Two Short Plays About Gays: Middle Aged Rent ~ Hope Theatre, London

Two Short Plays About Gays is on at Hope Theatre in Islington until Saturday 24 September: http://www.thehopetheatre.com/productions/two-short-plays-gays/

Star Rating: ****

One of Two Short Plays About Gays, Middle Aged Rent has been written by Lesley Ross and thoughtfully and innovatively directed by Nigel Fairs. This has been written to premiere at The Hope Theatre and it is touching, thought provoking and quite a journey of a play.

It tells the story of a teenager who is trying to find his way and himself in London in the 80’s. The older ‘him’ (Gregory Ashton) narrates and interacts with his ‘younger self’ (Joseph Martin) and together they paint a picture of the crazy, heady times from the past. We visit the night club where Mona Lot takes the young rent boy under her wing and Kitty treats the newcomer with distinct distain. Although several characters are introduced, this remains a two-hander and that works well, it allows the audience to use their own imagination. It’s also testament to the writing and the outstanding performances that this does work with two performers. The space lends itself to the piece, superbly and the lack of set and props is also an asset as it allows the piece to speak for itself.

Gregory Ashton is an engaging actor who, I found, has a fantastic ability to draw you in, and his interaction with the audience was a bold and successful move. Joseph Martin was a good match, he connected with Ashton brilliantly and is one to watch for in the future. I feel we have seen a snapshot of what he is capable of, but what a snapshot this was!

If you enjoy new writing and you’re willing to embrace a controversial topic which is portrayed with elements of heart, warmth, exceedingly witty comedy and a healthy dose of drama, this is the piece for you!

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Spotlight On… Actor, Daniel Ryan

My first recollection of witnessing the talent of the superb Daniel Ryan, was when he took over the role of Harry in As Time Goes By. Since then I have seen him maintain a successful career and I particularly enjoyed his portrayal of Bryn Brindsley in Home Fires, which ITV have sadly decided to axe. I had the pleasure of interviewing the man himself, so without further ado….

I’ll start with Home Fires if I may, the last series was brilliant and finished on a fantastic cliff hanger, what have been your favourite memories from being in the show?

Like so many viewers, I was completely shocked to find that Home Fires had not be re-commissioned for a 3rd run, particularly as we had ended it in such an unsatisfying way for an audience. Sadly, that’s the way TV is and you can never know what the destiny of a production will be even when it ticks all of the criteria boxes usually required to greenlight another series.

I will take from it the fact that it was a brilliantly made show and continually surprised me on so many levels how affecting that period was to play. Wonderful camaraderie on set and the most brilliant group of actors who delivered extraordinarily layered performances from a remarkable period in our history. The fact that the viewers took it so strongly to their hearts and are continuing to fight for its return to our screens!

What did you think of the character of Bryn on paper and what did you think of the scripts when you first read them?

If I’m perfectly honest, the script was emailed to me the day before I was going on holiday and I had very little time to self-tape my audition, so skimmed the script and focused on learning the lines for a different character in the show.

The day before I came back from holiday my agent informed me that I hadn’t got the part I had auditioned for and that they wanted to see me the next day in London for Bryn. I have to confess I didn’t know who Bryn was and had to read the script again and the sides they had sent to prepare. When I realised, of course, that he was Welsh, it through another barrier my way, but nevertheless I met for the part the next day and thankfully got it. I didn’t hesitate in accepting as I feel in love with the scripts (once I had properly been able to look at them) and the story of the village butchers and their son. Being cast with Claire and Will consolidated the fact that it was a gorgeous job and I had such a wonderful time working on it.

Moving on to Mount Pleasant, which couldn’t be more different! Tell me about playing the role of Dan and have you a favourite scene or line from among the many series you have appeared in so far?

Mount Pleasant was such an entirely different story to Home Fires as I was cast well before the show was made or even properly commissioned by Sky and therefore is a show that is enormously close to my heart.

I was part of the first table read when it was in half hour sitcom format and we took it to the BBC. Eventually it ended up as the show it is now, and I had to re-audition! I fought tooth and nail to play Dan, I love playing the character, and after 6 years he is very much part of me. The writing goes from strength to strength and you rarely get the chance to dig this far into a character and for this long on TV.

