So Rach, how did you come to work for Original Theatre Company?
I first heard about Original when I was doing 'The Miser' at the Coventry Belgrade, with the actress Lin Blakley. She had worked with Original on 'Vincent in Brixton' and mentioned what a wonderful experience it had been. Ever since then they were on my radar, so when a breakdown came into my co-op agency looking for Irish actresses for their next production of 'Dancing at Lughnasa' I forwarded the details to a cracking actress, Siobhan O'Kelly. She subsequently got the job, and so when their following tour for 'See How They Run/Twelfth Night' came in, Siobhan kindly returned the favour and submitted my name.
You play 3 roles in the play, including a hilarious scene stealing cameo as 'Shitty Meg'. Have you done a lot of comedy before?
I trained in Clown and Mask under John Wright. This background seems to steer me towards seeking the 'funny bone' in any character I play. Comedy is definitely what thrills me the most. My worry with 'Shitty Meg' is that she's very easily played for laughs, so I consciously try to fight against this. I want her to represent the 'lowest of the low', a convict who has reached a ripe old age by being manipulative, bold and opportunistic.
What was your favourite part of rehearsals?
Controversially I loved the early research period in the first week. We studied individually then reported our findings back to the group, consequently it felt like a collective learning process.
The real-life Dabby Bryant's incredible escape from the Australian penal colony, and subsequent survival, has been well documented and dramatised. Were you able to practically feed any of this research into your playing of the Dabby we see in the play?
Ultimately the Dabby I'm playing has been informed by Timberlake's script. Initially I was seduced by other 'versions' of this historical figure (because there are so many) and I foolishly thought I could incorporate them all into one mega Dabby! I attempted to draw up a factual timeline - from her arrival on the colony to her daring escape - but this clashed with the chronology of the play. Same thing happened when I collated a list of Dabby'swants/desires/needs (imagined from the 'historical fiction' books about her) but this just got in the way of trying to play the intentions of each scene. However, what I have taken from all these Dabbys is the overriding sense that she was a survivor - someone who had bags of resolve and an inner resource of hope. Someone who would employ a mixture of bullying and encouragement to achieve results.
Do you have any pre-performance rituals which help you prepare each night?
I found a couple of folk songs about Dabby, so they are now on my ipod and I love listening to them while I'm warming up.
The complex 'friendship' between Dabby and Mary is initiated with Mary being 'pimped out' for food on the ship. But there's a real shift in their relationship throughout the play. Is it Mary that needs Dabby or vice versa? This shift is nicely tweaked each time they appear. On the face of things, Mary relies on Dabby to be her mouthpiece and to secure all her 'contracts'. But the tide begins to turn by Act 1 Scene 8. In which Mary finally speaks up, in turn Dabby suppresses her. Dabby treads a delicate line of motherly manipulation for selfish gain, but it is Mary who has to 'spoon feed' her the lines. Dabby is eventually left behind (literally, at the top of Act 2 when she doesn't appear in 'Visiting Hours') but is this because she has distanced herself - perhaps preparing physically and mentally for her escape.
If Dabby had one item that she was allowed to bring to Australia, what would it be?
Unbelievably she did bring something back from Oz. Despite being recaptured and subjected to the worst treatment of all on her return journey to England, Dabby clutched onto a parcel of dried sweet tea. She had collected this before they embarked, and eventually gave it in thanks to her emancipator James Boswell. But my choice item would be....well considering she had nothing, a piece of Plymouth rock - which would act as her Talisman. A little piece of home.