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Interview: Sheldon Green



Sheldon Green as Hutch. Photo by Patrick Dodds

Sheldon Green is the star of Hutch, a a true life story of illicit love, racism and betrayal at the highest levels of British society.

What is the musical ‘Hutch’ about?

It explores the life of Leslie Hutchinson (Hutch), one of the biggest cabaret stars in the world, who rose to fame through the songs of Cole Porter. The show tells the story of Hutch’s affair with Lady Edwina Mountbatten, the wife of the Queen’s cousin and also his relationship with Porter. It is told through the songs of Porter, which Hutch performed.

Is this something of a ‘secret history’? Not much appears to have been written about it…

Yes, I think so. Certainly, when Hutch’s affair with Edwina came to light the royal family wanted to keep it as quiet as possible. Edwina lied in court and it brought about Hutch’s downfall. He was shunned by people and died in poverty. This man, who had created such wonderful music, was largely forgotten about, which is a great shame. When I auditioned for the role I had no idea who he was.

Hutch had many lovers, inlcuding men too…

Yes. Cole Porter was the man who brought Hutch into the music business and it’s believed the two had quite a long term relationship, sexually as well as musically.

How did the affair with Lady Mountbatten unfold?

In the show we have a couple of scenes in nightclubs where Hutch is with Edwina and photographers capture images of the pair together and these are then put out in the tabloids. That’s how everything came to light. Their relationship starts out as purely sexual, but gradually develops into something where Edwina quite loves Hutch.

The show explores taboos on several levels then.

Yes. It’s hard to hide away from the fact that Hutch was committing crimes on many scales here. Here was a black man having a relationship with a white woman, with connections to the royal family. He was also arguably gay.

Do you think Hutch was gay or just experimenting with his sexuality?

Through reading the play I think he is perhaps quite unsure about himself. I wouldn’t say he was gay or 100% straight, but rather just very unsure about himself and that’s something we explore in this piece. There are moments where he is definitely confused and haunted by memories.

Cole Porter plays a prominent part in this show, both through his music and as an actual character on the stage. What impression do you get of Porter’s relationship with Hutch?

In my opinion I think Cole actually loves Hutch more than Hutch loves Cole. I believe the audience will gather that. Cole really cared for Hutch as a musician and at the same time he was quite resentful of him. There are moments in the play where Cole makes little jibes at Hutch for his talents and ways. People who don’t know much about Cole Porter will inevitably learn things and everything in the play is a truthful event. Everything has been taken from Charlotte Breese’s biography of Leslie Hutchinson.

How did Hutch’s involvement with Lady Mountbatten affect his relationship with Cole Porter?

It certainly did affect things and this is shown in the play. There’s a moment, for example, where Hutch disregards something that Cole says and turns his attemtion to Edwina. This hurts Cole, to see the man he loved swan off and have sex in a bar backstage with this woman.  I don’t think Cole Porter showed how he was feeling a great deal because he understood Hutch and what he was about. But I believe it affected him negatively to an extent.

How is Cole Porter’s music used in the show?

Basically the music has been cleverly placed at moments of story tellling or discovery or  love or times when the characters attack each other . There’s a song called ‘Get Out Of Town’, which is directed straight at me. The music of the 20s and 30s was so beautifully written.

Did Hutch inspire much of Cole Porter’s music?

Yes, there are a couple of songs in this piece that Cole had written specifically for Hutch. I’m 99% sure that the song ‘I’m A Gigolo’ was written for him. Certainly a lot of Cole’s songs were inspired by Cole’s love or frustration.

This is your first professional acting job. How are you finding it?

Yes, I’m in my third year at Rose Bruford, so right now if I wasn’t doing this I’d be doing the new writing block there. I feel so blessed to have this job. The director contacted me through Spotlight and asked me to audition and I never thought I’d get the part. When I heard I did I just ran around the kitchen, so full of joy. It’s been tricky at points and is very different from drama school. The rehearsal period is much shorter, so I have to go in as ready as possible. I’m in very good hands though – the cast is so supportive. Whatever happens I know this is going to be a wonderful and enjoyable experience.

www.riversidestudios.co.uk

14 May – 8 June

Words: Alex Hopkins

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