Lucy Tops finds the humour in hitting bottom

Lucy Tops finds the humour in hitting bottom

PETER TROMP spoke to singer and actor LUCY TOPS about her new one woman show ‘Absolucy’, on at the Kalk Bay Theatre, balancing her two artistic disciplines and having Morgan Freeman sing The Beatles for her.


How did you get into show business?
I studied musical theatre at the Waterfront Theatre School. After graduation I went to China for three months to sing at a Hilton Hotel and have been performing in cabarets, music revue shows for Barnyard and Mike McCullagh since. I am also signed to StereoType Records and have two songs on the radio – I hope to finish recording an album and release it by the end of this year.

What do you count among your highlights thus far?
Performing with Prankster at Rocking The Daisies 2011; the role of Jacqueline in the German film ‘Ein Sommer In New England’; ‘The Great Gatsby’ with The Mechanicals in 2011, directed by Luke Ellenbogen; and even though I was only a featured extra on ‘Invictus’, I got to meet and chat to Morgan Freeman (he sang ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’ to me). What an amazing man; I could sit and listen to his voice all day.

Tell us about ‘Absolucy’ and the run at the Kalk Bay Theatre. What can prospective audiences look forward to with the show?
It is about an alcoholic cabaret artist attending her first AA meeting. It’s light and fun and not meant to be “too deep”. She doesn’t think she has a problem and doesn’t really take anything seriously in her life. It is loosely based on my own life. Although I am not an alcoholic myself, I have been surrounded by alcohol and its effects all my life. Luckily though, it was always entertaining, but obviously this is not the case for some.

What has the response been like so far from audiences?
So far the majority of audiences have loved it. If you come expecting answers or a deep look into an alcoholic’s life, then you might be surprised at the approach of the show. I wanted the audience to be able to sit back and just enjoy the music linked together by this humourous characters story. I know for some it is a sensitive issue, but I actually had someone from AA in the audience and asked them if I offended them in any way and he told me that I was pretty close to the truth. Many people really don’t realise that they are addicts and when they do sit down and talk about their lives they just pour out all these stories in whatever way they know how, jumping from event to event and sometimes it can take a long time before they can admit to their problem. This is my character’s first time at the meeting. Maybe the next time she would get deeper and darker, but that’s not the show we wanted to do. We like the feel good factor and by the looks of things, so do many other theatregoers.

What inspired you to attempt a one-person show?
Honestly? It was on my bucket list, it scared me and my mentor at the Waterfront Theatre School, Keith Galloway once told me I would do a one woman show one day. Followspot Productions approached me with this option for the Grahamstown National Arts Festival so I did it. It’s very different being up there all alone and getting ready alone backstage. I love being a part of a team and I think doing this has been good for my character. Having people come in and review or crit your show can be daunting, but it’s a great learning process and experience.

What is the biggest challenge in being up there on your own?
Every night there is a different energy with each audience, but I feed off that energy every night. Sometimes one night they will get the joke and be in hysterics and then the next night maybe one person laughs, so you have to not let that affect your performance. I actually enjoy being so intimate with the audience. I can see into their eyes and actually engage with them and it’s very special when you see that they relate to what you’re saying or singing about.

Cabaret theatre appears to be a dying medium. What are your thoughts on this form of entertainment and its future?
Sadly yes, although I hope that changes. I would love to see a cabaret with a live band, a chorus of hot dancers and a couple of outstanding singers. I know we have the talent right here in Cape Town, but a show like that costs money and right now sponsorship is hard to come by.

You’re known primarily as a singer, yet I understand ‘Absolucy’ requires much more of you in the acting department. How comfortable are you with this part of your repertoire?
Acting or drama, it made me a better singer. I was very shy at one stage, but learning that I could become a character helped me to perform the songs instead of worrying about what I sounded like. I love acting; it’s playing, becoming someone you are not, like when you were a child. I look forward to more acting roles in the future but singing takes up most of my time at the moment.

How much of your persona have you invested in ‘Absolucy’?
I like to look at the bright side of life, to see the glass half full and I like to make people laugh. That is as close to this “Lucy” character as it gets. I’m not a show off kind of person, I’m more withdrawn, but honest so I wouldn’t pretend that everything was peachy if I had a problem. All the characters in the show are based on people I know. Their accents may be different, but they are real. I do have a good friendship with my hubby so the part about my character attending the meeting because he wants her to, I can relate to with ease and in the show he is the reason that she gives up the act and comes clean.

What can we expect from you in the future?
That is an exciting question. In the future I hope that you will see me in more wonderful shows. I enjoy working with different people all the time and trying new things. I hope to have an album that is pure quality that people can enjoy and can be proud that I am South African. I would like to write a straight play about some other interesting and strong people in my life, which I would like to direct myself. I love film so yes, I do dream about being a movie star too!

Please tell us something about yourself that people might not know about you, or would be surprised to know.
I absolutely adore animals, especially dogs and horses. I used to ride and hope to have a horse again one day, I always say that if I wasn’t performing I would live on a farm like Karen Blixen from ‘Out Of Africa’ (which is my favourite film) and provide a home for any lost animal and grow coffee.

* ‘Absolucy’ is showing at the Kalk Bay Theatre until March 3. Visit www.kbt.co.za for more information. And to book.