To celebrate The Birthday Party coming to Theatre Royal Margate (10 June) we have some interviews with the cast of the production.
Cheryl Kennedy –
Can you tell us what The Birthday Party is all about and how your character fits in?
Pinter says “the desire for verification is understandable, but cannot always be satisfied. There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false.”
The simple plot on the surface is: a young man is staying in a seedy boarding house in a seaside resort. He used to play the piano on the pier. Two men arrive who seem to have knowledge of his past. Their interrogation and treatment of him results in a frightening change of his personality. They take him away. My character is Meg, the landlady who adores him and has no knowledge of what’s going on.
The audience might have different ideas about what is going on.
Some of your early roles were in musicals in the West End in the 60s. What was the theatre scene like at that time?
I was working most of the time so only really got to see matinees. When I was in Half a Sixpence in the 60’s some of the other shows around that time which I saw were :How to Succeed, Hello Dolly, Little Me, Funny Girl, Cabaret & many more. Mainly American shows came over here but I was working in English shows. Some being The Matchgirls, Jorrocks & The Boyfriend. American Musicals were the dominating force.
You’ve worked with a formidable range of performers in your career, from Paul Eddington to Tommy Steele. Are there any performers who were particularly interesting or memorable to work with?
I have played opposite Tommy Steele in Half a Sixpence, as I was understudying Marti Webb. I was only 16 and Tommy was very supportive on and off stage.
Richard Briers was so funny on stage, a natural in comedy. He made us all laugh on and off stage.
Michael Crawford threw himself into Charly in Flowers for Algernon. I played opposite him as his teacher. He worked so hard and completely transformed himself; this was my favourite show. Rex Harrison was Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady. Playing Eliza on stage with him was always an extraordinary experience and a joy.
How important is touring theatre?
The West End is not the be all & end all of Theatre. For an actor to work in different towns & in front of different audiences is exciting & stimulating. People sometimes can’t & don’t always want to travel far to see a play or show. I’m very glad that a lot of companies are now going out on the road. They didn’t use to. I hope touring shows give people the opportunity to experience more diverse work.
Do you have any advice for young people thinking about pursuing acting as a career?
Do try and have a back up job for when you are out of work. Most actors have to do other jobs to earn a living. Make sure you’re the sort of person that can take rejection. That’s what you’ll have to get used to. Going to Drama school doesn’t guarantee you a job when you leave. It’s a very hard profession to be in. Think carefully before you enter it.