Playing Annie in Annie at the age of nine was the defining moment for Kirsty Anne Shaw who plays Beauty in Beauty and the Beast at the New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth this Christmas (December 14-31).
Originally from Edinburgh and now living in London, Kirsty slipped into the perfect role as the little orphan girl.
“I have got big ginger curly hair, and I was Annie in our local amateur dramatics, and I just thought ‘This is my time!’ I didn’t have to have a wig. I had my ginger hair. It was the best time I have ever had!
“I just don’t think you can beat a live audience. When you put in all the work that you put into a show and then you get it in front of an audience, it is great,” says Kirsty who also had a small part as a 13 or 14-year-old in Taggart.
“I was just one of the kids in one of the crime stories. The storyline was a bit heavy, but it was great to do.”
As for her latest stage adventure, she will be Beauty in a new retelling of the classic.
The show opens in the docks of Old Portsmouth, in the early 1800s. We meet Beauty and her brother Will, as they pay the price for their father’s lost fleet. We also meet Beauty’s childhood suitor, Frederick, back on land after a spell at sea.
Beauty and Will are swept up into the madcap world of Madame Crummles and her travelling theatre troupe, who arrive in Portsmouth to play at the Old Theatre Royal. Before long, they are summoned to a very special performance in London, but on route through Hampshire they are lost in the Forest of Bere, taking refuge in a mysterious castle. There they meet the Beast…
“Beauty is living with her brother Will and they own a stall selling cakes. It’s how they make their money. Their father is not around, and they run into various different characters.
“Beauty is very headstrong. She looks after her brother. She makes sure that they have got enough money. But she also loves books. She is very into culture. She loves stories and fanciful things. There are two sides to her.
“Frederick is this big masculine man who is interested in her, and she is not interested in him at all. She is very idealistic. She wants to escape into books and literature… but she does also look after her brother. But she is also very adventurous.”
Originally from Edinburgh, Kirsty now lives in London where she graduated a year ago from the Urdang Academy after a three- year course: “It was amazing. It was the best thing I have ever done. I was not sure that I wanted to leave Scotland, but the opportunity came up, and it was fantastic. I just loved the training, and the teaching was phenomenal. The support was so good, and there were all the opportunities of being in London, plus the school has got such a good name. They really push you in all the disciplines, singing, dancing and acting.”
One of the best adventures to follow was six months on cruise ships off Australia: “It was hard work every night, but the luxury was seeing the places we went to. We were cruising around Australia and the Pacific Islands.”
Kirsy predicts she will need a few more layers this Christmas than she needed last: “Last Christmas I was in Sydney!”
Tickets on www.newtheatreroyal.com or call the box office on 023 9264 9000.