Hugo had the pleasure of sitting down with Lauren Coe – recent Lir graduate, actor, and all-round lovely human person – who was taking a well-deserved-if-fleeting breather from playing one of the title roles in the Gate’s production of Romeo and Juliet (guess which one?), directed by Wayne Jordan.
Having seen the production twice, Hugo did his very best to breathe in and out while asking her some questions.
Thank you for taking time out of your day to hang out!
No problem Hugo, feel free to ask me some questions if you like.
With aplomb! How did you manage to transition from a recent Lir graduate to playing Juliet on the stage of the Gate?
I graduated from The Lir in July 2014, and during my time there I had the pleasure of working with many professional directors, including Mr Wayne Jordan. I worked with Wayne on a Greek project in my second year, and again in third year on the Ferdinand Bruckner play, ‘Pains of Youth.’ I really admired how Wayne thought out-of-the-box, and his drive to take aesthetic and thematic risks with his plays. I think my first audition for Romeo and Juliet was in October, and I had two more after that. I was living in London at the time – I’d moved over after living in Belfast for the summer to do Simon Stephen’s play ‘Punk Rock’ at The Lyric Theatre – so I had to fly back over to Dublin to audition. I was cast as Juliet on the 4th of November, so it was a long wait until rehearsals started in February!
What was the rehearsal process like?
Wayne asked me to look at a few different reference points a few weeks before rehearsals began – the films ‘I Am Love’ and ‘The Great Beauty,’ and a few different sources for acting Shakespeare, including the series ‘Playing Shakespeare’ with John Barton and the RSC, which is quite wonderful. In the first week of rehearsals we did mostly table work, and we looked at some of Shakespeare’s sonnets as well. We worked with a movement director, Emma Martin, on the dance sequence and the more stylised ‘fighting’ at the start of the play, and Tom Lane worked with various people on the sung pieces of music. In rehearsals, the choreography of the scenes was very important to make sure the story of the characters’ psychology was being told in the clearest way. Wayne’s insight into every character is remarkable; he uses really vivid imagery when he describes what’s going on in a character’s head, and makes personal, emotional and anecdotal references to help the actors give a scene a certain quality and definite intention.
What was your relationship with Fra Fee like during the process?
Fra is an absolute gentleman and we get along so well. It’s so important that you’re really physically comfortable with your romantic scene partner, and we really are, without ever feeling embarrassed about it.
How does it feel now the show is up and running?
I’m new to having to sustain a show for this long (the run is 8 weeks, and we’ve done two!) so it is challenging for me to keep it alive and fresh every night, but I think when you’re really ‘on the thought’ of the verse, it happens easier. I like to set myself a specific goal for each show – it might be something like ‘enjoy that scene more,’ or ‘experiment with pace in that monologue’ – but audience reactions have been great, so that is immensely helpful for keeping spirits up. It’s lovely to hear a laugh where it’s due, even when it’s not your scene.
Did you always want to be an actor?
It was either going to be that, or art college! I started acting class when I was about 10, and began acting professionally at 16, so I suppose I always knew that that would be the road I’d follow.
The show has an eclectic/totally bonkers aesthetic design.
Could you tell me a bit about the concept for the show?
Hmm… I don’t really know if there is an intentional ‘concept,’ it all just happened to mesh together very nicely! Ciaran O’Melia’s set is such a beautiful, versatile playing space. I think it suggests the warmth of Verona, and the colour of the wood has a sort of flesh-like quality. With such a bare set, Wayne wanted all the colour on stage to be in the costumes, and the colours each character wears do represent their personality in some way. The masks/animal heads in the party scene were designed specifically for the characters, with the idea of ‘spirit animals’ in mind. Romeo’s sadness is translated into a crow costume, Juliet’s naïvety into a fawn head, Benvolio’s benevolence into a rabbit outfit, and so on. The music is from lots of different genres and across various different time periods, to create a surprising world that seems both timeless and current.
So what makes this production of Romeo and Juliet different to every other production, and why should we come to see it?
I think this production is worth seeing for its energy and vivaciousness. The audience are invited into an intricate world, driven by desire and a longing to break out of the positions that a hateful patriarchal society has forced them into. It’s a fresh imagining of the classic play like you’ve never seen it before (Unless you saw Wayne’s Twelfth Night in The Abbey!).
Romeo and Juliet is on in the Gate until May 16th.
If you go to the theatre in person an hour before (6.30pm), student tickets are only €15.
Here’s the linky: http://www.gatetheatre.ie/calendar/romeoandjuliet15.htm