Second in our cast interviews is the leader of band of actresses – Lindsay Smith AKA Mrs Betterton:
Q. What is the play about really?
Primarily I think the play is about the delicate balance between truth and fiction, artifice and reality. The staging of this play with its scenes of performance on the stage, and scenes in the dressing room explore this. The characters bring in the ‘real’ world in their dialogue and behaviour, and the outside intrudes with dramatic consequences for all of those involved.
It is also about women’s lives, giving us insights into the intimate relationships forged and broken in the stresses and strains of a working life. There are many other themes in this play: the history of women in the theatre, witchcraft, women’s relationships with each other, women’s relationships with men in and out of marriage and sexual exploitation.
Q. Tell us about your character – Mrs Mary Betterton.
Mrs. Betterton is an experienced and accomplished performer married to a famous and respected actor/producer of the time. She was one of the first actresses ever to perform on stage.
Her journey in the play is that of woman facing ageing and the way attitudes to her change and how she responds. She fights for the values of art and artistic expression as transforming and uplifting and finds it difficult to accept more commercial ideas about women and public entertainment.
Q. Describe the challenges of developing your character?
One challenge is to strive achieve the standards of on-stage performance that Mrs. Betterton would consider satisfactory, so having a perception of how plays were performed at the time, keeping faith with the historical context and conveying emotional truth to the roles is something that I have tried to aim for.
In the play I speak lines as Cleopatra and Lady Macbeth so acting of these iconic roles as Mrs. Betterton is a challenge demanding the communication of layers of reality. I have no difficulty in chiming in with Mrs. B’s passion for art, and its intrinsic value. I relate to the experience of an older woman in society. She is, I think, a naïve woman who has spent rather too long on stage and backstage to have a real grasp of the realities of life, but this is a good contrast to the other more pragmatic and worldly wise characters.
Q. How has researching the historical background of your character helped you?
I think the research I’ve done has helped me respect the character as although she has been fictionalised in the play, there was an actress called Mary Betterton and I feel some loyalty to playing her respectfully and positively. Knowing the history helps me understand what pioneers these women were, and how some of their experiences are very similar to those faced by actresses today.
For more information and tickets to see Playhouse Creatures go to http://www.hedgepigtheatre.co.uk