As our cast interview series continues, we catch up with Jonny Purchase, who plays penguin “Quack Pack” member Presley, straight from Les Miserables, in the West End and onscreen. Read more about Jonny’s other previous credits on the Love Birds cast page. Follow him on Twitter @jonnypurchase.
How do you walk like a penguin?
The joy with interpreting the penguins in Love Birds is that we are giving hints of animals not actually playing animals. Like in The Lion King, for example, the actors wear costumes and headdresses and give certain movements that display the animal but they can then do so much more using the human body. If I did the whole show waddling and plodding like a penguin, I would probably not get through those dances and it definitely wouldn’t be as entertaining!
What was the best bit of rehearsals?
The best bit of rehearsals for me was probably day one: hearing the music, meeting everyone and getting the show straight on its feet.
Do you have a favourite lyric?
There’s too many to choose! Hmmm, no, can’t find a favourite!
— Jonny Purchase (@jonnypurchase) August 9, 2015
You played one of the students in the Les Miserables film. What was that like? And then going on to do Les Mis onstage as well…
The whole experience of the film was just absolutely incredible. We had firearms training, stunt training for the death scenes: it was epic from start to finish. Everything was so grand and done for real. We built a barricade from scratch in one 15-minute take. It was great to do both sides of Les Mis, the film and the stage musical, because you get to see why each is important in its own way. To experience the story for real – having canons firing and debris flying all over the place, like it would have been in battle – was incredible. But then to have the live element with the West End musical every night was also fantastic.
How does it feel going from the West End’s longest-running musical to a brand-new musical like Love Birds? What’s the appeal of doing something no one’s done before?
Les Mis was an incredible job to have, but all good things come to an end. When I decided to leave, I got excited about the prospect of other jobs and doing things completely different – and Love Birds couldn’t be any more different than Les Mis! It’s great having that change. I think it’s important for performers to cover all styles and show versatility in their careers. With a completely new project, of course, you haven’t got any shoes to fill. The character you’re creating is the first it’s ever been. That’s fun!
You have some very dedicated fans. What’s been one of your best fan moments?
I am always very appreciative of the support we all get from fans across the industry. It’s great to see that what we do connects with people and that they get a lot of joy out of our performances.
When I was a kid, I used to stand outside the football stadium back home and wait for the players to come to training so I could get them to sign my shirt etc. I know exactly how it feels.
After a performance at Les Mis, I once got handed a receipt with a lady’s name, hotel room number and mobile number. I didn’t go, of course! Well, it was a Travelodge. If it had been the Ritz…?! No, seriously, I would never have gone.