I really couldn’t pick a favourite scene in the whole 52 hours. I think the Christmas Special was a really fun episode to do as we had snow machines in July and there is a scene in this series on now where I get to bring in a character that Dan Johnson likes to play with his wife, called Pedro.

So that’s something to look out for!!

Staying with television and going back in time to As Time Goes By, you notably took over the role of Harry, what was it like to step into that role and take it over? Was it an enjoyable show to be part of for the reunion episodes?

Well yes, great, but a bit daunting too! The show had been off our screens for I think about 6/7 years so I felt sorry for David Michaels , who had originally played Harry, not being able to return. I gladly jumped at the part and to be in something that was so established, popular and well known.

It was a joy to work with Judi Dench again (she had directed me on stage at Regents Park) and Geoffrey Palmer had always been a hero of mine, but then Jenny Funnel and the rest of the cast were so welcoming, as were the live studio audience who had mostly come from the As Time Goes By fan club in America!

Great fun. I would love to do it again!

You’ve also enjoyed many roles on stage during your career, any particular highlights for you?

I’ve been in some wonderful and landmark plays over the years. Fallout and Posh at the Royal Court were memorable experiences, as was Mammals at the Bush and on tour. There is something so thrilling about performing a brand new piece of work as the stakes are so high with no idea if the production will hit the mark.

But…… I still have to say playing Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at RSC in 1999/2000 will forever stand out as being a very special production for me. It was above all, a phenomenal interpretation of the play but also marked a big change for me as an actor when I suppose I started to figure out what kind of a performer I wanted to be, and it marked 10 years of being in the business, having started on that very stage as play-as-cast in 1989.

That part means an awful lot and I also feel one that I would like to revisit it another time!

Do you have a preference between acting on stage and on screen and if so, what’s the reason for your preference?

I can honestly say that I don’t have any preference. To me they are almost like two separate skills and I am still lucky enough to get to do both. I think I’m overdue getting back on stage so I hope something comes my way soon before I get to scared to get back on there!

It does seem to be that if you get into a string of TV jobs there is a perception that you don’t want to do theatre, but that certainly isn’t the case with me.

It’s a very special privilege being able to share a story in a theatre with an audience but also the jigsaw-complexity of threading together a TV character is still a great thrill to get to do.

Give me both!!

ITV STUDIOS PRESENTS HOME FIRES SERIES 2 Pictured: DANIEL RYAN as Bryn and CLAIRE PRICE as Miriam. This image is the copyright of ITV and must only be used in relation to HOME FIRES SERIES 2.

Any roles that you have an ambition to play in the future?

I guess I can’t really say what I would like to do in the future. I have worked with great directors and writers in both TV and theatre and its entirely in their hands what I get to do from here on in! I don’t think I have anywhere near done my best work yet and I am still very passionate about the job I get to do.

I’ve always felt that one day I would like to play King Lear but beyond that I hope the variety and the challenges keep coming my way.

What was it that inspired you to become an actor to start with?

Can’t even begin to tell you when or why the madness began! I played Artful Dodger at school when I was about 9 and never wanted to do anything else. It’s not in my family, I didn’t even really go to much theatre, but in terms of wanting to perform, it’s in my DNA somewhere. I had a brief but all-consuming desire to be a rock star when I was around 16/17/18 and my band had quite good potential, but acting was my first love and I was incredibly fortunate to get into LAMDA at 18 so the decision was made for me.

I’m so lucky that it all worked out so well.

Any words of wisdom for budding actors?

I am still impressed by watching people work. I’m still learning. I always feel that it’s above my station to give advice to anyone because the experience and the journey is different for everyone.

If there is simply nothing else that you want to do, if your passion about performance and telling a story is so strong and if you are ready to learn and work every day to get there, and able to take the rejection, then this is for you. The job satisfaction and the excitement is like nothing else.

Do everything and anything you can to achieve your goal but never forget that this is a team game. Beyond that, I’ve known a huge amount of talented people fall by the wayside so never forget that there’s a lot of luck involved. I try never to forget that as hard as I know I’ve grafted, I am still one of the lucky ones.

