CARLA Langley has received rave reviews for her performance in Gracie, running at The Finborough Theatre (London) until May 15.
In between performances, Close-up Culture caught up with this star in the making.
Q: Is Gracie the most demanding role you have played so far in your blossoming career?You are immersed in your character for 90 minutes – and that of the other voices. There is simply no let up.
A: GRACIE is definitely the most demanding role I have played so far. There is a huge level of concentration required in order to stay focused on remembering the lines, the blocking and the emotional journey of the character as well. It has been hard work but also a challenge that I needed and an experience that has been very rewarding.
Q: Your performance in Gracie is spell-binding. How long did it take to absorb yourself in the role and to learn the words?
A: THANK you so much. It pretty much took me all of the three week rehearsal time to fully absorb myself in the role of Gracie. We worked in a lot of detail in the rehearsal room which was great and then I was going straight home and learning lines and watching documentaries on the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) until I went to bed basically.
Gemma Aked-Priestley, the director, was amazing and we did lots of character exercises and improvisations in the rehearsal which really helped me understand and create the character of Gracie as well. I am still going over the lines on my days off from the show too – ha-ha – just to make sure they stay in my head!
Q: What I love about your Gracie is the way you use the triangular platform and the rest of the stage. Your movement is as important to your role as the words. How important was Nicky Griffiths (movement) in this process?
A: NICKY was key to the rehearsal process. A great movement director is very much needed for a piece like this as I play 17 different characters. Nicky really helped me embody each character and find a way to make them their own.
Q: Were you touched by the story, albeit a fictional one, of a young girl who is innocent in so many ways but in others is old before her time? Someone who really is viewed by the cult she belongs to as no more of a carrier of children?
A: I WAS so touched by this story when I first read it and that is why I really wanted to do this play. It is a subject matter that is not really talked about. Not a lot of people know about the FLDS.
Once I started researching it and coming across girls just like Gracie I thought it was important that this story was told. Gracie breaks my heart when I think about what she has to go through at such a young age and what she witnesses happen around her. Yes it is a fictional story but there are so many cases just like this that are not.
Q: How did you go about being Gracie while still having to give voice to the other characters that surround her?
A: I THINK the key to being so many different characters at once and also Gracie is focusing on the needs of each individual character. It is a tricky one but as long as I have in my mind the wants of the character when I am voicing them then that makes it easier to react as Gracie and to emotionally connect to her journey. By the end of the play my brain is fried. Ha-ha!
Q: Gracie marks your debut at the Finborough. What is your view of what Neil McPherson is doing at the theatre – and your opinion on fringe theatre generally?
A: I THINK fringe theatre is vital and some great pieces of theatre come from many fringe venues. My first ever acting job was at a fringe venue (Theatre 503 in Battersea, London) and it did me the world of good.
I think Neil McPherson is great and the Finborough is such a highly thought of venue that it is always being talked about. I am especially excited about its June to August season that has just been announced. I see there is an Arthur Miller in there (Finishing The Picture). He is my favourite.
Q: Your CV already looks impressive – The Witness for the Prosecution and Shena in the outstanding Ferryman. What is next for you? What shall we look forward to seeing you in?
A: OOOO. I do not think I can say just yet but it is something I am looking forward to a lot. I will keep Close-up Culture posted.
Q: Who are your role models? I described you as the next Sheridan Smith. Unfair? Annoying?
A: DESCRIBING me as the next Sheridan Smith is probably the biggest compliment I have ever had. I love her. I really admire her as an actress and always watch all her work. She is so versatile and that is why I think she is so special.
So yeah definitely not annoying or unfair to compare me to her. Ha-ha. I am also a big fan of Carey Mulligan, Amy Adams, Saoirse Ronan and Cate Blanchett. I love watching any film these talented women are in.
Q: How important was Italia Conti in the making of Carla Langley?
A: ITALIA Conti gave me the tools to go out in the industry and give it my best go. I would not be where I am now if it had not have been for all the amazing tutors and mentors there. I had an amazing training there and I owe them a lot.
Q: Who have been the biggest influences on your career to date?
A: HMMM. That is a tough one. I have worked with some amazing actors that have influenced me a lot. I would probably say Brid Brennan and Dearbhla Molloy who I worked with in The Ferryman. They are both amazing women and have been a great influence career wise and just in life really.
Q: Finally, have you managed to take time out to sneak a look at Finborough’s co-production Masterpieces? Any thoughts on this play that is not afraid to pull its punches?
A: I HAVE not managed to catch it yet but I really want to as I have heard a lot of wonderful things about it.