BAZ BAMIGBOYE: I want to start a screen queen club, says new cat lady Claire Foy 


Foy plays Emily Richardson, a governess to Wain’s younger siblings. The first line uttered to her in the film is: ‘Please get out of the wardrobe Miss Richardson.’ For me, it immediately signalled that this was to be no leaden costume drama

Claire Foy marches nonchalantly into the hotel bar with all the confidence she displayed portraying the Queen in The Crown — wearing fluffy white slippers.

‘It’s so shameful!’ she hooted, explaining that she had ditched her Christian Louboutin stilettos.

They look pretty, she said. ‘But they’re not meant to be comfortable. They’re meant to be in a cabinet,’ added Foy, admonishing herself for not carrying blister plasters.

This whole carry on with the slippers is delivered with effortless comic timing, reminding me fondly of how we’re first introduced to Foy’s character in her latest film, The Electrical Life of Louis Wain, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the artist who became famous for his drawings and paintings of bug-eyed cats.

Foy plays Emily Richardson, a governess to Wain’s younger siblings. The first line uttered to her in the film is: ‘Please get out of the wardrobe Miss Richardson.’ For me, it immediately signalled that this was to be no leaden costume drama.

Indeed, Foy had said as much to the picture’s director Will Sharpe when he tracked her down while she was shopping at Ikea.

She told him that she didn’t want to be in a period biopic — ‘I’ve got no interest in doing stuff that I’ve done before.’

The beauty of The Electrical Life of Louis Wain is that it explores the artist’s life (and that of Richardson, who was to become his soulmate) in a way that’s wholly engaging and at times deeply moving.

Louis suffered from a mental illness, more than likely schizophrenia. ‘The world wants to pigeon-hole people in a particular way, but the director doesn’t,’ said Foy of the way the cinematic project was handled.

Instead, the film celebrates what Wain achieved against all odds. He was the sole breadwinner, having to look after his mother and sisters.

Foy’s Emily is at the heart of the film ‘in the sense that she sees Louis very clearly. She does have to be quite steady.’

In real life, the actress is not a cat person, however, even though the film is full of them.

The beauty of The Electrical Life of Louis Wain is that it explores the artist’s life (and that of Richardson, who was to become his soulmate) in a way that’s wholly engaging and at times deeply moving

The beauty of The Electrical Life of Louis Wain is that it explores the artist’s life (and that of Richardson, who was to become his soulmate) in a way that’s wholly engaging and at times deeply moving

‘It doesn’t mean I don’t like cats,’ she adds quickly. ‘I have a healthy respect for them and really love their disdain for human beings and their superiority.’ Dogs though ‘are just so sweet and loving. Although I genuinely think a cat could disarm an atomic bomb; a dog would eat it. They’re just not on the same playing field.’

Foy and Cumberbatch have great screen chemistry. ‘I’ve known Ben for ever,’ says Foy of her co-star, explaining that she first met him when they worked on the 2011 film Wreckers.

Sherlock (with Cumberbatch in the title role on TV) came out not long afterwards.

‘I remember watching from a distance as somebody you know becomes globally huge,’ she said of Cumberbatch, who’ll also be seen this season in Jane Campion’s top awards contender The Power Of The Dog.

I point out that she hasn’t done badly, either, playing one of the few people who have had their face on a stamp. Foy won two Emmy awards for her Elizabeth II in The Crown.

Such is the power of the ongoing Netflix series that people are already savaging the next instalment that won’t be shown for 12 months, which doesn’t make much sense.

Foy wonders if people don’t get that The Crown is a drama. After all, she says, it is not the Queen in The Crown, it’s a succession of actresses playing a ‘version’ of her.

In fact, Foy’s thinking of setting up a club for old Queens — the ones who have pretended to be the real HRH. There’s Olivia Colman (‘or God’ as she jokingly calls her) who stepped into the role after Foy; and Imelda Staunton, who will take over as Her Maj in the next series.

Louis suffered from a mental illness, more than likely schizophrenia. ‘The world wants to pigeon-hole people in a particular way, but the director doesn’t,’ said Foy of the way the cinematic project was handled

Louis suffered from a mental illness, more than likely schizophrenia. ‘The world wants to pigeon-hole people in a particular way, but the director doesn’t,’ said Foy of the way the cinematic project was handled

‘A private members club,’ says Foy. ‘We could also have Helen Mirren [who played her in Stephen Frears’ 2006 film The Queen] and Kristin Scott Thomas because she played her on stage. We could sneak in Kristen Stewart [currently on screen as Princess Diana in Spencer] even though she wasn’t Queen. Maybe we could all have a meal!’

But first she wants to see The Electrical Life of Louis Wain launched on January 1 in cinemas, and A Very British Scandal which will be shown on BBC1 and Amazon. 

The latter is about the Duchess of Argyll, her many liaisons, and subsequent bitter divorce from the Duke of Argyll ‘which was scandalous and all that jazz’.