I’d like to thank Dan for his time, it’s a privilege to be able to include him on the site.

Photo Credits: ITV

 

Blood Brothers ~ Malvern Theatres

At Malvern Theatres http://www.malvern-theatres.com until Saturday 17 September then touring: http://www.kenwright.com/index.php?id=590

Star Rating: *****

Lyn Paul is described as the definitive Mrs Johnstone and last night, I saw the reason for this accolade, as she brought the house down in Blood Brothers at Malvern Theatres. It appeared that not one person in the packed auditorium in Malvern remained seated as the audience collectively rose  to their feet in one of the most enthusiastic standing ovations I have ever seen in my blogging career!

The musical follows the story of the Johnstone twins who are separated at birth, Mrs Johnstone (Lyn Paul) needs a reprieve from having too many hungry mouths to feed and Mrs Lyons (Sarah Jane Buckley) is desperate to have a baby. The Lyons family are very well to do and Mrs Johnstone reluctantly agrees to the bargain for what she believes are the right reasons. The decision haunts both women and becomes even harder to ignore when the estranged brothers, Mickey (Sean Jones) and Edward (Joel Benedict) meet, befriend one another and decide to be ‘blood brothers’. Given their very different upbringings, this is a turn of events that is wholly unexpected for Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Lyons. There are plenty of giggles along the way, though, despite the dark presence of the narrator (Dean Chisnall) and the feeling of impending doom which will surely result from this deal. The score is also incredible and the cast as an ensemble have the perfect range of vocals to give the wow factor to every musical number.

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Mrs Johnstone and her estranged twins

Blood Brothers has a huge following and the cast usually has minimal changes as a new tour starts. Graham Martin, for example, has been part of the cast for the past few tours and he is a popular member of the ensemble. He brings superb comic charters to life, whether it be as Mr Johnstone, head teachers from two very different schools,  the local bobby or a rather randy judge. New members of the cast for this tour are Sarah Jane Buckley, who gave an ovation-worthy performance as Mrs Lyons. Watching her progress through the transition of emotions as Mrs Lyons loses control, was an awe-inspiring experience. Adam Search was a dream as Sammy, he was bullish, sulky and entirely believable as one of the Johnstone children, at every age that he played. Dean Chisnall was the epitome of a silent assassin as he skulked around the stage after Mrs Johnstone and Mrs Lyons. My favourite number in the show is Shoes Upon The Table and Chisnall certainly did this justice, and then some!

Danielle Corlass is my favourite Linda, I’ve seen the show a few times and she manages to combine heart, warmth, silliness and gives an incredibly emotive performance, too. Joel Benedict warmed my heart as Edward, I’m Not Saying A Word was one of the highlights of the show for me. Benedict is hilariously up tight when he first appears beside Mickeys front step and tells the character’s story truthfully and with charm. In contrast, Sean Jones is cheeky, bolshie and has stunning vocal ability. Long Sunday Afternoon is delivered brilliantly by Jones and he duets beautifully with Benedict during My Friend and That Guy. As for Lyn Paul, she IS Mrs Johnstone, whether she’s lending her exceptional voice to Marilyn Monroe, Easy Terms or Tell Me It’s Not True.

If you’ve never seen this show before, I urge you to buy a ticket to see this on tour. If you’ve seen it before, I can testify that the cast changes have enhanced the existing line up and you won’t regret another trip to see this outstanding musical.

 

 

Spotlight On… Director of dreamplay, Sarah Bedi

dreamplay is at The Vaults until 1 October 2016. Tickets are available from £14 from http://www.thevaults.london 

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Sarah Bedi is director of dreamplay which has opened at The Vaults, I chatted to Sarah about the production.

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, Sarah, can you tell me about the production and what your vision was for the piece?

The production is a response to Strindberg’s A Dream Play – we’ve used his writing as a starting point – as a means to explore modern life. I wanted to devise a play through writing and where the audience felt like they were the dreamer. Making allegories and narratives out of dreams is a common theme – this production seeks to offer dreamlike images on a modern life.

How has it translated from page to stage?

