Over the years, Eastbourne has sent plenty of young performers out with ambitions to conquer the world, and this week one young local actress is back close to home.
Catherine Anderson – whose professional name is Catherine Hayworth – is now 24, but she spent her teen years as an enthusiastic member of Rattonians and EODS before training at Guildford School of Acting and setting out on a performing career.
Catherine plays sixth-former Annabel, in Crush the Musical at the Theatre Royal in Brighton. “It’s the nearest I’ve managed to get to home so far, although last year I did appear as Cinderella in panto at the Hawth in Crawley, which just counts as Sussex. But you have to go where the work takes you – in fact only last month I was doing murder mysteries on cruises around the Orkneys and Hebrides!
“But this week I’m enjoying the Digs of Mum and Dad, and we have two or three others from the company also staying, so I can show off the glories of Eastbourne to them! I’d absolutely love to play the Devonshire Park Theatre. Eastbourne isn’t on the current Crush schedule but there are whispers of a future extended tour and it’s a show that would be perfect for the Devonshire Park – a medium-scale musical with lots of heart.”
Not that Catherine is a stranger to the local stage. “I was only ten when I played the lead in Annie for EODS, and I remember we actually filled the Congress. I should have been terrified – I think my mum was! – but I was just having a ball. We had a gorgeous dog who kept wandering off, and one night I had to ad-lib and fetch him back from the stalls!”
That was just the start. Catherine played lots of roles in local shows, including Dorothy in the Wiz, Johanna in Sweeney Todd, and Fantine in a memorable Les Mis for Rattonians at the Devonshire Park. “But lots of smaller and ensemble roles too – they are just as important for experience, and they teach you that all productions are really ensemble shows and in a company like Rattonians, nobody is more important than anyone else. That’s a great lesson.”
Catherine, who was also a Ratton School student, is quick to acknowledge the value of local community theatre. “Mark and Melanie Adams have been an inspiration to so many of us young people. They ought to have an MBE or something! And all the other local directors and choreographers who sort of light the performing flame in the kids.”
The new Crush production, which is currently touring and plays the Theatre Royal this week until Saturday 26th, is a tongue-in-cheek musical spoof. “It has proper pedigree. The author is Maureen Chadwick, who is the writer behind Footballers’ Wives, Bad Girls and Waterloo Road. Dame Dorothea’s – Dame Dotty’s as we girls call it in the show – is a lovely school. There’s a bit of jolly-hockey-sticks, and we do have one terrific tap number complete with hockey sticks and called Navy Knicks! But Dotty’s encourages all the arts and the liberal values of a quite progressive education.
“But then we are threatened by the arrival of a ferocious authoritarian new headmistress, Miss Bleacher – played by Rosemary Ashe – determined to stamp out all the human values! Naturally, led by wonderful games mistress Miss Givings (groan), we girls ensure the true spirit of the school wins through!
“It’s deliciously lively and very funny, but it has a serious theme too. Two of the girls are actually in a girl-girl relationship – and their love triumphs in spite of Miss Bleacher’s best efforts to stifle it.”