Collette chatted to us about her show Janis: Tomorrow May Be My Last in which she also stars as Janis Joplin.
Hi Collette, could you tell me more about what Tomorrow May Be My Last is about? It’s a play driven by live music with a real festival vibe and all based on the exciting but turbulent life of Janis Joplin. The show goes from intimate conversations with me, as Janis, in her dressing room at Woodstock, where she retells her life story to the audience in between going out on stage to perform some of her classic songs that illustrate what she’s been talking about backstage. It’s got a real sense of who she was and what she was like, but mixed with a real live music festival vibe that provides a level of an immersive audience experience. Right from the start the theatre audience are the Woodstock audience and we need you guys up on your feet and having fun with us.
How did the idea for the show come about? I wrote the play back in early 2019 after a couple of years of research. I was often compared to her on stage which was strange as she was never one of my musical influences but later learnt we shared the same love for Bessie Smith. We performed a read through on the 4th March 2020 before the pandemic hit us, so it’s strange to now see her talk about how the Hong Kong virus killed over a million people back then and we have COVID 19 now. And there’s all the stuff about mental health, drink and drugs problems in young people and the anti war movement then and all that’s going on in the middle east now.
What was it about Janis Joplin and her life that fascinated you? The main thing that I found fascinating about her was her rawness and passion. She was so revolutionary and nothing like the typical all American looking housewife of that time. She broke the mould. She was a great role model for women, expressing that it was OK not to look like the ‘perfect pretty woman’ all the time. She proved that it was ok to be different and encourage women to be independent and follow their dreams. Of course this is something she struggled with herself growing up and was badly bullied by kids at her school and called ‘fat and ugly Janis Joplin’, which she wasn’t but it had affected her self confidence initially but pushed her to do well eventually. But haunted her through her life forever, leading to her addiction to booze and drugs, inevitably ending her life too soon sadly. I was also fascinated by how she was very ahead of her time in many ways. She was an activist and believed in human equality. We share the same social and moral values which attracted me to her as a person, so I wanted to portray that side of her along with her being the first queen of Rock.
When did you first discover Janis Joplin and her music? I’ve always known of her growing up, but I only really discovered her in these last couple of years whilst researching and writing the play. I was always aware of her big songs like Me And Bobby McGee and Piece Of My Heart but I didn’t realise just how rich her back catalogue was for such a short recording career of only 3 years. She was a truly great artist and I want to be able to introduce her music and talent to audiences who won’t know of her.
What can audiences expect from the show? Fasten your seat belts… it’s an exciting, lively but intimate show that is filled with lots of fun, lots of great songs, lots of dancing and loads of surprises!
By Emma Clarendon
Collette Cooper in Tomorrow May Be My Last: The Janis Joplin Story is at The Union Theatre, Union Street, SE1 until the 28th August. For tickets go to www.uniontheatre.biz .