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Sue Flack and Caspar, British actors living in Catalonia, co-founded Escapade Theatre back in 1997. Since then, they have produced top quality, acclaimed theatre in English. Often provocative, and with a high dose of satire and dark humour, they’ve never left their audience indifferent. Their latest adventure, is the play Silence, running at Teatre Almeria in Barcelona from May 8-26. We asked Sue and Caspar to talk about themselves and their careers, through a few objects that represent them most.
. Photo of Sue as Ubu Roi
This photo is of me at the age of 19 playing Ubu Roi, by Alfred Jarry, in London in 1981. I had been thinking about acting as a career but had never really thought of it as a serious proposal. I had been to art school and was working as a part time textile designer and was “messing about” in a local theatre youth group as a hobby. This was a great part to play. It opens with Ubu shouting “Merde!” which was a real shock for audiences when it debuted in Paris in December 1896. The play’s opening night at the Théâtre de l’Oeuvre was also its closing night, as a commotion - often described as a “riot” - broke out amongst the audience, who were accustomed to naturalist theatre and were horrified by the play’s shocking and crude nature. Nonetheless, the play has gone on to be seen as a deeply-influential work of theatre, and is cited as one of the precursors to modernism and such artistic movements as the Theatre of the Absurd, Dada, and Surrealism. Playing the part of Pa Ubu, in this production where Ma Ubu was played by a man, was the decisive moment for me to become a professional actress.
2. Bottle of “Escapade” wine.
My husband is a sommelier and he found this bottle of wine which is called Escapade, in France. He found it a few years ago and Caspar and I have been saving it for a first night. We plan to open it on 8th May when we perform Silence to an audience for the first time. First nights are extremely special and we hope plenty of people will come down and enjoy a drink with us. We’ll drink the bottle after the performance, of course!
3. Actions: The Actors Thesaurus by Marina Calderone.
This book is my acting bible. I use it all the time when working on a character or directing a play. The basis of the Stanislavski Method, which is what I studied at Drama Centre in London from 1984-87, is that with every line of text you are trying to affect someone or something else on the stage and that you play an action on them to get what you want. For example: Lady Macbeth wants her husband to kill King Duncan. She employs a variety of actions towards Macbeth in the scenes to achieve her goal. Each action is used as an incentive i.e. to humiliate, to seduce, to bully and if you really keep this clear in your head while working on the scene it stops you “playing the emotion” and makes the scene much more powerful and truthful.
4. Escapade mug.
Being English I love tea, and where I work at IPA Productions, Catalonia’s leading Theatre in Education in English company, everyone tends to steal your mug. So, I thought if I’m going to manage to get a clean mug I will stamp my other company’s name on it! Now everyone knows not to use my mug and I always have a nice cup tea in the afternoon without having to wash up a mug!
I use this fake Oscar as the character Lillian Lawford in Silence. She is a grand dame of Hollywood who is presented with an honorific Oscar to celebrate her long career in the movies. Lillian started acting in the 1920’s, when the play is set, and had to overcome many obstacles, enduring bullying, blackmail and abuse. This play is the story of Lillian and how she breaks her silence about this sort of behaviour in the film industry. But the play is not only about Lillian’s refusal to speak, but also about society’s silence with regards to the abuse of women in the film industry and in the work place in general. I think the Oscar is a symbol of how the lure of fame and fortune can be such a powerful influence to the way people act and react to certain unpleasant behaviour. Curiously the Oscar statue is patented and these replicas are no longer available to buy!
1. DVD “The Passion of Joan of Arc”. A film made in 1928 by Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer which made an instant impact on me when I first saw it at the cinema. A powerful work of art that tells of the trial, torture, execution and moral victory of an extraordinary woman. I’m not very materialistic but this is a treasured possession. It really is an exceptional and very moving film full of close-ups and with a devastating central performance by Renée Jeanne Falconetti. I’ve been totally obsessed with the cinema since an early age and this film has definitely been one of the most influential for me. As “Silence” deals with the world of silent films, this is a fitting entry in my film collection.
2. Book. “Three Uses of the Knife” by playwright and film director David Mamet is a wonderful book that shares his theory on the writing of drama. Mamet has always been an outsider, especially in Hollywood. He is outspoken and ferocious in his criticism of both the theatre and film world and the role of critics. A source of inspiration for all of my writing that served me well for the writing of “Silence”.
3. Telephone. I have almost always lived with a bakelite telephone. Beautiful objects to have at home (who would think to use one these days?), they have become collectors items. In “Silence”, Hollywood producer Sam Kaminsky is constantly in demand and needs to conduct his business on the phone. This is just one of the many phones he uses.
4. The Mime Doorstop. I picked up this doorstop in Portugal some years ago. As I attended mime school as part of my training in London, the figure attracted my attention. I’m not actually a great fan of classical mime but with Escapade Theatre Company we have always put our physical theatre talents to good use.
5. Typewriter. I wrote a novel when I was 18 on a machine very similar to this. Somehow it was much more satisfying than using the computer that I do today. I don’t use a typewriter anymore but am often reminded of the end of William Burroughs’ book, The Naked Lunch, when its hero, also a writer, is stopped by the police and asked to sign a document. He realises that he’s unable to use a pen because he’s spent all his life using a machine. This machine is used by Linda, Kaminskys’ secretary in “Silence”.