HOLLIDAY GRAINGER, OLIVIA HALLINAN, EMILY TAAFFE are about to star in Three Sisters at the Southwark Playhouse. I caught up with them during rehearsals to find out more about the show and themselves.
For those who may not be familiar with your work, can you tell me about yourself and some of your career highlights?
HG: I was first on stage in Dimetos at the Donmar Warehouse. I learned so much and feel like the skills were transferrable to the TV and film I’ve done since, including Bonnie and Clyde, The Borgias and Great Expectations.
OH: I started off in children’s television at the grand old age of ten so grew up on sets really, it was very normal to me. I had a very keen interest in acting at school and did lots of guest roles in programmes throughout. My big break was a Channel 4 drama called Sugar Rush which I filmed while studying for a degree in Drama and English at Manchester University. In it I played a young girl coming to terms with her sexuality. It struck a chord with audiences and was a great stepping stone for me! I then spent most of 4 years in a corset as the heroine Laura Timmins in a BBC period drama called Lark Rise To Candleford. I have been lucky enough to mix things up since, across theatre and screen. Nothing quite beats the buzz of performing live however!
ET: Well, I’ve been very fortunate to work at some very special places with some very special people. My first job though, at the National, playing one of the leads on the Olivier stage (in Nation) is something that meant a great deal to me. I was also lucky enough to play Dunyasha in The Cherry Orchard at the National with people like Zoe Wanamaker and Ken Cranham, actors who I completely admire, and directed by the incredible Howard Davies. And of course, playing Viola and Miranda at the RSC is something I had hardly dared to dream of doing but was allowed to! I particularly love working on new plays so working with people like Lizzie Nunnery, Conor McPherson and now Anya is something I always relish. But to be honest, every job I’ve done has been special in its own way, I’m a lucky girl!
Three Sisters is an old Play about the class system in Russia. This production has been reworked for the 21st Century. How does it differ from the original?
HG: Although Anya has set our world in an ex pat community in the contemporary Middle East, I think Chekhov’s themes and feelings still emanate from her adaptation.
OH: That would be telling! Anya has been very clever in updating the piece but keeping the very essence of Chekhov’s words and themes. It’s set in an embassy abroad…that’s all you’re getting!
ET: Well on a superficial level the setting is different. We are in the Middle East, longing for London. And the language has been updated as well but the story is essentially the same. The themes of longing and loss and self-sabotage which are in both the original and Anya’s version are what make the play as relevant now as it was at the turn of the 20th century.
The play centres around three sisters who are very different from one another. Which of the characters do you identify most with yourself?
HG: I try to have Irina’s positivity and work ethic.. try.
OH: Olga is quite far removed from myself, I’d say I have more of Masha and Irina in me but that’s giving me more of a challenge… she is keeping the sisters together and has the matriarchal role. I am on of four sisters: I’m looking to my oldest sister for inspiration!
ET: I’m going to have to say Masha right now, aren’t I!! She and I both have a sharp tongue on occasion and a temper! She’s also very protective of her sisters and her brother, something I can totally identify with. And she’s passionate, which I like to think I am! But I think there’s something in all three young women that one can identify with…they are all at different stages of their lives and want different things and I think as you move through life your priorities change, which means that anyone could see themselves in a sister I think, depending on where they are at.
If I asked your friends to describe you in three words, what might they say?
HG: grounded, genuine, spontaneous
OH: Kind (I hope!), sensitive, scatty! Ha.
ET: Hmm….I think maybe outspoken(/tactless), funny (on occasion) and loyal.
What has been the funniest/most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
HG: I once corpsed at the smell of mushroom soup in in a dinner scene. It was usually carrot and coriander. I had to miss my next few lines.
OH: Oh god… it was funny and mortifying… I was doing a play at Trafalgar Studios and managed to get lost in the dark backstage (the corridors take some getting used to!). My poor co star had to improvise for a while… then I appeared in a very flustered state half dressed in a new costume… I think we got away with it! I managed to fall over on a stage once too, slipped on a prop… awkward!
ET: There’s been a fair amount of corpsing in various shows but the thing that springs to mind was walking out on stage in the wrong bit of the curtain call on the opening night of Nation like a lost child!
Do you have a favourite play or musical that means a lot to you?
HG: The Sound of Music
OH: Les Mis was the first musical I watch and I found it extraordinarily moving. Too many plays to mention… recently I saw Mojo and thought it was brilliant, the acting was sublime and I was totally transported into Soho at that time!
ET: The first play I remember seeing was Sive, by John B Keane so that means a lot because that’s the first time I can remember deciding that I wanted to be an actress.
If you could be a man for the day, what theatre role would you like to have a go at playing?
OH: An obvious answer, but it would have to be Hamlet!!
ET: That’s a tricky one. I’m actually enjoying all the cross casting that’s going on at the moment so I’m hoping I wouldn’t have to be a man to one day play Hamlet!
Thanks for having Tea With Wilma