Thursday, October 5, 2017
Spotlight On...Monica Salvi
Education: I trained for three years at the Bernstein School of Musical Theatre in Italy, then moved to London to take a Postgraduate Diploma at the Royal Academy of Music. That course lasted a year, which so far is still the best of my life, and very hard to beat!
Favorite Credits: One of my favorite shows is Sweeney Todd. I was lucky enough to play both Johanna, and years later Beggar Woman, both in Italy, respectively the daughter, and wife of Sweeney. The first ends up spending time at Bedlam, London’s famous asylum during the Victorian times. The second ends up begging in the streets, completely deranged and with little memory of her former life and identity. They are both great characters and very challenging to play, not to mention sing… Sondheim’s score is wonderful and magnificently difficult even for the most experienced singers! Another favorite show of mine was Nursery Crimes, a British murder mystery musical comedy, based on nursery rhymes. The story revolves around the death of poor Humpty Dumpty, and the characters from Rhymeland need to find out “whodunit.” I was involved with this show since its very first workshops and auditions, while it was still being written. They first called me to audition for the character of Polly Flinders, explaining she was a very shy secretary who never utters a word for the whole show, to then reveal herself as a hardcore S&M mistress during her one and only song. I showed up at the first audition already dressed in full S&M gear, with handcuffs, horsewhip and chains. I can say it was one of the most successful auditions I ever did in my life, and I got the role.
Why theater?: I have always adored dressing up and impersonating characters ever since I was a child. I had an unlimited imagination and a good 90% of my waking life was made of make believe. So, growing up, when our brain finds the necessity to be a bit more grounded and connected to reality, it was only natural that I would discover the perfect way of keep playing “make believe.” Theatre, and definitely every creative art, keep the imagination flowing, and imagination is the food of the soul.
Tell us about Mad Women in My Attic!: The show itself is a cross between a cabaret and a one-woman-show with an actual storyline - part fiction, part autobiographical - where I explore the figure of the mad woman and the theme of madness in life, theatre and music, through an array of characters and songs, I’ve performed in my musical theatre career. It’s full of open scene costume changes, and funny and unpredictable audience interaction.
What inspired you to create Mad Women in my Attic!?: You must have noticed, when I was answering the question about my favorite credits, that I mentioned three characters who have a certain peculiar quality about them: they are all women who have developed a crazy trait. But it didn’t stop with those three. I also played Bertha Mason, the mad wife of Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre. I played Violet Gibson in Violet & Mussolini, based on the true story of the woman who attempted to kill the Italian dictator, missed, and ended up confined to a mental asylum. I created the role of Mademoiselle Syphilis in the song cycle Femme Fatale, by Nadav Wiesel, a wonderful character who was a prostitute rendered mad by syphilis, in fact she was the incarnation of syphilis itself. I realised that somehow, all the directors and composers I was auditioning for, were seeing in me an eccentric quality which made me perfect for the role of the crazy woman. That’s how the myth started… And when I decided to create my own one woman cabaret, I chose this theme, and, since I’m also very interested in psychotherapy and the patterns of human behavior, I decided to create a storyline and song set with these three themes: madness, crazy women and psychotherapy.
What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I know it sounds obvious but I love any kind of theatre that is well written and well performed. As for personal taste, I love dark humor, dark atmospheres with a hint of laughter. Anything with an out of the ordinary aspect that helps my imagination travel to different realities. I love period dramas, and supernatural themes. Give me some period supernatural play and I’m in heaven! But having said that, if something is really well written it can be anything, as long as it’s not too depressive. I want a story to leave me with a positive message, no matter how much drama it’s filled with. I love theatre cause it helps me escape reality, and after I’ve seen a play, I want to come back to my reality inspired, not depressed! We have the newspapers for that.
If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I have too many people to mention one individual specifically... but when it comes to companies, I'd love to work with Punchdrunk, Kneehigh, and Les Enfants Terribles. Those companies who breach the classic boundaries creating wonderfully devised immersive theatre experiences, which completely transport the audience to another world.
What show have you recommended to your friends?: Erm, my own? And anything by Punchdrunk and Kneehigh. I love devised theatre. And anything with Meow Meow in it, my very favorite cabaret diva. I’ve seen her multiple times, in London, Edinburgh and New York. I always recommend her shows to those people who don’t know her, and afterwards everyone thanks me and become her loyal fan.
Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Nicole Kidman is very welcome to play me! I would happily give my blessing to that casting choice. The movie would be called “Chasing Other Dimensions.” But this is a story for another cabaret, if not a movie.
If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I would see Dracula with Bela Lugosi. And the very first production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, one of my favorite musicals.
What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: My lifetime guilty pleasure is a very Italian one… Nutella! I could happily drown in a lake of it. But I love any kind of food… I’m a super foodie and a night at a good restaurant is usually something that brings me sheer joy. I know, I should have probably said “a night at the theatre,” but no.. food, food, food! And fine wine. I wonder what Freud would say about it…
If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: I can honestly say I don’t know. There are other things I do on the side, and which I love, for example I’m a certified gong practitioner (meaning I play the gongs and other shamanic instruments to create a vibrational soundscape that brings my clients to a state of deep relaxation and profound wellbeing), and I am training in a few other things that I’m passionate about, but when I seriously think about a life vocation, theatre and acting are the only things that I can see myself giving all my energies to. Even when it doesn’t work out as I’d like. Even singing is something I could never do without associating it to some form of acting. Maybe it won’t be like this forever, people change their dreams as they grow older, but at the moment, I think if I weren’t an actress, I'd be a bit lost, or probably in a job I hate.
What’s up next?: After my performance at United Solo Festival in NY, I will bring Mad Women in my Attic! to London for a performance at The Other Palace Theatre (recently bought and refurbished by Andrew Lloyd Webber). Next year I plan to bring the show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival again, as well as a few other dates around Europe possibly.