After seeing the Heathers UK tour at the Welsh Millennium Centre on Tuesday, we sat down with Merryl Ansah who plays Heather Duke to talk about the show, why it’s so loved and so much more. How very!
An interview with Merryl Ansah
A.K.A Heather Duke
What makes this UK tour different from other UK productions of Heathers?
There have been a few changes made to the script, so that’s different. The choreography as well, that’s something I had to adjust to because I had the old one in my head. I was like this is slightly the same but a little bit tweaked. We’ve got some costume changes too. I think with each version of Heathers that we’ve had in the UK, there’s been something a little new and different than before. You’re not seeing exactly the same thing even though it’s the same production.
Heathers has a big cult following amongst young theatre fans. Did you feel pressure because of that?
The first time I did it I actually didn’t know too much about the show. So, I went into it completely blind and was taken aback by the fan frenzy behind it all which was really cool. I’m glad this time around I had a bit of a heads up! I didn’t feel as much pressure because I have done it before, and I knew the world they operated in. Weirdly I didn’t feel so much pressure, but it’s amazing that it does have this sort of cult feel because, as our director says, it’s for the fans. I definitely feel that when we’re performing it.
What do you think makes it so popular?
It deals with so many different themes which a lot of people can identify with. Firstly, it is a dark comedy and it deals with issues such as bullying, bulimia, and suicide. There are a lot of dark themes it deals with. I’m sure a lot of people have had a hard experience with them themselves or have known people who have been through those things, so I think it’s cool for them to watch it presented in a way where it’s dealt with, even though it’s a dark comedy, with care. The message at the end is one of love and acceptance and I think people come and watch it and seek refuge in it.
Did you find it difficult to get into character as a Heather?
Yes. Obviously, the headers of the mean girls of the school. They end up bullying everyone in some way, so that was quite hard. I mean, of course, I’m not a bully! It’s difficult to step into that. For example, I’m friends with the girl who plays Martha, having to bully her on stage is tough. We all know we’re friends offstage, so everything is fine at the end of the day.
If you could play any other role in the show, which would it be?
You know what? I’m going to say Kurt or Ram, just because I think they have the most fun.
Are there any moments in the show where you struggle to keep a straight face?
There are so many. I think Dead Gay Son actually. There are so many moments in that where we have to pause and freeze. There’s always something happening in the audience, like someone will do a really loud laugh and we all have to just be frozen which is hard!
Heather Duke gets to wear two iconic costumes. Who do you think has the best costumes in the cast?
I don’t know if it’s a cop-out to say me but yeah I do have two pretty good costumes.
You also worked on Disney’s The Lion King. Do you think there are any similarities between the two shows?
I guess at the end of the day they both talk about acceptance in some way. Simba goes to his whole finding himself situation when he’s with Timon and Pumba, he finds peace with all the stuff that’s happened, and he comes back to take the throne. Veronica sort of goes through the same thing but she goes to the dark side in the process, in the end, she gets back to being friends with Martha and finds her way.
Why should people go and see Heathers in the Welsh Millennium Centre?
It’s a feel-good musical. It’s got some great songs, songs that’ll be stuck in your head for weeks to come, and it’s funny! We all need something to laugh about after the past two years.
The Heathers UK tour will be at the Welsh Millennium Centre from the 30th of November to the 4th of December.