“Inherently shy” Esther Hannaford of ‘King Kong’ on her performing career thus far

By Rebecca Martin of Dance Informa.

Esther Hannaford is one of those performers that really has that “je ne sais quoi” about her. Combine her statuesque beauty, her extraordinary voice, her passionate performances and her quirky personality and you’ve got a winning combination that leaves audiences spellbound. 

Esther is a multiple award winner, having received the 2009 Green Room Award for “Best Leading Actress in a Musical” for her portrayal of Amy in Once We Lived Here, plus the 2010 Green Room Award and the 2011 Helpmann Award for “Best Actress in a Supporting Role” for her performance as Penny in Hairspray. 

Her resume is vast and varied, and recently, Esther stepped out of her comfort zone to host Immersed, Melbourne’s dance industry night. In doing so, she won over a whole new audience who loved her comedic timing and wit and were grateful for her support of local dance.

Currently on stage performing the lead role of Ann Darrow in King Kong, Esther spoke with Dance Informa and gave us a little insight into her world.

Esther Hannaford

Esther Hannaford performing the lead role of Ann Darrow in ‘King Kong.’ Photo by James Morgan.

You’re a bona fide star these days but how did you get started?

That’s very nice of you to say. I started dance training in my first year of primary school and didn’t stop till after high school. I always wanted to be a dancer/choreographer and it wasn’t till after I finished high school that I really started considering singing and acting as a career. I trained privately and have done hours of singing practice in my room over the last 10 years. I try lots of acting classes/techniques, read books, see theatre and have learnt a lot on the job. I watch actors I admire and ask a lot of questions.

What have been some of the challenges and highlights of your career so far? 

Highlights would be Ann in King Kong, Penny in Hairspray and Amy in Once We Lived Here. Challenges have been finding my own individual voice and building the confidence to incorporate that into the different roles. I’m inherently shy, so stage fright has always been a constant fear I have to face. Luckily, I think facing fears is a worthwhile task for growth and development.

King Kong actress Esther Hannaford

Esther Hannaford. Photo by Jennifer Stenglein.

What do you love most about performing? 

I love the preparation work that leads to getting lost with the other actors in sharing a great story with an audience. That feeling is like a drug and it always leaves you wanting more. 

You recently hosted Melbourne’s Dance Industry night, Immersed. How did you find that experience? 

Terrifying! Like I previously said, I’m at my core shy. But because I love dance and because I thought it would be a good challenge for me to get up and talk in front of a crowd, I did it. Some really strange stuff was coming out of my mouth and I really hope I didn’t offend anyone. Luckily, the quality of the dance work being presented was so first rate! I was completely humbled by the creative talent. I’m a staunch supporter of Immersed as a valuable Melbourne event. 

What inspires you and keeps you motivated to perform night after night? 

The story, and the hope that the audience comes along on the journey. Myth is a great passion of mine so I’m always happy to go on the epic King Kong ride. I find I learn a lot about myself by doing so. 

Is there anything you can’t do?

How long have you got…?!

Photo (top): Esther Hannaford performing in King Kong. Photo by James Morgan.

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