Australian Simone Sault, star of stage and screen, has taken time out on her return home to Australia to chat with us.
Hi Simone, how’s your visit home been?
Beautiful thank you. It’s always glorious coming back and seeing my family and friends here in Australia. Plus the sunshine is what I bottle up and take back to the UK, especially this time of year!
You’ve had quite a career. Can you tell us a bit about your earlier life, both in what drove you to choose dance, and the training you completed?
I studied classical ballet from the age of 7yrs at the National Theatre Ballet School. I was blessed to have been taught by wonderful artists and teachers, including the late Kathy Gorham, Gailene Stock, Eileen Tasker, Jonathan Kelly, Joanne Michel, Terese Power, all incredible dancers with Australian Ballet at the time. I trained daily and after leaving school at 14yrs old (I know!) I studied dance, still at the National, full time for 3 years before entering the professional world. As clichéd as it sounds, I don’t recall a time where I didn’t want to dance. It just clicked, even at 7yrs old, it felt like breathing.
And you worked quite a bit in Australia with the Sydney Dance Company, what was that like, and how did that help set the foundation for working overseas?
I adored my time with Sydney Dance Company (SDC). I had come from the Australian production of Phantom Of The Opera, back into the dance world (what I had trained for) and I was so consumed by my work, tours, and opportunities that I soaked it up daily for the 7 yrs I was there. My work with SDC was unique in the fact that, under the direction of Graeme Murphy and Janet Vernon at the time, it was a classically based contemporary Company, but with a strong emphasis on the actor/character /personality side of each member. Graeme is wonderful at extracting from you what only YOU can bring to a piece/role with the movement almost seeming secondary. I have always loved the storytelling side to a role. With this in mind, my experience with the Company aided me to continue to pursue my career overseas as I just didn’t have an agenda, I literally landed here in the UK and made a promise to myself, to say yes to any and all opportunities that came my way. Ones that assisted me in furthering my development as an artist…dancer, actor, collaborater, creative. A pact that, thus far, has held me in good stead. -Touch wood-
How do the two compare? Working in Australia versus working overseas?
It’s really hard to compare the two I feel. Something I have always said is, I believe the training in Australia is second to none. However the opportunities are not always there, or indeed as plentiful as they are here in London and New York for example. Hence why I feel very lucky to have the best of both worlds, be an Aussie and take the rest of the world for everything it’s got! London has been so very good to me. There’s not a day that passes where I don’t feel humbled, and above all grateful for the jobs and in particular the talent that I work with and for.
You’ve been involved in some major productions, including Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, Sinatra and On The Town, productions one can only hope to be involved in. How do you go about preparing for roles, and how do you approach each audition?
Auditions are never easy, nor that enjoyable if I’m going to be honest! Why do we do it to ourselves?! It’s taken me a while to figure it out, but I do honestly believe that if the job/role is meant to come your way, it will, good audition or not. The best advice, the only advice actually is, BE yourself. Prepare of course, but just trust in what will be will be. I find that takes a lot of the stress out it. And what has always been the case for me is, if I have missed out on something I really wanted, something else from left field always shows up and I think, “thank God I didn’t get so and so because NOW I’m doing this!”
You’re also quite an accomplished choreographer, with credits including: Love Never Dies, Strictly Come Dancing and the London Olympic Games ceremonies, what a diverse range of opportunities, what were some of the standout moments from each?
Oh wow, yes, I feel very lucky to be working for Graeme and Janet once again (original Choreographers of Love Never Dies) and working for someone like Danny Boyle for the London 2012 Games was rather surreal I must say. Opening Ceremony with the World watching was as good as it gets I think! That is definitely a highlight, he was/is extraordinary. I love working creatively as it continues to open my eyes to a craft that I have been involved in for a long time now, yet at times, depending on what I’m working on and who with, I feel like the student all over again… keeps you fresh!
We’ve also seen you venture on to screen, both TV and Film. Can you tell us a bit about your work on Alice in Wonderland, particularly working with Director Tim Burton, whom you’ve previously worked with on Sweeney Todd? Other credits of yours include work on Rob Marshall’s Nine, Kath and Kimderella and the TV show Galavant. That’s quite a range of diverse productions, how did you prepare for these varying roles?