We started with some intense r&d on Strindberg’s play, and found a surprisingly modern 1901 existentialist piece. Some research into the interpretation of dreams via Freud and Jung followed, as well as revisiting some pop culture touchstones in terms of dreams and the unreal: Charlie Kaufman, David Lynch, and the film, The Lobster. Some photographers too- Gregory Crewdson, Tom Hunter: dreamy, atmospheric images that helped shape our visual elements. I wrote a rehearsal draft that evolved through rehearsal to provide a lot of room for improvisation, ultimately, we have landmarks we hit in each scene. The goal is that it will hopefully feel alive and new every night. Being in the space this week has really helped, the audience being so intrinsic to it will fully shape the piece.

What do you hope the audience will take away with them?

I hope they feel as if they’ve had a personal, unique experience, and the sense that we’ve tried to answer the hardest questions that a human can face. I believe that, to a certain extent was Strindberg’s aim with the original dreamplay – highlighting the futility of the concept of life – and that we have updated that for in these short, often exhilarating moments occurring in different corners of the Vaults. The moments of provocation and intimacy and celebration are in there too as a celebration and a lament on the human condition.

How does the space lend itself to the piece?

The Vaults is a challenging space and it is rubix cube of opportunities. It’s also a massive credit to dreamplay and feels a character in the play on its own merit – it feels right that we can hear the train above. That space feels so Other and seeps into the action, in every space we lead our action to, much like a dream. I am writing this in a café in Waterloo station on the concourse and finding it strange to think we are based underneath this hubbub and symbol of modern life– like the subconscious under the conscious. By the same token it’s some awesome big ass tunnels to get lost in and almost illegal amounts of fun.

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What is your advice for budding directors?

A few projects back in 2011 at an annual Baz meeting at the Southbank Centre, faced with the trials and tribulations of our first foray into experimental theatre, someone simply said “let’s just do it.”- it’s become something of a motto. We’re not edging on Nike’s court here but it’s useful to note. There is no set way into the job – for us, is was a case of creating the opportunities to make the work we wanted to make. It’s hard at the moment, with the current economic deal under this government– it was always a slog, but it’s important to surround yourself with like-minded people and play to your strengths. Don’t forget to take risks and remember: it’s only play-acting!

Finally, what would you say to encourage people to come and watch?

When we drew up our manifesto for Baz back in we stated that we wanted to make event theatre suited to an audience that wants something alive and limitless. Couple this with the extraordinary location of The Vaults and the chance to explore it in unexpected and possibly never before seen ways and we feel we have a multi-faceted performance that we love. In the Vaults we have the best visual metaphor we could have asked for our dreamplay, and beyond that, a chance at a visual exploration of the subconscious as we lead the action through the space. And finally, it is a fact that we spend on average a third of our lives asleep. There is a massive, important and highly active part of our lives that is missing to our everyday experience. We thought, now here is an opportunity.

Thanks to Sarah for a very thorough and fascinating interview.

Photographs courtesy of Cesare De Giglio

 

Casualty ‘Strike Three’ ~ Episode Review

A great opportunity to cross over with Holby City was offered this week, with the arrival of self-confessed ice queen, Jac Naylor (Rosie Marcel) to operate on young Grace (Emily Carey). The poor kid still isn’t out of the woods yet and causing her mother, Connie (Amanda Mealing) to quite literally have nightmares about the tragic situation. Sam Strachen (Tom Chambers), who is Grace’s father, or sperm donor, depending on what sort of mood you catch Connie in, has also arrived to be at his daughter’s bedside. So all in all, it’s a bit of a Holby City reunion!

Connie is in a state of utter despair in this week’s episode, and Amanda Mealing must be congratulated on her continued top class performance during the 30th anniversary show itself and the ensuing fall-out. When she attempts to ‘work’ following the collapse of a patient’s spouse, outside the hospital, it becomes all the more clear that she is in no fit state and highly incapable in her current state of physical and mental health. Seeing Connie ‘broken’ is something that we as viewers as so unused to, that I feel it’s testament to the writers for bringing her down in the worst way possible and stripping the character bare.

