Funny Girl: Interview with Darius Campbell

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Darius Campbell is now an established West End performer. London Calling catches up with him as he rehearses for Funny Girl.

Darius Campbell is a leading performer of West End musicals, remembered for a real life underdog story that took him from talent show wannabe to number one recording artist. He is about to perform as Nicky Arnstein in the musical Funny Girl alongside Sheridan Smith, at the Menier Chocolate Factory and later the Savoy Theatre.

London Calling: It must be quite exciting to get a transfer before the original show has even started.

Darius Campbell: The excitement is palpable in the rehearsal room right now. That kind of energy is really a gift to be working with when you’re creating a show.

LC: Funny Girl is based on a true story that was substantially altered. How much are you thinking about the fact that Nicky Arnstein was a real person?

DC: The real Nicky Arnstein was very consciously aware of the bond scam that he was getting involved in. He really was somewhere in between a Mafioso figure and Bernie Madoff in his dealings. Some might argue that Fanny was a fame-hungry starlet and Nicky was a thieving scoundrel but for the purposes of our story we’re presenting two more sympathetic characters.

LC: Would you say you’re a geek when it comes to musical theatre?

DC: A geek? I’d say I’m a fan. I’m a fan of theatre and a fan of film and of great stories.

LC: What is the best male role in musicals?

DC: It would be hard to beat a role like Tony in West Side Story. Both male leads in Les Mis are terrific roles. You’d be hard pushed to beat a role like Sky Masterson or Nicky Arnstein or actually any of the roles I’ve taken on. I only do those things I’m really passionate about and that I’d be willing to do for free.

LC: You’ve described Sheridan Smith as ‘My amazing friend’. What can you say about that friendship?

DC: She is one of the most warm, funny, sexy, generous, compassionate people that you’d be lucky to call a friend. She’s very ‘present’ as a human being and very aware of herself and the world that we’re in and of other people and other people’s needs. She’s a very loving person and she’s a terrifically humble human being that doesn’t think of herself as talented. Which makes her even more attractive as a woman and as a performer.

LC: On the other hand, you have proved your talent many times but people have always associated you with self-belief. Have you and Sheridan learned from each other?

DC: I couldn’t speak for Sheridan but I’ve certainly learned from her and I’m learning on a daily basis. She has the kind of sincere commitment to everything that she does, that I love and it’s coupled with this genuine humility that I find so inspiring and so frightening. She’s teaching me both on and off the stage. I’ve just spent time with her as a friend and onstage as an actor she is exhilarating. In the role of Fanny Brice I really believe that by the end of the first act, for our audience she will erase the memory of Streisand [Barbra Streisand, who originated the role of Fanny Brice on stage and reprised it on screen, winning an Oscar].

LC: Name five things you believe in.

DC: Forgiveness. Compassion - you know what, scrap that because actually I think compassion comes with a bunch of listening. So I believe in forgiveness. And I believe in listening. I believe in service to others. And I believe in honesty. I think honesty is really the cornerstone of everything. If you don’t have honesty and you don’t have truth then what is there and what’s the point? So I would put honesty first, then forgiveness, listening, service and... The fifth I would say is loyalty.

LC: Right.

DC: You know what, I would replace loyalty with persistence. Because actually persistence as a function of anything applies to any endeavour, beyond a relationship with another human being. Persistence in your work, in whatever it is you’re doing.

LC: You are definitely an established musical theatre performer now. It is a job that many people aspire to. But do you still see yourself more as a recording artist?

DC: I’m a recording artist and a performer and a producer. I see myself as a professional storyteller. In whatever environment that people are willing to accept that role, whether it be recording music or [performing] on screen or treading the boards or any different genre from theatre to opera: I’m a professional storyteller.

LC: One day will you be the president of the Scottish Republic?

DC: [Laughs] It sounds like a really frightening byline to a rip-off of The Hunger Games.

LC: Well, that might be an interesting story.

DC: A story in which former pop idols head up their various republic states and battle to the death.

LC: Yes. With music.

DC: Exactly.

LC: I’ll take that as confirmation that that’s happening.

DC: Ha!

Funny Girl has sold out it’s run at the Menier Chocolate Factory. For tickets to the Savoy Theatre transfer, see website.