Actress Lucy Maunder balances acting and a newborn for Matilda the Musical

Maunder began rehearsals for the role just six weeks after having her baby, Edi.
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Maunder began rehearsals for the role just six weeks after having her baby, Edi.

Lucy Maunder was supposed to joint the cast of Matilda the Musical in Brisbane, but she didn't take the stage until several months later in Perth.

The reason for the delay? "It wasn't an ideal look for the Miss Honey to be seven months pregnant." 

Maunder's daughter Edi was just five-and-a-half weeks old when she started rehearsing with the cast.

Maunder says Miss Honey and Matilda are the musical's "straight" characters.
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Maunder says Miss Honey and Matilda are the musical's "straight" characters.

Despite her extensive experience as a singer and actress, Maunder was "a little apprehensive" when she started. She was concerned that, just weeks after giving birth and with feeding Edi interrupting her sleep, her brain wouldn't be up to learning the lines and complex choreography the show required.

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In the end it wasn't easy, but with the support of the company, her partner and her mum, she made it work - despite frequent trips backstage. She told Australia's Herald Sun:

Actress Lucy Maunder plays Matilda's kind teacher Miss Honey Matilda the Musical.
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Actress Lucy Maunder plays Matilda's kind teacher Miss Honey Matilda the Musical.

"Every minute that I'm not on stage I'm either feeding her or I'm running back to the dressing room to express."

Becoming a mother changed the way Maunder approached her role. Miss Honey is an inspirational teacher who becomes a kind of mother figure to the young genius Matilda, who is treated cruelly by her own family. 

"Coming to this role from a motherhood perspective for the first time in my career ... this role has taken on a whole different feel for me, and I think knowing how Matilda gets treated in the show and what happens at the end of the show is quite emotional, and very poignant, for me," Maunder says.

Among the many things that Matilda and Miss Honey have in common is the fact that, in this larger-than-life production, they are the only real "straight" characters. Did Maunder ever worry her performance would be overshadowed by the likes of the formidable Mrs Trunchbull?

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She says the contrast of the "straight" characters with the exaggerated ones is part of what makes the production work.

"I think the most important thing is always to focus on the truth of it, and it will stand up because the writing is so strong. With Miss Honey and Matilda, both of them, the writing doesn't lend itself to larger than life kind of performances, so I think that if it was played that way it would feel contrived. 

"As the actor you have to be okay with the fact that your role is not to make the audience laugh, it's to keep it grounded and keep it real, and then the juxtaposition of the two of them together makes it feel all the more poignant for an audience member."

One of Matilda's themes is the way Matilda's life is echoed in Miss Honeys - so it's fitting that, by bringing Edi to rehearsals Maunder was echoing her own childhood.

Her mother is an opera singer and her father a director, so the first five years of Maunder's own childhood were spent touring with her parents.

"Opera is where I started my life, in my mum's dressing room when I was the same age as Edi is now," she says.

Edi will be crossing the Tasman with Maunder when Matilda visits Auckland. Maunder reckons she'll cope.

"Apart from the obvious sleep deprivation, which is tough - just for my voice, really, because I don't usually have more than three hours of sleep without waking up to feed in the middle of the night  - apart from that, I think you have to mentally prepare, and we did. 

"I always knew that this was going to be what we would do, so you just kind of do what you have to do. And I drink a lot of coffee."

 - Stuff

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