Lawless takes on Chicago

Last updated 09:22 02/11/2013
SEAN WILLIS/Fairfax NZ

Actresses Lucy Lawless and Amanda Billing talk about their show Chicago.

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Lucy Lawless is used to playing powerful women but the scariest thing about her new production of Chicago is going back to the theatre in her home town.

"But I like nothing better than scaring myself," the former Xena: Warrior Princess star said.

Lawless plays Velma, the established star threatened by the newcomer Roxie - played by Shortland Street's Amanda Billing.

The inevitable "younger, prettier, hotter" was not so serious a threat, though.

"Youth and exuberance is no match for experience and stealth," Lawless said.

The version at Auckland's Q Theatre is often described as "gritty" and "raw" - quite different to conventional American renditions and definitely a far-cry from the film.

Getting her hands dirty is something Lawless knows something about from her participation in activism with Greenpeace.

In February, Lawless illegally boarded an oil drill-ship in the Tarankai in an effort to stop Shell drilling for oil in the Arctic.

She was sentenced to 120 hours community work and ordered to pay $651.44 to Port Taranaki.

"I didn't want to be an activist... I'd love to be a rich little actress who thought about lipstick all the time but the world doesn't really need another one of those. I don't want to say to my grandchildren that I sat by and painted my nails while corporations took over the world."

Billing, too, is relishing the chance to get a bit dirty.

As sexy Roxie - wearing a corset and not much more - she has been able to break away from her neurotic, driven, character on Shortland Street, Sarah Potts.

"I get to swear, I get to wear fake tattoos. Sarah Potts is quite mumsy. I'm playing someone who's Hell on Wheels and that's really fun."

Chicago runs from Saturday November 2 to Sunday December 15 at Auckland's Q Theatre

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