Tim Burton is exactly how you think he would be, brilliantly colourful and a real visionary. A gorgeous woman by the name of Francesca Jaynes choreographs nearly all of his movies, we worked very closely with her as well. With Kath and Kimderella, I had just finished working with the incredibly talented Gina Riley on the Australian production of Chicago when she offered me the role of an Hispanic lesbian that flirts with Magda Zubanski’s character, Sharon Strzelecki… as you do! It was short and sweet but I had an absolute blast. My opportunity to work with Rob Marshall on laying down the rehearsal track “Take It All” for his Nine was another surreal moment, recording it with the legend that is Maury Yeston. Rob Marshall was genuine, honest and very normal, which is always a good thing!
Can you tell us how you balance work, and your other amazing role in life, being a mother?
Arrr, my [not so] little Luca! He’s everything to me! He has just turned 4 and is incredible in every sense of the word. I was pregnant with Luca right through my time working on London 2012 Olympic Games. By the time we wrapped the Ceremonies I was 8 and a half months pregnant! There would be times where I was still out on the field of play rehearsing until way after 1am of a day, and he’d be kicking and hiccupping away like a trooper. The travel and nomadic lifestyle is all he has ever known, so fortunately for me he is a dream when it comes to travel and new places/work spaces. I worked in Russia for 3 months when he was around 9 months old and there has been a lot of further travel and new environments since then. Luckily he loves the theatre, rehearsal space and music, so, so far so good. I literally feel like I strap him to my back and off we go! Having said that though, he started school in September last year, so this requires a tad more planning and organising around work and travel, but fortunately I have a wonderful friend/ Nanny situation so it works beautifully.
We’re about to see you in one of the most highly anticipated films of the year, Beauty and the Beast (BATB). And whilst we know you can’t give too much away, can you tell us what it was like working on set? A little bit about your role and what scenes you were involved in?
On Beauty I worked with the choreographer, Anthony Van Laast, and Director Bill Condon. Working on set for over 4 months was a magical experience. We recorded the soundtrack also, so can not wait for it to release! In the early days, Anthony set us a task of filling in our back stories for our characters which then in turn added to our connection with Belle and within the village where we lived. Gaston’s Tavern (with the delicious Luke Evans as Gaston) was a wonderful scene for us all. I have a lovely moment with him…but that’s if it doesn’t end up on the cutting room floor!
What was it like working with Director Bill Condon?
Bill Condon is a complete class act. Knew our names from day one and just a wonderfully genuine, talented man. So much so, that during the filming of Beauty, I lost my beloved Mum, and had to subsequently leave 2 days early. After shooting wrapped, a few weeks later I received a gorgeous email from him expressing his sadness and thoughts and love. I remember how ecstatic my Mum was when she found out that I got the job, so it goes without saying Beauty is for her.
Having worked on stage with a variety of performers from different countries, can you tell us a bit about working with actors and dancers from around the world on the set of BATB?
It really is a case of no matter where you’re from and /or what gender, there is an unmistakable bond and kinship with the people you work with. And in this case especially with Beauty. The experience and careers of so, so many are hard to fathom. I arrived on set each day so very humbled, privileged and grateful for the day that lay ahead. You knew right from day one that this was/is a very, very special moment in cinematic history.
And from what we’ve seen on social media, what was the experience like bringing the iconic music to life through dance for the big screen?
Pure Joy! Anthony and Bill worked so closely together and seemed on the same page, with the same vision…which isn’t always the case! The movement and staging happened so naturally, in the tavern scene especially Anthony has created a robust, energetic joyous scene. We all had a ball!
Is there anything you can tell us about the film or perhaps one of your favourite moments on set?
All of it really, but Gaston’s Tavern is probably my favourite!
If you could describe the film in three words, what would they be?
1. Life changing (I know that’s two) 2. Humbling. 3. Magical!
What advice do you have for any aspiring performers/creatives?
If you want it, go get it. It’s not written anywhere in this world that you can’t have or achieve what your heart desires. Be persistent, be focused, work your butt off, stay disciplined and be nice to everyone, whether they be directors, creatives, behind the scenes, teachers, dressers, anyone and everyone. We all breathe the same air and you are only as good as your last job!
And finally, what can we expect from you next?
Involved in a show I have worked on creatively and its tour to America this year! Any excuse to head back to NY.
Thank you so much for your time Simone. We can’t wait to see you on stage, TV and on screen in 2017!
Thank YOU lovely Katerina for your time and bravo.