Assistant Director Julia Locascio interviews actors Simon Haines and Gillian Saker, who play Matthew and Anna in The Rubenstein Kiss.
Julia: Where are you in your process right now?
Gillian: We’re in the beginning of the second week of rehearsals. We did a run through yesterday, a very rough run through, and now we’re starting to work through the play again. Early days.
Simon: At the start of Dante’s Inferno, there’s something along the lines of “on the beginning of my journey I found myself lost in a dark wood” He doesn’t know which road is the right road and has no clue where he is. I think that’s then before he starts to descend…Anyway, I was given that as a way to think about the middles of things, how it can sometimes be scary and frustrating. So yeah, I felt quite frustrated at myself and everyone in the world and scared yesterday. Which is great because I got through it and the afternoon was much more productive.
Julia: Did that come out of a certain moment in rehearsal?
Simon: Oh, I guess probably the run through, but as well the consciousness that, ok, now it’s week two, we’ve only got two [weeks of rehearsal] left. We’re still making choices with accent and whereabouts that sits, and costume fittings and things. So, you know, it’s an exciting time. Excitement and fear often live in very similar places.
Julia: Speaking about accents, where have you looked for character and accent inspiration?
Gillian: My family is from New York, so it’s been sort of copying them. My grandma’s accent really, though I’m trying to tone it down a bit. She’s got a really strong accent.
Julia: What’s something extreme that she does?
Gillian: She’s quite a well-known character in Briarwood in New York. She walks down the street with her arms open. My cousin is making a film about her because she’s so fascinating. That sort of zaniness, I guess, to me, because of my family, is kind of inherent with that [New York] accent. It’s really nice to do it because I’ve never done it before onstage.
Simon: I like to start from a real person if I can, just like Gillian. Because it gives me confidence that it is for real as opposed to just something that exists in a book. So, you know, Woody Allen is a natural starting place because he’s 70s New York. I watched a fair bit of Manhattan and I’ve listened to a number of TV interviews with him. We’ve got a great dialect coach Kat [Hicks]. And I was at drama school with a New Yorker, he’s in a much softer place with it. And John Stewart and Matt Dillon are coming into the mix now. Eventually it will just be, you know, put all of that in a pot and let it stew and whatever comes out on the days [of the performances] is what Matthew Maddison sounds like.
Julia: Right. Whatever your deep imagination does with all of that.
Simon: Yeah. That’s a nice way to think of it. And my character is loosely inspired by Michael Meeropol, or, you know, Michael Rosenberg, the son of the Rosenbergs.
Julia: We watched a documentary in rehearsal that features interviews with the Rosenbergs’ children and grandchildren, including Michael Rosenberg, who goes by his adopted name, Meeropol.
Simon: It was interesting watching the documentary and hearing him. He reminded me a lot of Robin Williams. He was so warm. So centered. That was really helpful.
Julia: What’s a big challenge you’re facing, looking ahead?
Gillian: The size of the play, I think. The huge journeys that we go through are really hard to plot now. We need to feel our way through.
Julia: Right. You can’t really conceive all of it at this point?
Gillian: No. But it’s a nice challenge. And as actors, that’s something you really want.
Simon: Definitely. I worked so hard to even get seen for this [to audition for the role]. It’s like the Wimbledon final, that’s what you play for. These great parts. I love doing modern plays where no one really knows what’s going to happen. I just love it. I think it’s incomparable. It’s so much better than classical texts, for me, personally. Another challenge? Finding the light in the shade. Zoë [Waterman, director] has been saying that if one of these scenes was in another play, it would be the most extreme scene in the play. Big, emotional, dramatic scenes.
Gillian: Like an opera, really.
Julia: What are you most excited about?
Gillian: It will be really great when we get it done. [laughs] No, I think it’s a big achievement, really. I think it will be nothing like what it feels like at this point.
Simon: Yeah, I think as well because there are seven of us [in the cast] and we’re on all the time, it’s sort of like an organism or, I don’t know, I’ve always been into sports analogies, and this is like a long sporting match. The last play I did there were these three different waiters and they were all different people, one was transgender, one was Italian, one was Serbian, they were all very different characters. I was probably on stage for about five or six minutes, and obviously I stole the show [laughs], and I was on and off, on and off, on and off, and it becomes like being a magician. Like coming on and doing a trick? [makes a card trick gesture] Whereas this is more like going out on centre court, and you’ve been on court for about two hours. And especially with me and Gillian, it’s all dualogues. All we’ve got is each other. And this big text. Most of what we do, all the action is spoken.
Gillian: A lot of it is very poetic. I mean, my main challenge is getting it in my body. It’s a lot, a lot of text. To have the freedom to work with it.
Simon: That’s what excites me. The stage where we’re like—
Gillian: —where we’re like [gesturing a movement like a ping pong ball] ding ding ding ding—
Simon: And we don’t know what’s going to happen next. And we’re able to fully trust ourselves and each other. Like a tennis match.
Gillian: That’s the most satisfying thing about acting. Being totally consumed in what’s happening. You have that feeling onstage when everything feels buzzy. And you’re really aware of the audience being there.
Simon: It’s a heightened consciousness.
Gillian: And it’s really concentrated. And alive. When it’s good. That’s the thing to get off on.
The Rubenstein Kiss runs at Nottingham Playhouse from Fri 2 to Sat 17 October 2015.