Usually, the possibility of winning an award is welcome news in a community. However, in Milky Peaks, Snowdonia’s nomination for a “Britain’s Best Town” award brings conflict to the fictional Welsh town. On tour in Wales through May 21, this musical comedy is a production by Theatr Clwyd, Áine Flanagan Productions, and Seiriol Davies.
I called actress Miriam O’Brien (Hansel and Gretel: The Opera, Woman in Black) to learn more about her career and her recent involvement with Milky Peaks. She plays Rhombus, who chairs an extreme right-wing political party and wants to bring big changes to Snowdonia.
Advice for Overcoming Theatre Competition Nerves
Because O’Brien competed in TriForce Network‘s Monologue Slam, I asked her what’s key to a successful monologue performance. “[Pick] something that feels truly authentic to who you are, what you represent, and what you want to give out to the world,” she said. “If you do a monologue you connect with, people will also connect with you and enjoy it as much as you do.”
O’Brien also competed within the walls of Shakespeare’s Globe at the Sam Wanamaker Festival in London. Because the Globe is illuminated by natural light, actors can see the audience’s faces at every level of the theatre. Again, O’Brien shared excellent advice for aspiring actors. “It can be really scary there because there are lots of people. Feed off the energy the audience is giving you. I think there really is no place like the Globe! Embrace the elements, the people, and the vibe.”
On the Appeal of Milky Peaks
Back to Milky Peaks: Winning the Britain’s Best Town award could certainly put Snowdonia on the map. O’Brien believes the fictional locality has an “unwavering sense of community.” She added, “The town holds and represents people of all walks of life, with characters everyone coming to the theatre would be able to connect with. There’s a mother, a young man seeking uniqueness, a drag queen, a director of a local arts centre, and a businessman.”
In January, the musical comedy was recognized by The Stage in its list of “Best Theatre Plays and Musicals to See in 2022.” O’Brien attributed this recognition to the experimentation, style, and energy conveyed through the entire production team’s hard work. For one thing, the musical provides audiences with excellent melodies and harmonies. “I don’t think it’s a style of musical that’s often seen. It’s different in that it doesn’t fit any boundaries.”
O’Brien also credits the approachability and tone of writer and performer Seiriol Davies’ script as selling points for Milky Peaks. “I almost couldn’t believe how much I identify with it in terms of my sense of humor, the way that I speak, the jokes, the politics I believe in,” she said. “I felt like my brain had been spurted out onto a script. It’s fast-paced and it’s funny.”
On Playing the Villain
Unless sharing the role of Head Girl back in secondary school counts, O’Brien joked that she doesn’t chair any groups in real life. Chairing a political party as Rhombus sounds daunting in comparison. “I don’t think I would do well with that responsibility. I like to be a follower rather than a leader.”
The musical introduces other characters in a specific fashion. The exception is Rhombus, who introduces herself. O’Brien enjoys the significant distinction and her first time playing a villain. “I basically come in to drop a Rhombus-shaped bomb and watch it explode in the town. Rhombus represents the catalyst of change and she believes it’s for all the good reasons. The outcome is that she sets fires in different people in the community. They band together which is amazing.”
Playing a villain is an amusing experience for O’Brien as the company brings the show to different audiences. In Aberystwyth, Wales, some students booed and hissed at Rhombus throughout the performance. “It was a bit like in a pantomime, which I loved. That’s exactly what Rhombus is there to do: she provokes!”
For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit Theatr Clwyd’s website.