Greta Scacchi discusses her dream role in The Glass Menagerie

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Image courtesy of Headlong.co.uk

“We realise the saddest moments are sometimes also the hysterical moments “

Meeting one of your film icons is not an everyday occurrence. So when I was granted an opportunity this week to have an interview with Emmy-winning actress Greta Scacchi, I immediately jumped at the chance.

Greta is currently on tour with her latest role; in Ellen McDougall’s production of Tennessee Williams’ play ‘The Glass Menagerie’. Now in its final week, ‘The Glass Menagerie’ held one final performance in London this evening, 7th November at Richmond Theatre and is now moving onto Warwick Arts Centre, Tuesday 10th November until 14th November 2015.

The Glass Menagerie is a memory play, and its action is drawn from the memories of Tom Wingfield. Tom is a character in the play, The play is based on the playwright Tennessee Williams and his family life. Greta plays the role of Amanda, the frustrated and overbearing mother of Tom. Produced by Headlong Theatre Company, the play has been given a modern approach; with all the preconceptions and traditions of the original Tennessee Williams play removed. 

Plot Summary

By night, Tom lives the life of an assassin, an outlaw, a czar of the underworld, via his trips to the movies. By day, he works in a factory. In the apartment he shares with mother Amanda (Greta Stacchi) and sister Laura, the air hangs thick with the scent of sickly sweet flowers and his mother’s oppressive nostalgia. Laura barely survives it, a shadow of herself, clinging desperately to her only solace, a beloved glass menagerie.

When Amanda insists Tom bring home a gentleman caller for Laura, the fragile dreams of all three are shattered with consequences they may never escape.

A scene from The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams @ The Courtyard Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse. Directed by Ellen McDougall. (Opening 11-09-15) ©Tristram Kenton 09/15 (3 Raveley Street, LONDON NW5 2HX TEL 0207 267 5550 Mob 07973 617 355)email: tristram@tristramkenton.com
A scene from The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams | Greta Scacchi seen her with Erin Doherty

On the day of the interview with Greta, I arrive at reception at the same time as a delivery of fresh fish. A young man is carefully handling the crate. I wait behind him breathing in the faint fish scented air while he talks to the receptionist. I think no more of it and rush on to Studio 3 to meet Greta.

I open the door, to a room of high energy. Greta Scacchi sees me, and rushes over to greet me with sparkling eyes and the warmest of smiles. Greta has a way of making you feel at ease immediately. Greta is distracted though. She is in the middle of a busy photo shoot. It feels hot, noisy, and chaotic. Friendly faces, rushing around. Buzzing with creative energy. Hair and make up is in full swing. Photographer is poised. I see the fish again. A crate of dead fish sits proudly in the middle of the room. This shoot is not for Greta. I scan the room, and stare straight at a lady’s hair free vagina. The stark naked actress in her 50’s, stands looking fabulous and body confident, and rightly so. (Her body looked better than most 20 year olds). I try to carry on oblivious as if this is a perfectly normal situation, while the actress poses up a storm with a still gawping strategically placed fish.

Once Greta is happy that the shoot can continue without her, we proceed with our interview. I can see Greta giving a mix of protective and approving glances back to the shoot ensuring her naked guest is fine and looked after. I soon learn that I have unknowingly come along to Greta’s other passion, her campaign Fishlove which she has co-founded since 2009. 

Greta has regularly been defined by her beauty and sex symbol image. I am keen to know how she feels in her new skin playing the role of Amanda, a faded southern belle. “It is a dream come true. It is a classic role for an actress of my age. It is a part that nearly all actresses hope to do. So I was thrilled to win the part.”

A scene from The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams @ The Courtyard Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse. Directed by Ellen McDougall. (Opening 11-09-15) ©Tristram Kenton 09/15 (3 Raveley Street, LONDON NW5 2HX TEL 0207 267 5550 Mob 07973 617 355)email: tristram@tristramkenton.com
A scene from The Glass Menagerie with Eric Kofi Abrafa

Greta has nothing but praise for her cast, Tom Mothersdale, Erin Doherty, and Eric Kofi Abrafa. 

“They are all young enough to be my own children, and I am stunned at their discipline’. “I think all three of them are promising actors and we will see a lot more of them.”

What was it like working with Ellen McDougall? “She is definitely a shinning star”. Ellen McDougall is part of an important new wave of young directors who favour a contemporary stripped-back approach.

A scene from The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams @ The Courtyard Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse. Directed by Ellen McDougall. (Opening 11-09-15) ©Tristram Kenton 09/15 (3 Raveley Street, LONDON NW5 2HX TEL 0207 267 5550 Mob 07973 617 355)email: tristram@tristramkenton.com
A scene from The Glass Menagerie with Tom Mothersdale

“Ellen is so clear about what she wants, it is wonderful and at the same time quite alarming to find someone so young with that much conviction. Ellen’s preparation process in rehearsal is something I hadn’t encountered before. It is very thorough. We spent the first week researching the period and all the characters. Including ones that are just lightly mentioned, like the landlord or the boss at Tom’s work. Every character was thoughly researched, so it become real to us in a sensory kind of way. Meaning, layer-by-layer was built in rehearsals over a 4 week period. Very intense. We had to let go of any preconceptions about the roles. Ellen is also very perceptive, she observes everything that actors bring to a character”. 

What would you like to say to readers interested in seeing the play ‘The Glass Menagerie’?

“Tennessee is really ahead of his time with dealing with the strife of bringing up a broken family, through those times when there is so much conflict. It is a very harrowing play, and all four characters have a lot of disappoint, disappear and struggles in their life. It couldn’t be more harrowing.  Yet it manages to come across also very funny, quite naturally.  Through the paring away it becomes timeless. The humour in the lines comes to the surface and we realise the saddest moments are sometimes the hysterical moments.”

After seeing Greta’s commanding performance this week myself, I strongly recommend going to see this play. Tickets can be purchased from Headlong and at the Warwick Theatre

Special thanks to Greta Scacchi for her interview with Public Description.

Look out for special feature on the Fishlove campaign here on Public Description in the next few weeks.