 playing 16, and the next in age to me was 12, playing 15!” she says. “It’s such a nice show to do because it’s so honest, and it was sad when it came to an end as we all made such good friends.

Welcome to York: Louise Henry, from Knaresborough, is pictured by Clifford’s Tower after landing the role of Snow White in the Grand Opera House pantomime. Picture: David Harrison

“It was lovely to be able to become familiar with the Grand Opera House stage too before doing the panto.”

Since The Sound Of Music, Louise has appeared in two more York shows, the first being another Nik Briggs production, Joseph McNeice and Matthew Spalding’s new musical comedy, Twilight Robbery, at 41 Monkgate in May.

“I played Jane, the daughter, who’s 40 years old, so I went from one extreme, 16-year-old Liesl, to another…and now I’ll be playing Snow White!”

The nearest she has come to playing her own age was her most recent role, a young Australian woman, Gabrielle York, in Rigmarole Theatre Company’s debut production, Andrew Bovell’s apocalyptic family drama When The Rain Stops Falling, at 41 Monkgate in November.

Louise Henry, right, playing Gabrielle York in Rigmarole Theatre Company’s When The Rain Stops Falling earlier this month. Picture: Michael J Oakes

Now her focus turns to her professional bow, billed as “York’s very own Louise Henry” in Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs.

“I’ve done one panto before, Aladdin, an amateur one for the Pannal Players when I was maybe 14,” says Louise,

Looking forward to starting rehearsals on Monday, she says: “This opportunity is what I’ve been waiting for, and I’ve just got to have faith in my abilities.

“Snow White is on stage for most of the time, so I’ll always need to react in the moment, and that’s something that will add to my repertoire of skills, which I’m always working on.”

Imagine how Louise feels as the first night approaches, knowing she is taking on the title role in a star-laden show. “I know! It’s my show! How crazy is that!” she says. “When I rang my sister to tell her I’d got the part, she didn’t believe it…and when I rang my mum, I had to say, ‘no, I’m not kidding’. That was a really fantastic day!”

Louise Henry stars in Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, Grand Opera House, York, December 13 to January 4 2020. Box office: 0844 871 3024 or at atgtickets.com/york.

Charles Hutchinson

What is the “most important question of our time”? Andrew Bovell’s play has the answer…

Director Maggie Smales in the role of Joe Ryan on the preview night of When The Rain Stops Falling. Picture: Michael J Oakes

YORK director and designer Maggie Smales is reviving a theatre company name from her Seventies’ student days to present Andrew Bovell’s When The Rain Stops Falling, a multi-layered mystery spread across 80 years and four generations of one family in England and Australia.

Smales chose this apocalyptic story of betrayal, abandonment and destruction for Rigmarole Theatre Company’s debut venture because it addresses “the most important question of our times”: Are we prepared to pass on the damage from the past to our children?

Ahead of this Yorkshire premiere opening at 41 Monkgate, tomorrow (November 14), Maggie answers Charles Hutchinson’s questions.

What prompted you to set up a theatre company now, Maggie?

“We’re lucky to have a lot of heritage theatre and musicals here in York. While that is wonderful, for both performers and audiences, I feel it’s important that there is contemporary work on offer.

“There’s such a lot of great work that offers a more direct connection to our lives today. TV dramas are often fantastic, but I don’t think you can beat live drama where the audience is in the room with the events playing out before them.”

Why make the link with your student past by reviving the name Rigmarole? 

“A bit frivolous, I suppose, but it is somewhat in the spirit of sustainability and re-use, which are part of Rigmarole’s ideals.

“Also, I’m constantly reminded while I work, whether directing or acting, that I’m still a student, and long may that last!

Why did you choose this play for your launch production? 

“Taking on a directing task is a large job, so when I take it on, it has to be for a text or project that matters to me.

“This play deals with the most pressing question of our times. Can we change to save ourselves? A question that is played out through the narratives of characters in the play and set in the context of a climate that’s changing and threatening our very existence.

“That sounds heavy, but like other great plays, it just uses great storytelling. I was completely blown away by it.

“Furthermore, it’s a play that offers fantastic opportunities for actors. It’s beautifully crafted and has a deliciously poetic text. As a director, it has a canvas that spans the globe and 80 years of time, so it offers the fantastic challenge of realising it all within a simple black box.”

Rigmarole Theatre Company’s cast for When The Rain Stops Falling: James Coldrick, left, Louise Henry, Adam Sowter, Stan Gaskell, Sally Mitcham, Beryl Nairn, Mick Liversidge, Maggie Smales and Florence Poskitt. Picture: Michael J Oakes

Where did you come across this play? Have you seen it?

“I haven’t seen it, but I read it before seeing Andrew Bovell’s other well-known piece, Things I Know To Be True, which he wrote for Frantic Assembly.

“His adaptation of The Secret River by Kate Grenville was recently at the Edinburgh Festival and at the National Theatre. I went to see it and was captivated by the way he uses personal narrative to convey the story of a nation and the crimes at the very heart of its growth.”

What resonates most with you about this play?

“Something that has emerged as an increasingly important feature is that of legacy and inheritance: that we live among the presence of our ancestors but also with them inside our hearts. This is something maybe the Australian aborigines understand much better than us.”

What do you read into the title?

“With the weather we’ve been having lately it’s become a bit of a sore point really! Or spookily prophetic.

“Our story as humans is of carrying on, of finding a way forward and sometimes of bearing the burden of our own and others’ crimes. The final year of the play is set at the brink of our possible extinction and leaves us wondering if we always will ‘carry on’.”

Do you believe we can change, as Bovell’s play calls on us to do?

“I don’t think we do change. I think it is more in our DNA to ‘carry on’ and adapt our behaviour to suit the demands around us as we find them.

“Our current crisis shows that some of us are more prepared to adapt sooner rather than later. Put differently, there are various types of self-interest at work in humankind, but I’m fairly optimistic because there’s a lot of goodness in most people.”

Have you had any discussions with Andrew Bovell?

“We’ve been in touch through his agent and received a fantastic and insightful reply regarding the recent development banning the ascents of Uluru. Such a climb is featured in the play but why a ‘fair-skinned Englishman’ went there in search of his father is something you’d have to come and find out!

“The play has been performed all around the world but this its first appearance in Yorkshire and he wished us good luck.

“Bovell uses Australian culture, Greek myth, French philosophy and meteorological events in history to create a powerful allegory, which can be appreciated as both high opera and as accessible soap opera.”

And finally, why should we see When The Rain Stops Falling?

“If you like to be moved by what you see, if you like to see a mystery unfold as the puzzle pieces come together, if you like a powerful story that has something to say about who we are and where we are going, this is one to see.”

Rigmarole Theatre Company presents When the Rain Stops Falling, John Cooper Studio, 41 Monkgate, York, November 14 to 16, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: 01904 623568, yorktheatreroyal.co.uk or from the Theatre Royal box office in person.