Interview: Matt Rixon
by Polly Hember
Set in the 60’s, Hairspray follows the captivating tale of Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair – and an even bigger heart. On a mission to follow her dreams on to the TV screen, she battles inequality and segregation, falling in love along the way. Feel-good, critically and topically relevant – Hairspray is bigger than ever, and it is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Tracy Turnblad’s mother Edna was played by drag queen Divine in John Water’s Hairspray in 1988, and John Travolta in Adam Shankbank’s 2007 version. Matt Rixon puts on Edna’s heels in this current tour of Hairspray on stage, which is touring now and dancing its way into Bristol in March. Rixon takes a quick five minutes to talk about filling Edna’s shoes.
Could you tell us a little bit about Edna, and what first attracted you to the role?
Edna is a fabulous woman, hardworking, under confident and down to earth. She has an amazing family who help her rediscover herself like a butterfly finding her wings.
How are you approaching the role? Did Divine or John Travolta’s film performances influence your characterisation?
I didn’t watch any of the previous performances. Edna is based on all the women of my childhood.
What are the challenges of playing Enda?
Putting on 20 stone per night.
What is your favourite thing about her?
I love the size of her heart.
Hairspray is such an iconic and popular musical. Why do you think it has such an enduring appeal?
Its heart and its optimism. It’s a wonderful story about all of us. That we are all worth something and that we have a right to be whoever and whatever we want.
Do you have a favourite moment from Hairspray?
‘Timeless To Me’ – it’s an entire love story in one number, passionate tender and hysterical.
How does Edna compare to your previous roles?
She is beyond comparison.
What is your dream role?
The next one.
Matt Rixon stars as Edna in Hairspray, which tap dances into Bristol’s Hippodrome 5 March 2018 – 10 March 2018.
Book tickets here.