(Laura Barnett’s article appeared in the Guardian, 9/8.)
Tim Rice, lyricist
One night late in 1973, I was driving to a dinner party when I caught the tail end of a radio programme about Eva Perón. I knew very very little about her – just a few headlines from my childhood – and was immediately intrigued. She’d come up from the lowest origins and was fantastically glamorous. Then there was her husband, president of Argentina, and his fairly repressive regime, presenting her wonderful, exciting image to the world.
It was such an interesting subject for a show – the ideal follow-up, I thought, to Jesus Christ Superstar. But Andrew Lloyd Webber was busy working on a musical version of Jeeves and Wooster with Alan Ayckbourn, so I spent a year researching Eva under my own steam. In early 1974, I travelled to Argentina and did some interviews, but kept a low profile. When Superstar went to to Buenos Aires, religious extremists had bombed the theatre, so I didn’t want anyone to hear I was now tackling Eva Perón.
Initially, I was planning to tell the story from the point of view of Eva’s hairdresser. But I had a lightbulb moment when I discovered that Che Guevara was from Argentina, and had been there when the Peróns were operating. I thought: “Hang on – Che would be much more interesting than some unknown hairdresser. That way, I get two icons for the price of one.”