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Interview with Tupele Dorgu from the cast of Barnum

Barnum PosterMarcus Brigstocke (P.T. Barnum) and Laura Pitt-Pulford (Charity Barnum) lead the company of Barnum at the Menier Chocolate Factory, with Tupele Dorgu (Joice Heth), Harry Francis (Tom Thumb) and Celinde Schoenmaker (Jenny Lind) and Danny Collins, Eamonn Cox, Rosie Fletcher, Ainsley Hall Ricketts, Courtney Hows, Bethany Huckle, Philip Marriott, Dominic Owen and Lucie-Mae Summer.

Tupele Dorgu (Joice Heth) took time out to chat with us – this is what she had to say:

Q: Firstly, can you tell us about sugarfreebabeblog?
Tupele: I began the blog after appearing on the ITV show ‘Sugar Free Farm’ a couple of years ago. The show completely re-educated me regarding sugar & I have been sugar free ever since. I began the blog to encourage other people to do the same as so many friends were asking how to do it, and asking for recipes.

Q: You have an extensive career on stage and screen – for you, what are the main positives from each?
Tupele: It’s always lovely to get to know a new company & learn from other talented performers. I love the rehearsal process of a stage production, in particular musicals. The process in television is different & I like the challenge of having to get a scene right (& finished) under all the different pressures. Eg time, weather, remembering lines (Haha.) And having a great catering van is always a positive!

Tupele Dorgu
Tupele Dorgu

Q: What were your first thoughts when asked to join the cast of Barnum?
Tupele: I didn’t know the show, I knew it was set in the circus so knew it would be a spectacle. I was thrilled to be in a production at The Menier Chocolate Factory & knew it would be fantastic, so I was really excited.

Q: You play the part of Joice Heth – can you tell us about her and her journey in the show?
Tupele: Joice is The Oldest Woman In the World, & is one of the acts that Barnum acquires for his circus. I think she’s been performing her act for a long time, and by the time she meets Barnum she’s tired & has lost the love, until Barnum helps bring out the best in her & we really see what Joice can do. She doesn’t feature again until the end, but I do play the Blues Singer who helps narrate part of Barnum’s journey. I get to take part in a couple of ensemble numbers too, so it’s a nice role. Very different to anything I’ve ever done before.

Q: How are rehearsals?
Tupele: Rehearsals are great & a lot of fun, mainly due to the incredible cast we have. From Singers & actors to dancers & acrobats. The creative team are brilliant & are really making this version of Barnum something special.

Q: For anyone that hasn’t seen Barnum – what can they expect when getting along to the Menier?
Tupele: On the first day of rehearsals we were shown a model of the set & it looked amazing. There will be so much for the audience to see, it will be such an entertaining & immersive experience. It will feel like they are in a real circus & right in the middle of the action. In addition there will be acrobats, clowns, juggling, & fire!! Fabulous songs & such a lot of energy.

Barnum DVDQ: Why should everyone get along to see the show?
Tupele: The incredible score, costumes & choreography are enough, but unlike other productions of the show, this really concentrates on the story. A love story, & the ups & downs of an ambitious man. The cast are exceptional, there really isn’t much that the show is missing. I wish I could go and see it!!

Q: What next for you after Barnum?
Tupele: A holiday!

Barnum tells the story of P.T. Barnum, the Greatest Showman on Earth, who combines razzle-dazzle with charm and brass to sell “humbug” to cheering crowds. A joyful and moving musical portrait of the nineteenth century’s greatest show-biz legend, Barnum is a colourful, dynamic spectacle full of circus, side-show legends and heart.

Listings Information Barnum
Venue: Menier Chocolate Factory
Address: 53 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1RU
Press performance: 5 December at 8pm
Dates: 25 November 2017 – 3 March 2018


  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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