Home > Interviews > The Independent July 2000

Debut: Maria Friedman


The Independent, 12 July 2000

Theatre: Debut: Maria Friedman: The Job, Backing Singer; The Group, Vernon Nesbit And Sonnet; The Venue, Mayfair Connection. Interview by David Benedict

"After a brief spell at Arts Educational School, where all I really learned was how to smoke cigarettes and kiss boys, I did 14 jobs while I searched for a career. I started as an au pair in Windsor to three children called Daniano, Prospero and Borge for the huge sum of 10 a week. Then I worked in a pub, a delicatessen and a children's home. I was assistant manager on toys in Harvey Nichols for nearly a year and worked for a shipping company where I was told I had too much sunshine in my soul for the office. I was even given a budget to tone down my outfits. I'd do things like put people through to the speaking clock or lock friends in the stationery cupboard which at the time I thought was highly amusing.

"I wound up as a receptionist in a music company where I got on everyone's nerves by singing all the time. I told them I really could sing, and they'd say "sure", but one day someone dropped out of a Marmite advertisement so I took over as a backing singer, but because I wasn't professional they didn't pay me.

"Then I auditioned as a singing waitress at a Beefeater restaurant where you had to dress up as Anne Boleyn and do merry-wench dancing. I sang 'The Way We Were' and didn't get the job, but a group of us rejects went to another audition as backing singers for someone called Vernon Nesbit, who'd had a hit in the Sixties and had a backing group called Sonnet. To my complete bafflement, I got the job.

"We rehearsed in a basement in Victoria for three months with no gig in sight. His wife said: "I see lace skirts, lurexy silvery tights and boob tubes," and the next day we were in her net curtains dipped in black. I was only 18 but I looked geriatric with great big eyelashes. It all seemed so glamorous. We played strip joints and stuff, running between somewhere called Mayfair Connection and the Churchill Club and I sang "Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh" to some tune and took it incredibly seriously. We toured Europe playing casinos and so on. I slept in baths and God knows what. When it was over I got home to find an Equity card popped through the letter-box. I'd never really had designs on being an actor but now that I had the all-important card I thought, "well, I'll give it a go" and ended up in the back row of the chorus playing Doris - no-one, in other words - in Oklahoma!. We toured for a year and did six months at the Palace where Les Mis is now. I was on the cast album. I can't remember who released it but Woolworths sold it and one night they offered to take the principals out for supper but no-one wanted to go. I thought, a free meal? Of course I'll go. I sat between Pic'n'mix South and Broken Biscuits North-West and was reduced to asking "Do you break the biscuits" and "How do you choose the sweets?". My first corporate invitation. And my last."


All content on About Maria is archived here without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in reviewing the included information for personal use, non-profit research and educational purposes only. This is an unofficial webpage. Contact.