That really does share an uncanny resonance with the relationship between the two characters you’re now playing in The Children, Rose and Hazel.
SP: It works perfectly, actually. It gives us a great sense of history and a great sense of unity in a shifting time, in a time of great personal shifts. And yet there is this shared alignment. So it has been oddly useful to have that point of reference.
PR: And it’s another piece of great female writing, just like The Heidi Chronicles.
Sarah, you’ve also played a number of characters in the past couple of years who are fiercely accomplished intellectually: Patricia Highsmith in Switzerland; a neuroscientist in Fury [both by Joanna Murray-Smith], and now a nuclear physicist in The Children. All those roles were penned by women. Do you see a shift in the status quo, with more roles emerging that reach beyond that maternal stereotype?
SP: Absolutely. And I think that kind of writing is coming through more and more, and making it to our biggest stages more and more.
PR: That is a huge shift from the kind of theatre that dominated in the '80s and '90s.
SP: It really offers—very fortuitously—some tremendously complex and challenging roles at a point when you have the experience and skill to take them on. And what’s really exciting is that this shift is happening largely in new work. It’s really reframing the female experience towards a more essential and central determining role, rather than something more passive to the circumstance or a role that is only reactionary.
Let’s talk about The Children. One of the interesting challenges of a play like this is that the reputation of Lucy Kirkwood is stratospheric, so expectations are high. But The Children is a new piece of writing, and therefore an unknown quantity in many ways.
SP: I was aware of Lucy Kirkwood from Kip Williams’ production of Chimerica, so I already had some sense of her talent. But really, you have to feel a personal response to a role in order to realise its potential, first and foremost you have to have a response to the writing.
Regardless of how well it may have been received overseas, if I’d read it and I hadn’t felt a connection to it, then I would have passed. And in the end, your choices in that role determine the way that character will be experienced by an audience.
PR: And once you get into the process of exploring that text, and mining it, and bouncing your ideas off your fellow actors in the rehearsal room, the thought of any influence outside of that space completely disappears. And you don’t necessarily have to understand the whole of the role before you enter into that process either. If you can find one small something, one moment where you feel that click, ninety-nine per cent of the rest of the work can be a mystery, but if you have that one glimpse of what you might bring to that role, then you’re in. And if the play has been written well and designed well, then that is enough to go on.
Read the full article by Maxim Boon in Audrey Journal.