Express & Star

From am dram in Telford to the big stage – Wolverhampton's Emily looks forward to a Titanic role

It’s the start of a long journey for actress Emily George.

Emily George

The former Wolverhampton Girls’ High School pupil, who learned her trade doing am dram in Telford, began her career at the hardest time imaginable – in the midst of a global pandemic, when the nation’s theatres were all closed.

She’s looking forward to treading the boards in Birmingham, however, when she takes the role of Kate Murphy, a rare survivor on the Titanic.

Emily, from Tettenhall, in Wolverhampton, will feature in Titanic The Musical, which runs from April 18 to 22.

The show is set in the final hours of April 14, 1912, as the RMS Titanic, on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, collides with an iceberg. The unsinkable ship slowly sank. It was one of the most tragic disasters of the 20th Century, with 1,517 men, women and children losing their lives.

Based on real people aboard the most legendary ship in the world, Titanic The Musical is a stunning and stirring production focusing on the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of her passengers.

Titanic the Musical will be at Birmingham Hippodrome

The original Broadway production of Titanic The Musical won five Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book.

Emily will play third class passenger Kate Murphy, who was hoping to start a better life in North America. She’ll double up by playing a first class passenger, too.

Emily says: “Kate is a fantastic character to be playing but the fact that I’m also playing a first class passenger means we get to see both sides of it. It’s great to play a first class character and a third class character because there’s a stark contrast.

"The way it’s staged is fascinating. It’s really interesting to learn about it. It’s certainly a rabbit hole to go down. There’s so much information out there and you find yourself looking at stuff for hours and hours. There’s a Netflix documentary about the town in Ireland where most of the third class passengers came from. I’ve really been getting into the history of it, during my research.”

Humanising the characters has been part of Emily’s work as she’s learned more about the people who lost lives. She’s learned their back stories and found out that people simply wanted to start better lives – only to come to a tragic end.

“People were never going to go home when they set sail on Titanic. They just wanted a new life. That makes it even more heart-breaking. It’s amazing to learn about that story.

"The first class passengers were different. It might have been their tenth time crossing and they were having a jolly. But for the people in third class, they were fleeing poverty in search of a new life. The divide is very stark.”

Emily George, towards the centre, with the case of Titanic the Musical

Playing the Birmingham Hippodrome is a dream realised for Emily, who saw her first ever show there.

“I used to be absolutely terrified of the dark. For my first show, I went to see the Wizard of Oz at the Hippodrome, years ago. I was tiny, maybe in 2006, or something like that. I had to get dragged into the theatre because I was so scared of the dark. But as soon as it started, I was enthralled. My brain probably decided there and then that I wanted to do theatre.

"I’ve been there, it’s amazing to be there. I can’t wait to be on the other side of the curtain.”

Playing a West Midlands theatre means Emily will be among friends. She’s looking forward to spending time back in the West Midlands and to performing to friends.

“I’ve got lots of people coming. I’m staying with my family throughout the week. There are lots of different groups coming and my nan is coming, which I’m thrilled with.”

Emily started life in Tettenhall and she was a pupil at Wolverhampton Girls’ High School.

“I really enjoyed my time there. I was always pushing for the theatre aspect of it all. I ended up setting up a musical theatre club at school, for some of the younger girls, which spiralled a bit. I had some fantastic faculty members to look up to like Joanne Marshall and Julia Bishop, who were heads of English and Drama, and Music. They were ever so supportive and fantastic. They were putting on shows.

"I was on the front page of the Express & Star in my sixth form years, doing Oliver, at my secondary school. I think it was 2017 – there’s probably still a cutting somewhere.”

Emily’s love of drama was supported by her tutors, and school productions got bigger and bigger, thanks to the enthusiasm of faculty members.

“We played the Light House, in Wolverhampton, in the courtyard. I went to an amateur dramatics group too, in Telford, called the Arts Centre Telford. I met my partner at am dram and we are both in the industry – he’s in London, having recently done a panto in Shropshire.

“I went and trained at Arts Educational School, in London. I got in in December 2016. I auditioned for that in a whirlwind at the same time as I was doing mock exams. I was absolutely shattered.

“My mum drove me down for my audition day. I fell in love with the place and did three great years. I graduated in 2020, which was strange because of Covid. We’d done our last performances before our degree and fortunately, I’d signed with an agent. I moved back to Wolverhampton to hide out during the pandemic. I probably drove my parents crazy, being back and singing, and dancing, and acting in their dining room, on Zoom, for the last five weeks of my training.”

Emily has her career ahead of her. She has plenty of ambitions and lots of productions in which she’d like to star. For now, however, it’s all about a homecoming as she features at the Hippodrome.

“There’s so many things I’d like to do. I’d love to do Phantom of the Opera – I adore that musical. That’s a bucket list one for me. I’d love to travel and work all over the world. We’ll have to see where the wind takes me.”