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Cast of Sisyphus- interview

Sisyphus and his endless punishment of repetitively pushing a boulder up a hill is just the overall premise of his self-titled musical. Creatively covering this realm of Greek mythology, and a whole lot more in just 80 minutes, Sisyphus: A Rock 'n' Roll Musical brings a bit of everything to the mix, and is a joy to watch. Playing at the Canal Cafe Theatre back in October, it would be amazing to see this piece back again soon.

To find out why, you can read my full review here:

The lovely writer and creator of the show, Ian Bowkett, has also shared about what it was like making the show in his own interview, which you can read here:

In this one, I was lucky enough to compile some questions for the cast of Sisyphus, Bryony Purdue (Merope), Emily Rushton (Sisyphus/ Zeus) and Ciara Whiting (The Hunter/ Death): three fierce women who absolutely aced bringing the quirky personalities of their mythological counterparts to life in this show.


How would you describe Sisyphus: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Musical?

Bryony: Funny, rude, packed with music and full pelt!

Emily: A chaotic 90 minutes of three people running around carrying tiny cows. Aside from this, an important story about hope.

Ciara: 'Sisyphus: A Rock ‘n’ Roll musical' is a modern and progressive take on the ancient Greek myth, ‘Sisyphus’, who was punished for cheating death twice and as a result is forced to roll a boulder up a hill for eternity. The musical consists of an all-woman cast: this unique take on casting allows for the traditional misogyny within Greek theatre to be challenged. The characters, played by three powerful women include, Merope, Sisyphus and The Hunter, Zeus and Death. The cast retells the ancient myth through, music, comedy and a consistent message throughout, that death isn’t something to be feared.

A full range of answers already there- all very much true, while reflecting the different personalities of their characters a little too!

There are so many songs in the show, each with different qualities, and spanning a variety of genres. How was it to learn all of these?

Bryony: I found that each song was really catchy so it wasn't hard learning the huge volume of music bits as it was the small amount of dialogue. You can practice music as much as you like but rehearsing dialogue alone is not easy.

Emily: Lots of fun! The cast worked so well together and we shared a lot of ideas and played with the harmonies. I think some songs went through hundreds of key changes until it felt right! Ciara: Learning the songs was both an enjoyable yet at times challenging process. Ian Bowkett is a beautiful composer and when I first heard the demos I was beyond excited to jump straight into this project. Due to the fact that the musical is almost completely sung through, we had a lot to learn. I found this to be a wonderful bonding experience as a cast and it was a great experience to be able to match my voice with other singers. However, as we had only a few months to rehearse it was definitely challenging to learn the script, yet overall it was an incredibly rewarding experience.

With 30 songs in 80 minutes, it really is an impressive feat!

What is your favourite attribute from each of your characters, and do you think any of their elements reflect yourself in real life?

Bryony: Merope and I both seem very outgoing and confident but actually value the simple things- basic respect, kindness and comfort is highly underrated!

Emily: Playing Zeus was so much fun because I can actually just completely let go and lean into what it would be like to be an absolute arsehole. To be honest, it's great fun and I probably enjoyed it a bit too much. Sisyphus himself is much more of a complicated character but his steeliness and resilience is something I wish I had a bit more of.

Ciara: One of my favourite characters to play was ‘The Hunter’ because my favourite aspect of performing is being able to take on characters that you wouldn’t be able to explore in day to day life. 'The Hunter' is a perfect example of this due to his machismo, playboy character. As a woman I feel as if we collectively experience harassment from hyper-masculine men and it was incredibly interesting to be able to explore that character from a personal perspective.

What do you hope people have taken from seeing the show?

Bryony: That new musicals are being made and that creativity in how they are staged can make it so much more budget/ Covid/ independent venue friendly! It is an enormous act of courage to put on a new musical and Ian did it and people can learn from him!

Emily: I hope that people can come and escape for 90 minutes and leave feeling like the end isn't always the end.

Ciara: I hope people are able to find joy through laughter and entertainment. The time period in which the musical is being premiered is incredibly important for theatre. Due to the coronavirus, theatre has been inaccessible for society, affecting performers and the public. This has made things even harder for artists trying to produce new theatre, and I believe this fresh, witty and original musical is exactly what people need during this time.

If you could share the stage with any historical figure, who would it be and why?

Bryony: Ella Fitzgerald. Hands down. Phenomenal voice, apparently very funny to work with and even if I was way out of my depth, I'd learn a lot! Emily: I would like to have a tap-dance battle with the actual Zeus.

While both of those sound amazing, Emily, I would pay good money to see that!

What advice would you give to your younger self entering the industry? Bryony: The main training you need to take away from higher education is not the technical stuff: it's the people you meet. Befriend everyone: including lecturers, and get to know how they did it and learn from their mistakes. Emily: Actually enter it! I have no formal training and work as a teacher and lecturer in inclusive education, so I find everything through open auditions and castings. This has definitely given me the bug, however. Ciara: Due to the fact that I am only twenty and still studying at drama school I feel as if I’m still entering the industry, and the opportunity to be a part of this project has been one of the most eye-opening and rewarding experiences of my life. I’d say this industry is an incredibly difficult and haunting career path to undertake. However, to my younger self, I would tell myself to have trust in myself that I can achieve great things and to be less anxious about the industry because there are many wonderful and helpful people who will take a chance on you, like Ian.

And lastly, are you able to tell us about your future plans?

Bryony: I am a frustrated writer and re-released an EP on November 11th (Vexed – available now!). I will be aiming to launch a radio campaign in the new year. Not only that but my band and I, B&TB, are already busy with a few residencies in town but want to get cracking on some original material too. Watch this space!

I can vouch that Bryony's EP is beautiful, so expect anything to come will follow suit!

Emily: The week after Sisyphus finished, I was in a concert called Out of the Darkness at the Bob Hope Theatre getting to belt out the amazing "Don't Forget Me" from Smash. I have another exciting musical theatre project coming up where I get to really use my lungs, which hopefully I can talk more about soon!

Ciara: For my future, I would love to have a career in acting and performing but if this proved to be unsuccessful I would love to go into the education system and work with young people, because I have always found that performing is a great way to build children’s confidence and life skills.


This all sounds incredibly exciting- if you can support these fantastic women in their upcoming projects at all, please do. I'm definitely looking forward to finding out about them.

Thank you to Ian Bowkett for coordinating these interviews about Sisyphus (and for creating the show, of course!), and the cast for taking part too. It has been great to hear from each of you, and. best wishes for 2022!

{Some grammar is amended for clarity}


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