Genevieve Lemon is an accomplished Australian actor of both the stage and screen. In Billy Elliot, she plays Mrs Wilkinson, Billy’s ballet teacher – a role for which she has won a Helpmann, and been nominated for a Green Room Award. HMT caught up with Genevieve and asked how she would describe her character:
Genevieve Lemon: She is quite impatient with people; she would say she doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She is on autopilot when Billy comes along and shakes her world.
HMT: We notice you have a diploma of education. Has this helped you in your role as a Ballet teacher?
GL: Not really because unfortunately I didn’t teach ballet! So my rehearsal process was basically learning the ballet I was supposed to be teaching.
HMT: Did you ever do ballet or dance classes growing up?
GL: Only at seven – I got as far as the Polka. Later I did some tap classes with Grant Dale who is now in Billy with me.
HMT: Speaking of your fellow actors, the role of Billy alternates between 5 boys at the moment. What is it like to perform with a different lead each show?
GL: It certainly keeps you on your toes. There is a different energy to each boy and they never cease to amaze me. They are all an inspiration to me
HMT: There are some dazzling dance sequences in the show. How does the dancing help tell the story?
GL: Well, let’s face it the show is about dance. Everybody has a dream and Billy’s is to dance… he can’t help himself, it’s in his body and he has to do it. So the dance sequences are crucial to convey to the audience all that dance has to offer – the wit, the energy, the precision, the joy but above all the passion. Peter Darling, the original choreographer, is a brilliant story teller.
HMT: Alongside your work on stage you’ve appeared in several films including The Piano, Charlottes Web and Holy Smoke – which also starred Kate Winslet. What’s the difference between film work and acting on stage?
GL: Completely different discipline – literally. Recreating a performance over 500 times is very difficult. Creating a scene in one day over a few ‘takes’ is difficult in its own way. And doing the stage show is its own immediate reward because the audience is there to provide their own inspiration to you night after night.
HMT: How do you like performing at HMT?
GL: I love Her Majesty’s! It’s a brilliant theatre: a good sized audience and yet the theatre has an intimacy you don’t find in a lot of other, more vast houses. Plus it’s the perfect venue for Billy – just the right amount of that old-fashioned grandeur: picture perfect for Billy Elliot.