Interview: Will Young
The 'Pop Idol' winner talks about his role in Rufus Norris's revival of 'Cabaret'
Winner of the original series of 'Pop Idol', singer Will Young made his theatre debut in 2007 in a revival of Noël Coward's 'The Vortex'. Five years on, he returns to the boards to star as The Emcee, ringmaster of the seedy Kit Kat Club in Rufus Norris's revival of 'Cabaret', Kander and Ebb's darkly brilliant musical adaptation of Christopher Isherwood's stories about the rise of Nazism in decadent '30s Berlin.
Surely this isn't the first musical you've been asked to star in?
'There have been quite a few offers over the years. But there are really only two I'm interested in: 'Cabaret' and 'Kiss of the Spider Woman'; it was either those two or a new one.'
How do you describe The Emcee?
'Well, from an audience point of view he's everything from the Greek chorus to the Shakespearean jester figure. But playing him I have to take it back to the basics: he's the compère in a probably not even first rate cabaret club in '30s Berlin.'
He almost seems like a supernatural figure; is it hard to humanise him?
'I've always wondered how much he was affected by the First World War, what drove him to cabaret? He is a very political person and cabaret is historically a commentary on socio-political things. I think he believes in that, but along the way he's been bashed and beaten and let down, he's a pretty broken character.'
How's your German accent?
'One of the things with “The Vortex” was that my voice wasn't strong enough. This time I worked really hard on my acting voice, singing voice and accent. And that was three months at least of hard grafting because I thought: “I can't go on that fucking stage and not sound like a German, it just can't happen”.'
Do you think you'd enjoy the same success if you'd gone on 'X Factor' now rather than 'Pop Idol' then?
'There was something wonderfully innocent about “Pop Idol” - you watch it now and it looks like something out of the 1950s, it's hysterical. I was lucky and it worked for me, it was a new thing and I had [manager] Simon Fuller. I think it's different now, but I still watch it; I love all that stuff like judges' houses - we had to make do with a chippy in Teddington.'
Is it quite liberating playing a crazy German from the '30s?
'I have a very different type of artistic freedom in this than with my pop career. I have to say I've had a fantasy about doing a record called “The Emcee Sings”, mental pop songs, the album would come with a free syringe or something: it'd be the darkest thing ever!'