It has felt like something of a whirlwind for me, being caught up in a production pretty much as soon as I arrived in London. When I saw an ad on Arts Jobs at the end of April for actors with Prams in the Hall, I was immediately struck by the aims of the company and how necessary this kind of opportunity is for parents. Of course at that stage I wasn’t familiar with Roisin Rae’s play, and how much the story resonated with both the aims of the company, and my own experience as a father who, by necessity, has needed to treat his greatest passion, playwriting, as a hobby for so long.
For my friends back in Canberra, who were all too lazy to come to the antipodes to see the play, The Inner Life of Sophie Taylor presents the story of an artist who has put her career on hold to raise children. A new opportunity draws out her inner, artistic life, and shakes up this lifestyle. So the play explores how she pursues this opportunity and the impact that pursuit has on her and her family.
Sound familiar? Those who know me know that I’ve had to deal with similar challenges, just like many of the creatives I’ve worked with over my years in Canberra.
For me, the production wasn’t an easy one. Two of the four characters I played presented substantial challenges. Andrew, husband to Sophie, had to be presented in a way that made him neither guilty nor innocent in the difficulties Sophie faced, and his similarity to my own circumstances often made it difficult for me to allow for a reading of the script hat wandered from my own experience.
And the other challenging character, their son, was five! While I had thought it would be fun to play a child since seeing a documentary about Company B’s London run of Cloudstreet over a decade ago, I hadn’t expected I would actually do so. It was, of course, a lot of fun. And a number of rehearsals were genuinely cathartic, as Karin Fisher-Potisk, our movement director, helped us discover our children by taking us back to childhood memories. I found myself quite wistful following one rehearsal in particular, due to the vividness with with I was able to remember my father, who I lost almost a decade ago now.
The performance venue was likewise both challenging and exciting. The Space is a performance venue on London’s Isle of Dogs, a former Presbyterian church repurposed as a theatre. It is full of character and has a quaint little stage with a marvellous proscenium. In the week before our performance I came with my daughter to see a production of Romeo and Juliet where the space was used in reverse, with the audience crossing the stage to enter it; it really is a nice performance space, even if you need to put up with the noise of a busy cafe kitchen in the wings!
I certainly didn’t expect that I would be treading the boards during my short stint in London, but I’m glad I did. This experience introduced me to some great creatives and the production was a blast from start to end.