Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Interview: Jackie Morrison, starring in Abigail’s Party at the Leicester Curve Theatre

Jackie Morrison is currently starring as Sue in Suba Das's production of Abigail’s Party by Mike Leigh at the Leicester Curve Theatre.

Jackie’s theatre credits include: This Is Ceilidh (Edinburgh/Southbank Centre), A Bunch of Amateurs (Watermill), Private Lives, Taking Steps, Hay Fever (Oldham Coliseum), Peribanez (Young Vic), Oh What A Lovely War (National Theatre), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Strand Theatre) and When We Are Married (Savoy). On screen she has appeared in Ultimate Force, Doctor Finlay, The Commander, Monarch of The Glen, Head Over Heels, Absolutely and Little Miss Jocelyn.

I recently spoke to Jackie about knowing very little about Abigail’s Party prior to her casting in this production, what makes the play so clever and brilliant, as well as what it is like to be working at the Curve – which is her local theatre – for the very first time…

How familiar were you with Abigail’s Party before you auditioned for this production?
I had never seen either the play or the film but I had read it and seen clips. In a way I’m quite glad not to have seen it before I started the show because I think it’s better not to have seen something before being in it. I obviously know how massively popular it is, it’s a really fantastic play and we are really enjoying doing it.

I love your character, Sue. I’ve seen her played differently in the past, have you enjoyed discovering her? How were rehearsals?
Sue is a complete departure for me as I normally play someone who is much more forward and open, so it’s been really nice to play someone like Sue who is a dignified lady living two doors away from Beverly and Laurence. She is an unsuspecting guest at this party. As you know her daughter, Abigail, is having a party and it’s quite good for Sue to get out of the house and spend the evening at Beverly and Laurence’s house while her daughter has the party. She is not the chattiest character in the world but as an unsuspecting guest things start happening at this party in front of her and she just has to put up with it until she can go home. And she doesn't want to go home because it appears that she has quite a stormy relationship with her daughter and she doesn’t want to look like she is checking up on her, so she is stuck at this party with her neighbours who she sees in passing from time to time and they start tearing a strip off each other… it gets very very grotesque! 

The cast of Abigail’s Party 

Sue finds herself stuck in the middle...
She is sitting in the middle of it thinking, ‘dear god, save me!’ And also, bless her, she’s sick which is awful because she comes to this party thinking she was going to have dinner and she doesn’t get any dinner, just a few cheeky pineapple things and a lot of gin. The undercurrent that runs under the whole play is so raw and exciting. Sue as a character is a divorcee and is older than everyone else and is clearly very bruised from that. So it’s a lovely part to play. There are many layers to all the characters.

I think that’s the secret of the play. At first it comes across as quite lighthearted and funny, but then gets quite dark which surprises the audience. For someone who is not familiar with the story, how would you sum it up?
First of all, you can expect to laugh a lot. Also there are things that you notice from within your own relationships, so it’s very human. There is also a lot of sadness and bitterness and fury because of expectations which aren’t met that people have of each other within relationships. In that way it’s very normal and very human within any marriage or relationship, so I think they can expect to come along and enjoy watching what they think is a funny lighthearted house party in 1977. Gradually it will spiral them off into a black comedy, a tragic story which is actually quite shocking but funny at the same time. It’s so well written and we are having an absolute ball doing it so I hope the audience come along and enjoy watching it as much as we enjoy performing it.

Patrick Moy as Laurence
What is everyone like to work with?
The cast are absolutely lovely and Suba, the director, has got a great cast together who are not only great actors but they are also lovely people which made the rehearsal process very relaxed, warm and fun. It’s been great!

The Curve is one of the UK’s most exciting regional theatres, are you enjoying your time there?
It’s wonderful and because I live in Leicestershire it’s my local theatre. I have lived in the area for seven years and never worked here so it’s such a thrill to be working at my local theatre. Also, it’s a fantastic building and they are so accommodating and the resources they have here for the actors are wonderful. I’ve worked at other regional theatres where they are just trying to make ends meet. It’s a wonderful theatre which I think is doing very well.

And you’re working in the round!
It’s the first production they are doing in the round which I think will suit this play brilliantly. Everyone is going to be very close and very intimate, hopefully people will get the feeling they can’t get away and are stuck at the party [laughs] which hopefully will really draw people in. I love working in the round anyway but for this play it’s ideal.

Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Abigail's Party runs at the Leicester Curve Theatre until Saturday 8th November 2014. 
Please visit www.curveonline.co.uk for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit: Pamela Raith

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