Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending a performance that gave me goosebumps – I am talking about ‘I am my own wife’; a play by Doug Wright, directed by Nanette Brimmer and performed by Alan Paris. The show is running over two weekends and if you don’t have tickets yet I would strongly suggest attending next weekend 10th-12th May.
More information on the facebook event page here.
Tickets from St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity click here.
Alan answers some questions below:
What were your greatest challenges in performing alone?
It’s the first time that I’ve done a one-man show and I’ll be honest it was quite daunting at the beginning. Besides having to learn all the lines, one of my main worries was keeping the audience’s attention for so long. But you have to trust the story and the playwright and make sure that you do it justice. Once I overcame the fear of being on my own, it was a matter of focusing on the positive outcome of the performance. Nanette and I focused on giving it as much colour, variety and movement as possible, to keep the audience entertained.
This isn’t a run-of-the-mill story or performance. What was your initial reaction to the script? Was it an easy decision?
The first time I read the script (Nanette passed it on to me) I was completely taken in by the story and couldn’t wait to start work on it. This was about five years ago! It took us a while to find a time that was good for both of us. Once I got under the text and started figuring out the characters and the story, I kind of freaked out. It’s huge… bigger than I ever thought it would be. But Nanette and I broke it down together and focused on a lot of detail. Once you break it down, it becomes a series of small bits rather than one huge chunk. Which tends to be more manageable.
It was a heavy script, with lots of German thrown in and a multitude of characters. Lines, lines, lines! It must have been tiring to say the least. How long did it take you to prepare?
Like I said, I had the script for about five years, and I kept picking it up and reading it, as well her autobiography, because the story really intrigued me. We actually worked solidly on it for around six weeks. But I’ve been script reading and researching since around January or February. I did a lot of groundwork before rehearsals. Reading the script as each character, to chart their journey. Then Nanette and I sat in my living room and read through it together, to make sure that we were on the same page (scuse the pun), and we eventually started moving it and breaking it down about six weeks before performance. I also had some help from German actress Irene Christ. She helped me with the actual German phrases that I had to use, as well as the accent.
Your switches between characters was remarkable and seamless, what process/method did you use for these transformations and do you find any of the characters emerging in your every day life (or taking over facial expressions)?
Thank you. We attributed mannerisms, voices and accents to each character. Thanks to Nanette’s annoyingly sharp eye for detail I had to make sure that the switches were clean and swift. At a point it’s almost like choreography!
And yes, I have been in the office talking to somebody, and besides certain words slipping out in a German accent, I’ve also ‘fiddled with my pearls’, as I do with Charlotte, in front of a colleague. Which they obviously found rather odd!
I somehow feel that this production was a special one for you, what will you be taking away from this performance and what do you hope that the audience will feel?
I feel that I’ve learned a lot from Charlotte. About determination, believing in yourself and who you are, and never allowing anybody else to tell you otherwise. Besides having learned so much about a period of History that always intrigued me. As an actor, doing something like this is a huge learning curve. It really is a proper ‘actor’s piece’. I was so lucky that Nanette decided to do this with me. And I’ll always be grateful to her. There is also something special about working on a show with just two people involved. Its more intimate, less drama and ego gets in the way. Nanette had previously produced and directed a one-woman show with Polly March, ‘My Brilliant Divorce’, so she knew what to expect. She has her own production company ‘Exit Stage Right’, so that gives her the freedom to do things she wants to do, and as she wants to do them. It was all new to me, and I must say it was an absolute pleasure!
If you could meet Charlotte, what would you ask her?
HA! So many questions…. So many questions…. But I’m not quite sure about her answers… she’s such a dark horse!
What do you think is the truth about Charlotte?
Ah! Now that would be telling. She’s a complete enigma, even the play itself doesn’t draw conclusions. The only book written about her life is an autobiography, so you’re not quite sure what to believe. For the sake of my performance, I had to make some choices for myself. But I still tried to leave it open ended! Let the audience make up their minds. She is a very endearing person…. It’s up to them to decide for themselves.