Meanwhile, Charlie (Derek Thompson) is on his knees having had very little sleep and a shoulder for Connie to lean on. Luckily, Duffy (Cath Shipton) is close by, observing his exhaustion and there’s a touching scene when she catches him asleep, head on his desk and puts his coat over his shoulders. This mutually caring relationship is what has kept viewers on tenterhooks for decades, now – maybe we’ll watch it develop further this time? Or perhaps not, as Duffy’s wedding ring was clearly on show when all of the team de-camped to the pub to wait on news of Grace’s operation. I liked the way that Charlie and Duffy were portrayed as the ‘Mum’ and ‘Dad’ of the department during those scenes, the social hierarchy was explored, beautifully.

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Crystal Yu as Lily

I am enjoying the development of the ‘friendship’ between Lily (Crystal Yu) and Ian (Michael Stevenson), I had toyed with the idea of a potential romantic relationship blossoming in the future, between the two of them. That might not be what the writers have in store for them, but it has certainly lodged in my head!

I felt that despite its usual guest characters, this week’s instalment was all about the team, and given the timeline of the events post-30th anniversary, this seemed like the right way to take the direction of the episode in.

The Roundabout ~ Park Theatre, London

The Roundabout stays at The Park Theatre until 24 September 2016: https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/the-roundabout/cast

Star Rating: *****

As the title of J.B. Priestley’s little known piece suggests, this play is a roundabout of a production. It spins the characters and the audience around in circles and leaves you with a smile on your face when the ride comes to an end! Hugh Ross has directed a masterpiece in a glorious space, and I could return to watch this again and again.

The set, being that of a conservatory on the back of an old property, offers a window into the comings, goings and also the circles that Lord Kettlewell (Brian Protheroe) moves in. The scene is so beautifully set from the beginning, that it is very easy to fall headlong into the story and lose yourself, in my opinion. This lays the pathway for caring about the characters and piques curiosity which created an extra element of fun for me, personally.

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Bessie Carter as Pamela Kettlewell

It seems that Lord Kettlewell is to be joined by a whole host of visitors to his home, invited, uninvited, unexpected and intolerable! Among them is his estranged daughter, Pamela who is played inexplicably splendidly by Bessie Carter. What became clear as Carter helped us to explore Pamela’s journey, was that she was cleverly taking us on her own individual roundabout ride. Indeed, Carter has the knack of moving seamlessly from a carefree, smiley young woman, to a conniving estranged daughter, to an opinionated Communist. Facial expressions that she puts to excellent use in abundance speak volumes, but her comic timing would lead you to believe that she has a much longer list of credits to her name, when she is in fact, fresh out of Drama School. I found the playful and friendly relationship that Pamela formed with family friend Churton Saunders (Hugh Sachs) to be a welcome distraction, it was subtle but helped to move Pamela’s plotting and scheming along. Hugh Sachs was on top form as Saunders, his command of the witty dialogue was perfect and he brought unbridled joy to all of his scenes. Brian Protheroe was a fine choice for the role of Lord Kettlewell, he played the role with exasperation and a general ‘woe is me’ attitude and bantered well with Carter during his exchanges with Pamela. Kettlewell’s butler, Parsons (played by Derek Hutchinson) was a steady presence, but he came into his own during act two.

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Steven Blakeley as Comrade Staggles

One of Lord Kettlewell’s expected guests is Lady Knightsbridge, she is played majestically by Richenda Carey. I enjoyed the fact that she was a ‘fixer’ for just about everybody in her acquaintance and it was a particular highlight when she talked Parsons around in the proverbial roundabout. Lord Kettlewell’s mistress, Hilda Lancicourt (Carol Starks) arrives with a flourish and she is at the heart of Pamela’s meddling, Starks shines in the role, steaming with anxiety, hugely suspicious of Pamela and has a marvellous scene with Pamela’s Communist friend, Comrade Staggles (Steven Blakeley). I feel it fair to say that Blakeley comes into his own as Staggles, the character’s boundless ability to persist following romantic rebuffs is one of the funniest recurring themes of the play. Blakeley also possesses a wonderfully expressive face which suits such a madcap character. There’s also a stunning performance from Lisa Bowerman, as Pamela’s mother, Lady Kettlewell. Lady Kettlewell, although estranged from her husband, has been plotting to a similar degree that her daughter has, although not quite so overtly. Her arrival is greeted with mixed feelings, although Pamela is gleeful at first, when her mother appears. I felt that excellent chemistry between Bowerman and Protheroe made them a formidable duo. I must add that I found it hard to believe that this was Charlie Field’s professional debut, he played Farrington Gurney with assured confidence and his timing was impeccable.