Foy says the Queens club could include Olivia Colman, who stepped into the role after her

Foy says the Queens club could include Olivia Colman, who stepped into the role after her

Imelda Staunton, who will take over as Her Majesty in the next series, also qualifies for the Queens club

Imelda Staunton, who will take over as Her Majesty in the next series, also qualifies for the Queens club

Foy says Argyll was a ‘deeply flawed woman, and everything you would expect from the entitled, wealthy debutante of that period’, but she wasn’t the debauched party girl many people assume her to have been (though in the 1980s I used to see her at a lot of nightclubs).

‘It was actually very innocent and frivolous,’ says Foy of the Duchess’s romantic life. ‘Lots of love affairs, but by letter.’

Looking farther ahead, Foy will also be starring in a film about Facebook, and later on there could be one set in the House of Commons — but I’m not sure if its dress code allows for fluffy white slippers.

The comical success Pride And Prejudice (*sort of) a riotous adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel, with five Scottish women in all the roles, has been playing to packed houses at the Criterion Theatre. Global domination awaits. The original West End cast — Isobel McArthur, Christina Gordon, Tori Burgess, Hannah Jarrett-Scott and Meghan Tyler — are planning a world tour in 2022. Producer David Pugh confirmed the comedy of hilarious manners will go to Toronto, Los Angeles, Melbourne and beyond. 

Real life drifts in to scorching musical

Beverley Knight’s rationale was simple: if she could portray Emmeline Pankhurst, as she did in a musical called Sylvia at the Old Vic three years ago, she had no objection to a white author writing a show about The Drifters and the woman who ran them.

Knight portrays Fay Treadwell in the scorching new musical The Drifters Girl at the Garrick Theatre, with Adam J. Bernard, Tarinn Callender, Matt Henry and Tosh Wanogho-Maud playing the many men who drifted in and out of the group over several decades.

Ed Curtis, who wrote the show, told me that he would have stepped aside if the cast had felt uncomfortable working with him.

Knight portrays Fay Treadwell in the scorching new musical The Drifters Girl at the Garrick Theatre

Knight portrays Fay Treadwell in the scorching new musical The Drifters Girl at the Garrick Theatre

‘There’s something going on over who has the right to tell stories,’ Curtis told me.

And as cast members talked about their lives, Curtis found himself incorporating elements of what they told him. 

Callender, for instance, a young actor from North London, told a story about what he does whenever police pull him over in his BMW. He puts his dashboard video on, places his hands out of the car where they can be seen and smiles.

‘I felt it was crucial to include something like that,’ said Curtis. He added that he and producer Michael Harrison wanted the show to be entertaining (and it is phenomenal). But it’s also what he calls ‘progressive’, in that it shows some of what Treadwell and The Drifters endured. Just wait till you hear them sing numbers such as Saturday Night At The Movies and many others. They’re electrifying.

Watch out for…

Samantha Barks (pictured, currently starring as Elsa in Frozen at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane), who will sing You Must Love Me from Evita

Samantha Barks (pictured, currently starring as Elsa in Frozen at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane), who will sing You Must Love Me from Evita

Samantha Barks (pictured, currently starring as Elsa in Frozen at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane), who will sing You Must Love Me from Evita as part of a memorial tribute this afternoon to much-loved producer Andre Ptaszynski, who died last year.

She will be accompanied by its composer Andrew Lloyd Webber at the Cambridge Theatre, home to Matilda, another show he was involved in along with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Matilda songwriter Tim Minchin and the show’s cast will also perform.

Students from Mountview stage school will do songs from Return To The Forbidden Planet, which Ptaszynski produced.

Theatre producer Nicholas Allott told me that Ptaszynski’s family want guests to sing along to Good Vibrations, one of the late showman’s favourites. 

Lolita Chakrabarti’s breathtaking adaptation of Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi, about a boy adrift on a lifeboat on the ocean with a tiger and other animals, which played to packed houses at the Crucible in Sheffield in 2019 and will begin performances at London’s Wyndham’s Theatre on Monday.

Producer Simon Friend took me backstage to show me how the auditorium has been transformed, with a raised stage shaped like a ship’s bow and audience seating lifted up to meet the imaginary sea. Views from the top tier circle are fantastic. ‘It’s a piece of escapism that engages so deeply with the heart,’ said Friend.

Lolita Chakrabarti’s breathtaking adaptation of Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi, about a boy adrift on a lifeboat on the ocean with a tiger and other animals, which played to packed houses at the Crucible in Sheffield in 2019 and will begin performances at London’s Wyndham’s Theatre on Monday

Lolita Chakrabarti’s breathtaking adaptation of Yann Martel’s The Life of Pi, about a boy adrift on a lifeboat on the ocean with a tiger and other animals, which played to packed houses at the Crucible in Sheffield in 2019 and will begin performances at London’s Wyndham’s Theatre on Monday

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