Norfolk's rascally princess
PUBLISHED: 05:18 30 March 2015
Norwich-born actress and comedian Rebecca Humphries tells Rachel Buller how her idyllic upbringing and funny family have helped shape her career.
Classically trained stage actress, television comedy favourite and now writer and performer of a sell-out stand-up show – and Rebecca Humphries is still only 27 years old.
A student of the Norwich Theatre Royal arts course and former pupil of Thorpe St Andrew School, she is currently on tour with her acclaimed show Dizney Rascal – a comical, satirical but affectionate homage to her love of all things Disney. Last year, she made her debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with the show – and it wasn’t just her first time at the festival it was her first ever stand-up gig.
“It was the most terrifying thing you could ever experience, it was horrendous. I did my one preview show of it in Norwich at The Talk and my fear and anxiety that night manifested itself in a horrid way,” she laughs. “My friends and family were there, and my dad and my younger brother Jake were helping put out chairs, and I was buzzing around being horrible, assuming it would be a disaster. Of course Norfolk people are so friendly and lovely and the audience was amazing. I had to apologise a lot afterwards.”
Since leaving drama school she has plotted a steady career path, with roles in TV comedies, such as Big Bad World and current ITV2 show Cockroaches. But she is keen not to be pigeonholed – and her stoical performance as a prostitute in last year’s Orange Tree production of Pomona was received with critical acclaim.
After watching her boyfriend – comedian Seann Walsh – at Edinburgh she admits she became obsessed with performing there and a year later, inspired by her love of Disney, she was on stage with her own show. It sold out every night and Rebecca is currently touring it around the country.
“I loved Disney growing up, still do. The show pokes fun at it, and its often dubious politics, but I think of Disney as I would a close friend. I know it isn’t perfect, I know it has issues and problems, but I love it nonetheless.”
She says the uplifting, positive tone of the show is in part a reflection of her own childhood growing up in Norfolk. “My family and friends in Norwich are just so genuine and positive. I have been told there is a refreshing naivety and innocence to my show and I really believe it comes from my idyllic upbringing – and I don’t mean that in a patronising way, far from it.
“I am determined to come home more this year. Being here at Christmas was so lovely, taking time out from London. Being in Norwich is an incredibly freeing experience, it does not have that hardness to it that London does.”
She lives in Shepherd’s Bush with Seann and chuckles at the preconceptions of two comedians living together.
“Oh yeah, we have such a laugh at home when we are going through all the bills, we are just hilarious. We never really talk about each other’s shows, for us it is just work. That said, when I saw Seann’s show at Edinburgh, I suddenly realised the entire thing was about living with me. Worryingly, it was mostly the truth. Apparently it turns out I am hilarious to live with.”
Rebecca’s fall into drama was largely an accidental one.
“My mum caught on quite quickly that I was a show-off and I think she sent me off to try lots of activities in the hope that I latched on to something to harness that energy, so I ended up on the Theatre Royal arts course. I was there eight years and absolutely loved it. It taught me a really good work ethic and determination which has been essential to me in my career.”
She eventually won a role at the prestigious London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. “There was a lot of Shakespeare and Chekhov, but I always tried to bring a comedic, dark edge to what were often tough, emotional roles. With great drama often comes humour and I do tend to view everything with a comedic eye. I think it comes from my family, they instinctively bred it into me. They are very funny and find humour in most things. When we are all together, it is hard to get your 10 cents in, you have to make a lot of noise – maybe that’s where I get all this from.”