Q&A WITH SIÂN AND DEREK
During rehearsals the lead actors took a break to answer a few questions about the production.
Daisy Werthan is such an iconic role. Is that why you said yes to playing her?
I never know exactly why I choose something, but mainly it's if it's well-written – which of course this play is. I read a few plays and this is the one I thought I'd like to do, plus Richard Beecham [the director] and myself were looking for something to do together again, having worked together before.
From reading that material was there anything that surprised or interested you?
Everything. For instance, I didn't know what things cost in a certain year. We cover more than 20 years in an hour and a half and the geography changes, the landscape changes, buildings change, the cost of things changes, attitudes change, clothes change, cars change – everything changes and the changes in America over those years were huge, even bigger than over here maybe. It's very interesting and it's wonderful to be able to check because we sometimes jump six years in a page. It's very interesting to go to the wall and read what was going on in the background at that time.
Is this the first time you have worked with Derek Griffiths, who plays Hoke Colburn?
It is, yes, and also it's the first time I've worked with the actor who plays my son, Teddy Kempner (who performed in Chichester’s production of Caroline, or Change earlier in Festival 2017), who is wonderful. This profession is so gigantic that having been on the stage for more years than I care to think I still meet people I've never worked with before. It doesn't happen so much in America but it really happens in England, though I don't know why. I've very much enjoying working with Derek and Teddy. They're both marvellous.
Do you drive or do you get driven?
[Laughs] I don't drive so I am driven sometimes. I have a licence but I passed my test and never bothered driving. I live in London and why would you drive in London?
What are you most relishing about playing Hoke Colburn?
It's a pleasant character and I like the history that's attached to it, especially the Civil Rights Movement. For the younger elements of our audience who perhaps don't have much knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement and the division between black and white, it's a good thing for them to learn about. It's also a charming play. It's quite amazing how you get the contrast between the two characters with a huge divide, a huge moat, between them and how friendship joins them together towards the end. It's heart-warming.
Alfred Uhry's play premiered in 1987. What do you feel makes it so enduring?
I think it's the charm of it. Everybody remembers the film and I've met fewer people who have seen the play, but everybody talks about the charm of it and it's all-encompassing. A lot of people who are normally non-theatregoers are telling me they're coming to see it and it's because of the charm and the fact it's an easily digestible piece.
You've worked extensively on both stage and screen. What do you most enjoy about doing theatre?
You're in control. You don't have film editors so you're in control of your own performance from the minute you walk across the stage. You're there without a safety net whereas in television you have the safety net of being able to cut the scene and start again. You can't do that in theatre and what I love about theatre is walking through a scene without that safety net. You are in total and utter control.
Do you drive or do you get driven?
In terms of performing, it's a bit of both – I drive and I'm driven by inspiration from the other artists. That's the joy of coming back to the theatre because it's a real team job.