06 June 2011

So unique and powerful: The Lead Wait

The sole female in The Lead Wait, actor Heather O’Carroll tells drama on the waterfront about how it was to see this landmark play at BATS in 1997 and then take up the mantle 14 years later.

DOTW: What can you tell us about Juliet, your character in The Lead Wait?

HOC: She’s a bit of a bogan. Tight black jeans, leather jacket. She’s grown up in a small rural area so there have been very few city influences and she’s been surrounded by men so she’s definitely quite tough. The event that happened 14 years before the play starts when she was a teenager has really shaped the person she is now and has made her very guarded and protective of herself and others. When Jason’s character (Man) returns he opens up a lot of old wounds that haven’t healed properly and so we see her start to become more vulnerable and have to deal with the pain that she’s been repressing for so long so the play is a very emotional journey for her and one that she fights every step of the way.

Heather O'Carroll and Jason Whyte in The Lead Wait. Photo by Matt Grace.
DOTW: You saw the original production at BATS as part of the STAB season in 1997, what were your impressions of the play at that time?

HOC: It was one of the last plays I saw before I went to Drama School the following year so it really had an enormous impact on me at the time because I was about to throw myself headlong into the acting profession and was starting to form all the ideas of why I loved theatre and what it meant to me. A lot of The Lead Wait experience for me is stored in my sense memory I think because it is such a visceral play. So I remember coming into the theatre and thinking wow I’ve just stepped into this real old house and I’m like a fly on the wall because BATS was so utterly transformed. It was so exciting to see a working set like that as well with the running water, and actors taking baths and the roof leaking and a live bird (!) and of course I remember feeling very hungry as the fish was being cooked.  But I also just had the most amazing feeling of awe and being overwhelmed at the end because I had witnessed something so unique and powerful.

DOTW: How has the earlier production influenced your portrayal of Juliet?

HOC: I didn’t remember Jo Smith’s performance at all and that has nothing to do with her as an actor it’s just because The Lead Wait is such an ensemble piece so you almost can’t separate the performances from one another.  I know that when Andrew told me I had the part I was very excited but then the terror set in almost immediately because I knew how challenging it would be and that I would have to live up to the legend that The Lead Wait has become since it was first performed.

DOTW: What has been the biggest challenge of acting in a play that has had such an influence on you?

HOC: I think you question yourself a lot more and expect a lot more from yourself because you want the audience to feel as great as you did when you saw the show. I had more than a few doubts that I would be able to pull it off because Juliet is such a strong character and unlike anything I’ve ever played before and because Jason, Scott and Andrew had been part of the original production you worry that comparisons are being made but that wasn’t an issue at all. Andrew’s approach to this production of the play was very fresh in all aspects and no-one was looking to recreate something that had gone before but to re-interpret and explore the relationships and characters in a new way. Also Jo [Randerson] was fully involved in answering questions we had about the play and to make changes to the original script where necessary. But it’s a really challenging piece to perform. The show runs in real time so it’s almost like there are no marks you can hit.  You really have to listen to each other as a cast and the rhythms can be different every night because of that.

Heather O'Carroll in The Lead Wait. Photo by Matt Grace.
DOTW: What can you tell us about the rest of the cast and crew?

HOC: I’ve worked with Jo, Andrew and Jason many times before so that was great to have that opportunity again and I just think what they do is awesome. I love Jo’s writing style and sense of humour, Andrew’s direction and his design for this show is just so original and amazing and Jason is a fantastic actor who is not afraid to mix things up on stage and improvise. I’d never worked with Scott or Richard before but they have been great and Miriam Sobey, our stage manager, has been incredible. Someone described the show as a stage manager’s nightmare but she has made it into a dream for us.  There is so much work involved before, after and during the show but she has carried it off with aplomb.  It has definitely been a challenge for her, as a vegetarian, to deal with fish guts every night!

DOTW: Finally, what do you think audiences should know about The Lead Wait?

HOC: It’s so hard to describe this show to people without massive spoiler alerts but I think if you think of The Lead Wait experience then I would say it is intense, it’s provocative, it’s funny, it’s engaging and it’s beautiful. I love looking out into the audience during the curtain call and seeing their reaction to this play; I’ve seen a myriad of emotions played out on people’s faces, but I’ve never seen anyone who looks bored.

The Lead Wait is on at Circa until 11 June. Tickets are available online at www.circa.co.nz or by calling the Circa Box Office at 801-7992. 

No comments:

Post a Comment