5 Questions with Alana Birtles and Alec Ebert

Alana Birtles

Alec Ebert: Describe Troilus And Cressida in a haiku.
Alana Birtles: Blood-stained earth in Troy / A massacre on both sides / Two lovers parted

Why is Shakespeare, and this play in particular still relevant to us today?
I believe Shakespeare is still relevant today because he deals with humanity and universal themes that we still easily relate to. This is evident in the numerous modern adaptations of Shakespeare today. Troilus And Cressida in particular deals with love and war and the question, ‘What is it that we are actually fighting for? Is all the bloodshed worth it?’ I believe this question still rings true today.

What character do you relate to the most from Troilus And Cressida and who is your secret crush out of all the characters?
I think I would say I relate to Ullyses as he seems to see the sense (or nonsense of war). My secret crush would be Hector I think, because he is such an infamous warrior. I also can’t help
thinking of Eric Bana’s ‘Hector’ because he was pretty fine!

What have you learnt most about yourself on this production, working with 18 other cast members?
I think working with such a big cast teaches you team work and helps you make fast friends. You really are part of an ensemble and it everyone plays their part in making the show great. I have
met some amazing people working on this production and I would love to work with each of them again. I also like to learn from watching other actors in rehearsals and on stage, and this cast has given me many talented people to look to.

If you could invent a superstition that, in 400 years would be religiously followed by actors, what would it be?
That you have to make an offering to the ‘theatre gods’ or playwright before opening night… a song and dance with the entire cast.

Alec Ebert

Alana Birtles: Hector! How do you see him and how do you connect with such an iconic and ancient hero/warrior?
I see Hector as a family man as well as a man of order and honour. I really think he sees war as a necessary evil, needing to be waged in order for life to continue. He doesn’t fight to be
the best warrior there ever was (though he is very good at it); he fights for his wife, his young son, his people and his family… having said all that, he is a proud man with a very healthy ego, so is prone to the fits that pride and ego bring out in even the best of us. I connected with Hector through reading mostly. The Iliad by Homer was my obvious source of most information – there’s some beautiful passages of Hector with his son, Scamandrius and his wife, Andromache. These family elements have helped me to understand Hector beyond an archetypal warrior-leader and is the secret to my forming a connection with him. In saying this, he is meant to be the only mortal warrior said to make Achilles himself afraid, so I needed to ground myself with some martial and physical work. I also took up sword fighting classes (shout out to Action Acting Academy – highly recommended) and an intense training programme to get pretty fit.

You have performed in numerous Shakespeare productions… what is it about Shakespeare that draws you in? Why does it need to be performed?
I asked you a pretty similar question! I think Shakespeare draws me in personally because I love the life in the characters, by which I mean their psychic complexity, mass of contradictions and bewildering actions! Also the stories rock – they are big but unmistakably real – themes of love, war, sex, passion, lust, race, racism, misogyny, pride, gender, revenge… the list goes on and on and on. These themes are current today, many are universal and a necessary condition for human beings and, while we might wish a lot of them weren’t, will be for a very long time to come. I think I’ve just answered why they need to be performed.

Who is your favourite Shakespeare character of all time that you would love to play and why?
I suspect in ten years’ time I’ll look back at this and have a different answer. It’s also grossly unfair: like asking me to pick my favourite puppy in a room full of puppies. I’m going to answer 3. Younger Alec loves Mercutio because he’s a force of nature, elemental and mercurial. Middle Alec loves Hamlet because, well, he is the ultimate human and I want to work with him before I’m too old. Finally old Alec loves Prospero, mostly because I love wizards, and when you combine Shakespeare’s words with a wizard, it’s like cheese goes with pizza. It’s amazing.

If you could play another character in Troilus and Cressida, who would it be and why?
I think Thersites. He’s probably the only honest character in the play and he’s a fascinating mix of narrator, comedian, cynic, wit and outsider that would be a blast to play. At least, Danen,
who plays him in this production, makes it look like a blast.

What’s the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you during a show?
I was quite emotional in the last scene of a performance of The Two Gentlemen Of Verona, and I was standing right in front of the audience and blew a huge snot out of my nose. It was just obscene.

Alana Birtles and Alec Ebert can be seen in Troilus And Cressida by William Shakespeare.
Dates: 9 – 19 May, 2018
Venue: The Depot Theatre