Robin Goldsworthy: Cast your mind back…you’ve picked up Look Back In Anger for the very first time. You read it cover to cover and gently set it down beside your play reading chair. Walk us through your immediate gut reaction.
Melissa Bonne: Well, I actually read this play for the first time while I was studying acting at The Actor’s Pulse, but I was 17 so I don’t know if I was smart enough or open enough to truly take the story in. When I read it for the first time, since the first time, I actually just sat there (in my play reading chair), staring at the last page for a while, not only unsure of what to make of how the play ended, but also unsure of why it made me feel so uncomfortable. At the time I didn’t exactly know how to articulate why I was feeling that way but I knew that because of that, I had read something very special and that this play was probably going to be very important for me in some, if not many ways. It also didn’t feel like I had just read a play. It felt more like I was right there in that tiny room with these four people. I think that’s a pretty rare gift for anyone — artist or audience — that when it comes to a play or film or story, it feels almost too real to be something you are watching but more something that you are a part of, and I think maybe that is one of the things that is great about this play…it is so confronting and ruthless in everything that it is saying, that it’s almost impossible for audiences not to get pulled in and become so personally involved in the experiences of the characters.
What an amazingly complex character Alison is! A true gift for any actress to sink her teeth into. So my question is: If Alison were a sandwich, what type of sandwich would she be?
Hmm. Well, she would have to be the best bread made from the finest ingredients by maybe a French Chef or something. And I’d say her crusts would have to be gently sliced off. Her bread parts would also have to be right out of the oven so that she was still warm when served. Inside there would have to be something with bite, but tender, like a spicy piece of organic chicken. She would need a bit of razzle dazzle, so maybe something like a slice of avocado with a drizzle of olive oil and some broccoli sprouts. And she wouldn’t be complete without something sweet, so perhaps a thin slice of beetroot. When served, Alison would need to be gently sliced into triangles, as a triangle is her favourite shape.
Have you, yourself ever looked back in anger with regards to any moment in life thus far?
Oh dear. Well in regards to my own life, I’ve mainly looked back in anger at the not so great things that I myself have done or the great things that I had the opportunity to do but didn’t do… times in my life where I could have been kinder to people or paid more attention – like during a card game or something, where I would be in my own world and end up losing every time. One of the things that comes to mind that I would be angry looking back at, is growing up as a teenager and thinking I knew what was best for me. So silly. Should’ve listened to mum more. Grrr.
What is the best/worst thing about working with the prodigious acting talent of Robin Goldsworthy?
Haha, well it’s been delightful so far. I think you were perfectly cast and I am so glad because you’re a very authentic person to work with and you always make me laugh – which is so very important! Overall I feel very blessed to have you, Andrew and Chantelle to work with because you all make it very easy for me to believe you in every moment and believe you are the characters you are playing. So the best thing would totally be that you are completely believable as Cliff, but the worst thing would be that you have such a great, charming accent… which is, just so you know, quite the distraction. Oh and your jackets… I’m a big fan of how you dress to rehearsals. Very cool you are.
If John Osborne wrote Look Back In Anger today, how do you think the play would shift thematically?
If you think about what the themes possibly mean in the context of this story, I don’t think they would have to shift all that much to be relevant today or in other words, for audiences to relate to, especially when you simplify it all. For example, you have Alison and Jimmy — from two completely different backgrounds — who fall in love, only to find that their backgrounds are a constant obstacle in their relationship with each other and their lives together. I feel like there is always this human need for connection through understanding and you can see it in so many stories and it is such a dominant force in this play. When people come from different upbringings and backgrounds, it sometimes seems to cause conflict and that conflict eventually separates people from one another. That’s what happens throughout this play. But there is this truth that everyone can relate to on some level, and that is, through understanding all bridges are formed, but that understanding is only really possible when people are heard. I think that finding your voice and having your voice be heard is such an important part of this play and ultimately, every voice being just as relevant as the next, is a message that we are left with. Although Osborne may use a more modern way of delivering this story, I think using the same themes would be just as a gift now for people as they were in 1956.
Melissa Bonne: What would you like people to take away from this play, or in other words, what about this play would you like to stay with our audiences after they have seen it?
Robin Goldsworthy: Mainly how relevant this play still is. 2016 has been a pretty ugly year so far and there’s so much fire in the heart of this play that slots perfectly into our modern context. There’s a lot of anger and passion around the world at the moment, and this play’s got that in spades.
If you were alive and living in London in 1956 and still you — a wonderful person and actor — what do you think it would be like to play Cliff in the original production of Look Back In Anger?
Oh I think it would have been tremendous fun! There had never been a play like this on the London stage before… The institutions and ideas that are raged against in Look Back make it such an exciting and dangerous play. To do that for the first time, who wouldn’t love that?
Cliff’s upbringing and background is a bit of a mystery in this play. What story would you give him that could possibly change everything that we think about this man and his journey in the play?
Well we talked about Cliff’s sexuality in rehearsals for a while. There’s such a closeness and tenderness between him and Alison that’s totally non threatening to Jimmy (husband to young Alison) so yeah, we discussed the possibility of Cliff being gay. Would it change much? Not sure. In another production it would have been really fun finding out.
What has this play and/or Cliff taught you about yourself?
That Welsh is an incredibly hard accent to tame. At the moment I sound like Mrs Doubtfire’s gone to India. We’ll get there, hopefully.
What is the one question you would ask John Osborne?
I’d ask him if he were a sandwich, what kind of sandwich would he be? 😉
Melissa Bonne and Robin Goldsworthy can both be seen in Look Back In Anger by John Osborne.
Dates: 16 August – 10 September, 2016
Venue: Old Fitz Theatre