Heathers the Musical, a fresh, hilarious take on the cult teenage movie of the same name, recently rolled into the West End after a sell-out run at The Other Palace in London’s Victoria. A show of genuine laugh-out-loud moments, surreal plot twists and immediately memorable musical numbers – the musical’s cast comprises a range of rising stars sure to become household names and West End fixtures for years to come.
The musical, which pokes fun at perceived high school culture and the pitfalls of adolescence packs a lot in. Subjects explored within the show include: cliques, bullying, revenge porn, sexual awakening, suicide, feeling like an outsider and everything in between. Central to the plot’s cast is leading lady and star of the show Carrie Hope Fletcher (Les Miserables), well known for her YouTube career and best-selling novels, Carrie brings genuine likability and human vulnerability to the role of Veronica. Throughout the show, we see her character flourish as she explores first love and new found popularity before learning some of life’s toughest lessons and ultimately the value of true friendship and knowing (and being proud of) who you are.
Alongside Carrie, T’Shan Williams stars as Heather Duke. T’Shan’s powerhouse song ‘Never Shut Again’ emphasise the toxicity that some schools possess. With flawless delivery and humour, T’Shan brings to life Heather Dukes sassy character perfectly.
Gurls Talk sat down for a quick chat with Carrie and T’Shan backstage at the theatre to discuss social media, friendship and diversity.
On their own experiences of high school and growing up:
T’Shan: Theatre was a massive part of my childhood, my mum enjoyed taking me to the theatre so I was into theatre quite a lot. In school, well I didn’t enjoy school really, I had a hard time at school; I was quite destructive. I learnt differently, and back then they didn’t have the facilities to cater to people who learnt differently so I really strayed away from school, but when I got to college and did performing arts there, I really felt a part of something that I enjoyed and that’s when I took my creative career in that direction.
Carrie: I went to an all-girls school and there was a divide between the girls that were academic and those that were sports based; there were actually three girls at school who were exactly like the Heathers, it’s kinda scary.
T’Shan: I am so fortunate to still be friends with my high school friends, considering that I left school early. My closest friends are my high school girls. None of them are actually in the business, which is nice because it grounds me when I see them. Some of them are teachers and some of them work in nurseries, it’s lovely! We were the jokers in school; the ones that were always having a laugh and doing weird stuff like running after buses, weird stuff that we thought was cool. So, I guess, in a way we did have our own circle, we were Heathers in some ways, but we weren’t mean, we were just confident and happy and jokers.
On the reaction of Heathers, its cult following and social media trolls:
T’Shan: The director of the movie came in to see us in the second week and he said that when the movie first came out all the adults said to him kids don’t speak like that, kids don’t talk like that, kids don’t swear at each other like that and they don’t bully each other like that – that doesn’t happen. Then, when the movie came out all the teenagers that came to watch the movie said to him “that’s exactly how we talk, that’s exactly what we say to each other, that’s exactly what happens in schools – you got it spot on!” A lot of people come to the show expecting a nice teen show, like a John Hughes movie with a happy ending, rainbows and cakes and smiles and then they get hit with a sex scene halfway through and someone gets poisoned within the first half an hour.
Carrie: (On if the show is cult) I think more-so in the UK, because it’s based in America. Loads of UK teenagers were wishing for the day that it came to the UK. Everyone went nuts when it did! It felt like going back to high school when we did West End Live in Trafalgar Square, we had been open for a week and we performed three songs from the show.
Carrie: (On social media trolls) The comments from that video were atrocious, I’ve never read anything like it. “Why is Veronica so fat an unattractive?”, “Why is the choreography so shit?” “Why are there accents so terrible?” Because people only know one version of the show, any deviation from that meant people weren’t happy because it was a change from what they loved so much. But, every night we have 100s of people outside the theatre screaming.
On diversity and body image:
C: Within this industry, I’ve never felt pressure to lose weight from anyone casting me. It’s only come from fans. The first comments about this show were, “why have they cast someone who’s fat and unattractive?”. No-one on twitter is in charge of casting, though, so it doesn’t matter – those opinions don’t matter. As long as the director is happy with me playing Veronica then I’ll be happy. Whatever size I am has nothing to do with the story of the show. It’s hard to have this inner self-confidence, knowing that it’s about your ability and what’s inside, and your brain instead of your looks, but it’s hard on social media; it feels like everything’s against you. I think that’s why representation matters so much; how much of a shame would it be if all the Heathers were stick thin? That’s all our audience would see and that’s not what the world looks like. The stage should portray that, but there’s a long way to go. It’s nice to see some sort of representation for all colours, for all people to see. New shows like Hamilton and Everyone’s Talking About Jamie and Kinky Boots allow for diverse casts, but I think that theatre has been more open to diversity than Hollywood or TV. It’s a very inclusive place.
T: Diversity needs to happen though. I feel like we’ve (the cast) earned our stripes being open for such a long period of time, and after the transfer to a bigger theatre.
C: What made me laugh is that the show is about a girl called Veronica Sawyer whose dream is for everyone to get along and to be beautiful and to be kind to each other. Her best friend is a fat girl called Martha and all these kids at school pick on her, but that doesn’t matter to Veronica because she’s a gorgeous person inside and out, and that’s all that matters. The Heathers are horrible mean girls who end up getting their comeuppance.
On their relationship with social media, boundaries and safe spaces online:
C: Only a few people had social media when I was at school – I signed up to Facebook when I was like 16 and remember never using it because no-one was on it! I remember downloading music then on Napster!
Social media is weird – me and everyone I know in our industry where rejection is rife and people make harsh comments all the time, whether that’s at an audition or on social media, we’ve all been through so much stupid crap that we’re quite thick skinned. Then I think about the kids who are getting the same sort of thing thrown at them online, and they haven’t built up a barrier against that kind of thing, I cant imagine what it would’ve been like being a 14-year old with social media.
T: I think it’s very difficult for the younger generation. Everything is so immediate now, you don’t get to build relationships; it can be dangerous.
C: I always feel like the book community is a really supportive one; loads of authors and bloggers are in touch with one another. Social media is a way for me to share my love for theatre and writing. It’s amazing being able to share a glimpse into the professional world of theatre.
T: It’s always nice to keep in touch with your friends that you may not see very often. You can build your own log book of the things that you’re doing, giving people an insight into what you’re doing. A lot of careers are built on social media, so it is a good platform.
C: Sometimes I just have to put my laptop away because I’m just not being productive, I’ll be scrolling for hours. It’s hard when social media is a part of your career, but its nice to be able to actually use It for social reasons.
Heathers The Musical is at Theatre Royal Haymarket until Saturday 24th November heathersthemusical.com