ROCHELLE NEIL – FROM WEST END TO FEATURE FILMS
Does real beauty and real talent ever combine to make a truly beautiful actress who can act, sing, dance, play the piano and sword fight? Well, the last one may not matter in the long run, but I met a woman who possesses all of the above-mentioned skills and is one of the true beauties on this planet. Now, obviously you’re thinking that the writer of this piece has lost his or her way and has mentioned beauty and beautiful in the same paragraph. Some readers would point that out as being redundant, but I, who shall stay anonymous, will only say that I am quite aware of the multiple beauty references and will stand by them. Like most actors who are serious about their profession, Rochelle Neil has had years of intensive training and is an accomplished thespian; and although her beauty (there, I’ve said it again) is considerable, her talent may actually exceed her looks.
I had the pleasure of talking to Rochelle about her role as Mayme in the UK premiere of Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel; a stirring performance, firmly cemented in the minds of anyone who managed to beg, steal or borrow a ticket. The play, directed by Laurence Boswell, opened in Bath at the Ustinov Theatre Royal before transferring for a sell out run at The Park Theatre in London. The play is set in New York circa 1905 and her portrayal of the fabulously volatile prostitute was praised by both critics and audiences. With a costume that consisted of authentic laced corsets and striped stockings, Rochelle laughs when I mention seeing her as the poster for the show. “What you gonna do..” she shrugs, playing it all down in that charmingly British way.
Rochelle is no stranger to the stage having toured the UK playing “Go-To-Hell Kitty” in Chicago and wowed West End audiences whilst alternating the legendary role of Tina Turner in Soul Sister. However, one can tell from the way she speaks about Intimate Apparel that it is definitely one of her favorite shows to date. Rochelle explained how she jumped at the chance and felt honored to humanize and explore characters that aren’t widely referenced or even fictionalized in history. Rochelle, while very open, was keen for me not to give too much away in terms of the plot. “There were moments when the wealth of emotion coming from the audience was incredible. I’d hate to ruin that for anyone who hasn’t seen or read the play.” I will say however that it was testament to Rochelle’s skill that the audience fell so in love with her character Mayme despite the characters actions.
Rochelle’s natural presence and her thorough understanding of each role she plays, sets her on a path of delivering refined and precise characterizations that demands the audience’s captivation. She is blessed with a gentle and at the same time, incredibly arresting natural allure that attracts both men and women to her. You see, talent is one thing and beauty is quite another thing altogether – unless they are blended together so seamlessly that one cannot be distinguished from the other. I’d say that is the actress, Rochelle Neil. .