There’s a strong farcical element to the piece, it’s fast-paced and the dialogue is sharp, delivered by a cast who work as a well oiled machine. I can’t recommend this play highly enough, I too ask the question, why has this not been done before?

Photos courtesy of: Park Theatre

 

Lost Sitcoms: Hancock’s Half Hour ~ BBC Four

Galton and Simpson are, in my humble opinion, an unrivalled writing duo, Hancock’s Half Hour provides some of the most witty and clever, yet basic plots. What you need to accompany such a script de force is the right cast. In Tony Hancock, together with Sid James, Kenneth Williams, John Le Mesurier and Hattie Jacques (among many others who were part of the cast at various times) they had a sterling ensemble who brought their comedy genius alive, superbly.

So, this episode, which has been revived as part of the Lost Sitcoms, had much to live up to. As an audience member from the radio recordings of The Lost Hancocks which were aired on BBC Radio Four (there have been two series of these so far, more to come), I already knew what to expect from Kevin McNally. McNally has been a lifelong fan of Tony Hancock’s and epitomises the lad himself. The television recording has given a fortunate opportunity to watch the fan in action as one of his idols. Comic timing is one of McNally’s many fortes, the ability to play to the audience’s laughs is also notable and it is a rather uncanny impersonation that he pulls off. The brilliance of the leading man, aside, it is very much an ensemble piece, with comedy star Katy Wix playing a believable Hattie Jacques, she managed to combine Jacques’ tongue in cheek gestures and facial expressions with her infamous clipped tones. “What sort of monster is he?” is spoken just like Jacques herself. Kevin Eldon made a fine John Le Mesurier, while popular impressionist, John Culshaw took on the role of Sid James and most successfully, too. When one considers the talent of Robin Sebastian who plays Kenneth Williams, knowing where to start is nigh on impossible. I had prior knowledge of his ability to impersonate WIliams, yet he still astounded me, I know of nobody else who can match him in this particular skill! His scenes with McNally are the highlight of the episode, they would make a formidable comedy double act.

Programme Name: Lost Sitcoms - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 2) - Picture Shows:  Tony Hancock (KEVIN MCNALLY) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Alan Peebles

 

The story line, which involved Hancock’s next door neighbour, was the perfect choice for the first (of many, I hope) episode to be televised. Hancock is curtain twitching, obsessively, in order to ascertain what his next door neighbour is up to in his back garden. Hancock’s observations lead him up the garden path to conclude that the man he is watching like a hawk is, of course, a murderer. Hilarious consequences ensue when he visits his estate agent (Sid James… played by John Culshaw), and also meets the estate agent’s assistant, Kenneth Williams. Hattie and John are in hot pursuit, of course, which makes for a ‘sitcom reunion’ like no other! When Williams arrives at Hancock’s house, later on as a Policeman this time, there was not a dry eye in my house.

To summarise, this has been one of the best possible come backs, I would like to see more of H-H-H-Hancock’s Half Hour, please!

Ps: Late filing of this review is due to technical difficulty and not because I’m a slow writer…

Photo Credit: BBC

 

Spotlight On… Director of The Roundabout, Hugh Ross

The Roundabout is currently wowing audiences at The Park Theatre and will be staying there until 24 September 2016 https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/the-roundabout

I spoke to director, Hugh Ross about the production and found out how the space lends itself to the piece.

Thank you so much for chatting to Break A Leg, Hugh. So what was your vision for the piece when you took on the role of Director?

I wanted to do the play as truthfully and faithfully as Priestley intended the play to be, I said to Priestley’s agent that I had no intention of setting it in a fairground just because it’s called The Roundabout. I believe that as director I should put across what the writer is trying to get across rather than having a vision or concept of my own.

Were you particularly familiar with Priestley’s work?

