Do you fancy seeing a spot of theatre and supporting a fledgling director, all in the lovely setting of Rosie’s wine bar? Jennie Rawling, our strong island contributor for all things theatre and literature, is directing Michael Frayn’s play Here for the Southsea Shakespeare Actors (SSA), to be performed at Rosie’s wine bar tonight, tomorrow and Wednesday at 8pm.
The play follows the daily life of Cath and Phil, a young couple who move into a studio flat, as they bicker, banter and struggle to stay on the same page while creating their own little space. All this happens amidst the rather inconveniently-timed interruptions from the landlady living downstairs, Pat.
We spoke to Jennie about the rehearsal process, drama school, and how she feels to be directing to the public for the first time:
Why did you choose this play to direct? Isn’t the SSA a Shakespeare company?
Our main focus is Shakespeare (Southsea Shakespeare Actors – the name says it all!), but we also try to put on smaller, more contemporary productions throughout the year. It’s a good way of showcasing our work to people who may be normally put off by Shakespeare, and it gives our actors a chance to try something different.
I came across Here when I was looking for audition pieces for drama school – it didn’t have any big enough chunks that I could use as a monologue for Cath, but I loved the banter between the couple and thought I’d like to have a go at directing it. I love the way it exposes the minutae of daily live in a couple living together – I think there’s something everyone who’s ever lived with a partner will recognise in Cath and Phil’s to-ing and fro-ing.
This is your first time directing to the public – how does it feel?
A bit terrifying! I directed an in-house production for the Southsea Shakespeare Actors a few years ago but as that was just to company members and friends it was less scary. There’s so much more to think about when you’re directing to the public at an external venue, and more logistical issues to sort out. There’s also the company’s reputation to uphold!
Were there any challenges you faced along the way?
Yes! There are always challenges with any production, because you never have everything perfect (set, venue, timing, props, budget), so you just have to think around any problems and be creative. In the play there’s a scene where Cath and Phil are wearing identical jumpers, and at one point they’re both in the same jumper. So we needed to find two matching jumpers but in slightly different sizes – easy, right? Not so easy when you’re trying to buy big stretchy jumpers in the middle of June! After nearly garrotting Faye, who plays Cath, several times with one jumper, we finally found a pair of v-necks that fit the bill.
We also needed a threadbare toy dog – Theodore – which features heavily in the play. We managed to find one in a charity shop but he looked too pristine, so we were discussing how to mucky him up a bit and maybe tear an ear and I realised I just couldn’t do it. I guess the big kid in me couldn’t bear the thought of ‘hurting’ a soft toy haha. It’s become a bit of a joke – the others had to inflict the matting of fur with paint and toothpaste and coffee on him as I chickened out.
You can read a bit about Theodore and find out what we got up to in rehearsals on the SSA blog at ssaproductionblog.wordpress.com.
You’ll be going to drama school in September to do the MA Acting at East 15 acting school. Do you think you’ll return to directing once you’re a professional actor?
Definitely, if I have the opportunity to. I want to focus on acting, but I really enjoying the directing process as well. It’s a different kind of creativity, and I like the project management side of it. Plus you get the opportunity to work with some very talented actors and guide them through the process whilst trying to get the best out of them.
Here is showing at Rosie’s Vineyard, Elm Grove, 28th–30th July, 8pm. Tickets: £9 (£7 students and unwaged). Book online at ssa.ticketsource.co.uk, or for more information go to www.southseashakespeareactors.com.