5 Questions with Alison Benstead and Thu Nguyen

Alison Benstead

Thu Nguyen: What aspect of your character, Veronica, do you relate to the most?
Alison Benstead: Veronica could definitely be seen as being a bit of an air head. Her whole vibe is introspection, and commenting on the world in a way that only she sees it. I very much relate to this (can I blame my star sign?), however I wish that I had answers like she does. I’m definitely more concerned about how my peers might interpret my what I say, and I think this sometimes restricts our ability to look at the world from that beautiful child-like, uninhibited perspective. I think there’s nothing wrong with taking a leaf out of Veronica’s book.

Who do you draw most inspiration from for your character, Veronica?
Veronica definitely has a Luna Lovegood vibe about her. I haven’t watched the Harry Potter series since this was mentioned at our table read for fear of re-creating that character, but I think a HP marathon is definitely on the cards once we close the show.

Your character Veronica carries around a hand puppet. When you were younger did you have a favourite item/toy that went around with you everywhere?
I had this doll when I was a child that had big, curly hair. My aunty named her Curly Mop Head, and said that she looked like me because her hair was so big. I loved her so much. I didn’t take her everywhere with me like Veronica does her puppet, but she did move house with me four time. I wish I could have kept her forever, but she got a bit old and crusty so I threw her out in my most recent house move. It was time, though it wasn’t easy saying goodbye.

If Veronica had a favourite colour, what do you think it would be?
Silver, for sure. It has something ethereal about it, and its metallic, reflective quality is very fitting.

Simple Souls pokes plenty of fun at social media interactions – have you been guilty of any of the behaviours the play satirises? If so, which one? (e.g. I know I’ve posted up a picture of some natural disaster and told people to share it haha)
I remember when the Je Suis Charlie tragedy happened in Paris and everyone was putting #prayforparis up on their Facebook walls. I got to work that day and was questioned by my colleague as to why I cared so much about Paris and didn’t acknowledge a particular event that had just occurred in India, which was equally as horrible. I was definitely taken aback, and it absolutely made me stop and think about what we choose to acknowledge in our social media, and that it doesn’t give us as much awareness of the world as we think it does. We still only see what others want us to see.

Thu Nguyen

Alison Benstead: Simple Souls is ‘an experiment in comic magical realism’. Which of these words would your character Bridget resonate with the most and why?
Thu Nguyen: I think Bridget would identify most with realism because she takes everything to heart. She is down to earth and very of this earth. There are many times in the play that she doesn’t seem to get sarcasm or she would question flippant remarks way too earnestly!

What was your first impression of Bridget?
My first impression of Bridget was that she was upbeat and chirpy but a little bit too eager to please, kind of like a lap dog. It became clearer as we went along that underneath all that, she is a really lonely person who just wants to connect with other people. She means well and has a kind and caring soul, but for some reason, people don’t tend to see her. 

Your dog goes missing, so you put up posters in the street. A stranger calls to offer their condolences, though they haven’t actually seen your lost dog. How do you react?
I would be really weirded out but I think I would be too polite to hang up! I would most likely listen to them for a while and then eventually make up some excuse like I’m late for work and then be apologetic for ending the conversation even though they are the weird ones for calling me!

What do you hope audiences will come away from Simple Souls with?
Simple Souls is a fun but poignant play commenting on the way the modern world deals with political and social issues. I hope it gives audiences some food for thought in terms of how to make our interactions with each other less superficial and more meaningful. It definitely pokes fun at some of the things I have done in the past!

Alison Benstead and Thu Nguyen can be seen in Simple Souls by Paul Gilchrist.
Dates: 13 – 30 Nov, 2019
Fringe HQ