Kirsty McDuff shares her thoughts with us on performing in ALAN BENNETT’s Her Big Chance, as part of TALKING HEADS. This Glasay! production will be at Mitchell Theatre for Commonwealth Games’ Festival 2014. Tickets on sale now!
What drew you to work on this production?
Earlier this year I worked with the fabulous director, Liz Carruthers on a production at Oran Mor called “Wake Me in the Morning” (part of a Play, a Pie and a Pint) and around that time she started casting for Talking Heads. I was a little bit familiar with the script and really wanted to be in it, as Lesley. I was delighted to be offered the role.
What is it about Alan Bennett’s monologues and characters that you love?
I think his characters seem really – dare I say it – “normal”. I always find myself thinking “I know someone exactly like that” when I am reading his work. Alan Bennett is incredibly accurate at creating real life people in his characters. This in turn makes it easy for us to identify with them, but throughout the normality there are some really bitter truths which can be quite hard-hitting. The monologues are huge. 30-40 minutes of speaking alone – a kind of poetic stream of consciousness with beautiful rhythms and cadences – (my stomach is currently doing triple somersaults at the thought). A total gift for an actor, but an almighty challenge. The monologues are also a bit like confessions, but I think the most important thing is actually what’s not said.
How relevant are the issues that Alan Bennett raises to today’s world (i.e. care of the elderly)?
The humanity of his characters is timeless and always relevant. It’s the cycle of life.
What does Alan Bennett tell us about our relationship to other people?
That we all – regardless of sexuality, age or success – can struggle. At any time in life.
Have you got a favourite family anecdote that’s similar to Alan Bennett’s view of everyday life?
I’m not sure about anecdotes but I’m instantly thinking of my great granny. She was an absolute cracker – completely and utterly adored, she nearly made it to 100! She was a very hard worker. She worked at Hillhouse in Hamilton as a maid and had to go out and milk the cows, but she was scared of the cows so she used to run away from them. Her co-workers used to say “Oh Polly, If you’re as feart fae a man as you ur fae a coo you’ll dae awright”. So my granny took this phrase and said it to us on a weekly basis. The coo could be a mouse, a bird or a spider but I think the point was to stay away from relationships when you are young. As a wee girl I found her fascinating with her hearing aid that squeaked, random Scots rhymes and sayings that fired out of her at any given minute and her rich, rich stories. She’d say “It’ll all be the same a hunner years fae noo” which I think is quite poignant and generally relates the cycle. She was a great believer in “What’s for you won’t go by you” and she didn’t suffer fools gladly.
She used to work at the jam works and took great pride in scouring her pan until she could see her face in it. No-one else got their pan as clean as she did. All the other workers were quite jealous because they didn’t get the same praise my granny did. One day she came in and a woman had swapped the pots so my granny had a dirty one and she began using my granny’s clean one. (This woman was a wee bit higher up than my granny was and had been working there longer). My granny was so angry because she’d taken so much time cleaning her pan that she filled the dirty pan with water and poured it over the woman’s head and said “You can sack me if you like”. But they didn’t. She was there for years. She was a tough cookie ma granny!