Michelle, Aurora Tardieu play mother, daughter in Mamma Mia!

Aurora Tardieu, left, and her mother Michelle Tardieu-Attale take on mother-daughter roles in the Mamma Mia musical. -
Aurora Tardieu, left, and her mother Michelle Tardieu-Attale take on mother-daughter roles in the Mamma Mia musical. -

In the theatre world in Trinidad and Tobago, family and friends often end up working together. The recent production of the musical Mamma Mia! by Proscenium Theatre Company saw the mother-daughter duo of Michelle Tardieu-Attale and Aurora Tardieu taking on the mother-daughter roles of Donna and Sophie respectively.

When asked by WMN what it was like to work closely together in those roles, Tardieu-Attale said the work was a unique one and really special to her for more than one reason.

“They can’t find, and I’m not saying it didn’t happen, just they can’t find it, where an actual mother and daughter played the parts of Donna and Sophie. The closest they found were a mother and daughter who acted in it 15 years apart.

“I’ve been with the Marionettes Chorales for 34 years, and I’ve never volunteered to do any leading roles in it because I’ve always been nervous about those things, but now I was just ready for it, and I felt completely fine.”

Tardieu-Attale said Tardieu’s help was invaluable to her as she took on the character of Donna.

“She gave me tips, because she’s more experienced in the acting than I am, so she was able to give me tips on what to do, how to be. I also had approval from my daughters, who said to me separately, ‘You are Donna, how you take care of the house, and your loved ones, always doing this and that, so it should be an easy role for you.’”

Tardieu said working with her mom was both easy and difficult at times.

“Mom and I usually respond to each other in a certain way over things, so we had to tweak those to suit the characters. In some ways it was easy, like the body language was easy. But at the same time my mom and I are people who really appreciate our space, so the whole feeling like losing each other just because of a wedding, I don’t think we’re like that. So we had to learn how to switch from playing heavily on our natural relationship in some ways and then acting out of character in other ways.

“The beautiful thing about it, though, is that this is going to be a memory we get to hold on to forever, because some people might be in a show with their mom but not really playing mother and daughter.”

Tardieu-Attale said while the pair didn’t live together, they interacted on a daily basis, and working so closely together hadn’t affected them negatively.

“We pick up the phone and call each other and talk about things. It was all good.”

Tardieu said her mom had been performing ever since she (Tardieu) knew herself, and she had been present for most of her performance career.

“My mother has been a member of the Marionettes since I was a child. I grew up running around Queen’s Hall, and I got into Marionettes myself at age 11. From there at age 17, I got into lead roles in musical theatre, so it’s a normal part of our lives, and because music has been so central to us, if either of us would break into song randomly the other one would start singing harmonies or backup, that’s a normal thing. So this one won’t change that, it’s already as max as it could be.”

Members of the cast of Mamma Mia! take a curtain call following the gala performance on May 3 at the Naparima Bowl -

Tardieu said while the two had performed together in the Marionettes Chorales’ staging of Les Miserables, they had not interacted with each other. She said they had not acted together in any other productions.

“I played Eponine and she was one of the prostitutes on the port. She hasn’t done any other plays outside of those two. I would have been on the junior choir with Marionettes and she would have been on the senior choir.”

Tardieu-Attale said one aspect of the role which was easiest for her was learning the music.

“I’m so familiar with ABBA’s songs, I’ve been singing their music from an early age, so I didn’t have much to learn with the songs, maybe two or three, but I knew the rest already. Our musical director Kevin Humphrey is so talented, it was really amazing, and I also had Cecilia Salazar who I loved working with. She’s so professional and funny and always willing to give tips as well. You can’t work better than that.”

Tardieu said she would love to play the role again. She said she thought it would help Tardieu-Attale understand her work better.

“I wouldn’t say this changed anything for us. Maybe she understands more now what I go through when I’m doing plays, because she stuck with Marionettes and I went into theatre, and so she has a better understanding now of what I go through to get into a character.

“The Marionettes also are a big theatre production with sets and costumes, and she runs the costuming so she understands the work behind putting on a production. I think the only major difference is slipping into a character while you do it.”

Tardieu-Attale said she absolutely loved the experience and would want to do it again. She said the producer had been asking her repeatedly to play the role for almost a decade.

“Andrew (Seepersad) mentioned it to me about eight years ago, and it was an outright 'no' from me, I told him there was no way I could do that. He asked me again about two years ago and I told him I’ll think about it. He said to me he’s not going to do this without me and Aurora, it was his dream to do it but with an actual mother and daughter, and we would be ideal because he’d worked with us in the Marionettes when he was in the junior chorale.

“I really enjoyed it. From the time I told him yes, after my daughters told me I would be good at it, I told him I was going to work hard at it, because I want to be good at it. I definitely will do it again.”

Tardieu said her other siblings were not into the performing arts.

“My sister is not as dramatic as we are, she’s more like her father in how she handles things. She’s more of the strong, silent type. Her strength is in her silence, and mom’s and my flair is for the dramatic. She was away at university for the play.”

Tardieu, who grew up in Paramin, said she had no formal training in music and preferred to keep it that way.

“I don’t want to be put in a box. I do my research myself into the technical aspects of this industry, but I very much rely on natural talent and it hasn’t failed me so far. Though there are people who will keep insisting I should do it for doing its sake, but I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t want to put myself into something where they tell you that doing something is wrong and then you become one of a thousand. The internet is very useful in learning that.”

Aurora Tardieu, left, and her mother, Michelle Tardieu-Attale. -

She works in advertising as a copywriter and wants to be a screenplay writer and director.

Tardieu has also played lead roles in local productions of Mary Magdalene, Jesus Christ Superstar, Rent, Little Shop of Horrors, The Wizz, Les Miserables, and Cinderella.

Her second job is planting produce for sale.

“Agriculture is in my DNA, I’m obsessed with plants. I grow parsley and celery to sell. You can’t have one income stream these days.

Tardieu is also pursuing a psychology degree at UWI, St Augustine campus.

“Why not? The one thing you should understand is people, especially as a theatre person.”

Tardieu-Attale does property management as her day job and said singing helps her to relax.

“I’ve always loved singing. This is how I destress. I’ve been with the Marionettes Chorales for 34 years and this is an acting role I’ve dipped my feet into to try it out, but music is my first love.”


"Michelle, Aurora Tardieu play mother, daughter in Mamma Mia!"

More in this section