My father was a doctor, artist and playwright, he left behind many books, among them was a collection of J.B. Priestley essays and short stories. The Roundabout was in the collection and it had only been recorded once, in 1932. Jez Bond said I should arrange a reading of it at Park Theatre, which I did and then he said to go ahead with it and for me to direct it.

How do you feel that the space lends itself to the piece?

Really well, Polly Sullivan who designed it has done a brilliant job. At the Park Theatre there’s nothing you can do about the back wall, so instead of setting the play in the Drawing Room of a great house, it’s set in the Conservatory. It’s a beautiful theatre, lovely, open and airy and with the lighting it looks really nice.

Finally, what would you say to encourage people to come and see the play?

As the autumn comes in it’s a nice, witty, funny and entertaining piece to see and it gives you something to think about. It works on lots of levels and hopefully people will come out smiling which is a really nice thing.

Thanks to Hugh for chatting with me, it was a real pleasure. I look forward to watching the piece.

Spotlight On… Star of The Roundabout, Bessie Carter

The Roundabout is currently wowing audiences at The Park Theatre and will be staying there until 24 September 2016 https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/the-roundabout

I spoke to actress, Bessie Carter about her character in the production and how the show has been received so far.

Thank you so much for talking to me, today, I really appreciate it. When you first read the script what was your initial reaction?

Why hasn’t this been done before? I read it a couple of times and fell in love with it because it has everything you could possibly want in a play, a bit of politics, a bit of humour and a bit of sentiment. It’s quick moving, quite fast paced, witty and sharp. I really liked it.

Did you have any thoughts on how you wanted to play your character? Or did you find that this came about while you were rehearsing?

Well, when I read it I thought I have to play this part because I could see a lot of myself in Pamela, only child, both 22 years old. I thought as opposed to having to reach out and find the character, this was the opposite way around. Hugh, the Director was great at helping me to bring out more in the character of Pamela.

How have the audience reacted so far?

The response has been fantastic, people seem to really enjoy it, everybody seems to be leaving the theatre with a smile on their face. I have never done a comedy before so it’s a big change for me, and when it came to the previews I thought, oh, you have to wait for the laugh, this was something I hadn’t considered before. Because the reactions have been so great, word of mouth seems to be working, we’re getting fuller and fuller houses every night.

How do you feel that the space lends itself to the piece?

We’re setting it inside a conservatory, the space is very intimate so it feels as if we are in one room, it works brilliantly.

I can’t not mention your parents (Imelda Staunton and Jim Carter), because Gypsy was one of my highlights of last year and I am a fan of Downton Abbey, too. Have they influenced your career choice, or do you think you would have taken this path, anyway?

I think acting, for me was always going to happen, there was never anything else that I was going to do. They never pushed me or told me not to do it, they were just happy that I was finding my feet and doing what I wanted to do. When I was in school I was always in the plays and there was just no question about it. When I got into Guildhall School of Acting they couldn’t believe it, then I got this job and they are absolutely behind me all the way. They support me like any other parents, really.

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Bessie as Pamela in The Roundabout

What have been your main highlights from stage school?

At Guildhall in third year I tended to play character parts like the mad lady or the old lady and that was really fun. I loved playing Lady MacBeth in second year, that is a character that I would love to play again in the future. At stage school you have licence to do what you love to do every day and you’re with other people who love doing it as well.

What is your advice to anybody who would like to go into acting?

It’s not easy, although I know it’s easy for me to say, but a lot of it is luck. If you can’t imagine yourself doing anything else then you have to go for it and commit and work hard.

So, finally, what would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket to see the production?

It’s never been done before so you won’t have any expectation from it and you can take away what you want from it. It’s an entertaining night at the theatre, you’re not paying West End prices and because it’s an intimate space you’re guaranteed to be able to see it all. It’s very moving and I hope you’ll enjoy it.

As a quick aside, is King Lear at The Old Vic next for you after this?

Yes, I am outside The Old Vic right now, I’m rehearsing King Lear during the day at the moment, that opens in October.

I’d like to thank Bessie for interrupting her rehearsal for King Lear at the Old Vic to chat to me, it was a real pleasure to chat to her.

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