Masque’s latest production, Alan Ayckbourn’s “Woman In Mind” takes to The Playhouse Theatre stage this week. We’ve managed to corner the show’s director, Maggie Holland, for a quick chat before the cast take the spotlight…
You’ve got a lot of experience performing with Masque, most recently appearing in The Rover at the Holy Sepulchre – have you performed or directed any Ayckbourn before?
I directed “Mr Whatnot” for Moulton Players in 2007. That is another of Ayckbourn’s comedies where part of the action takes place in the imagination of one of the characters. One of the actors in “Woman in Mind”, Martin Williams, was also in the cast of my production of “Mr Whatnot,” although he was playing a very different character. I have also acted in a production of “Absent Friends” and in “Confusions”, which is a series of short linked plays. This is the first time I have been involved in an Ayckbourn play for Masque though.
What drew you to Woman In Mind?
Initially, it was just one of several plays I read with a view to “doing an Ayckbourn“. As soon as I read the script I knew I wanted to do it though. The Masque have a lot of good female actors and it is difficult to give them as many roles as they deserve. The central character in “Woman in Mind,” Susan, is a great opportunity for a strong actress. It is also a timeless play that reflects characters and foibles we all recognise and makes us ask the question “Is there any such thing as a perfect family?”
You’ve got a strong cast of regular faces; how has it been working with them?
Working with this cast has been a delight. They are all very professional and have bravely put up with the cold rehearsal conditions. Some of them I have known for years and others I have met more recently. I have worked with all of them before in some way or other. My particular delight in this production is to be directing Ciaran Redmond, who is playing Rick. I first got to know Ciaran when I was leading Moulton Player’s Youth Group and he was one of the younger members of the group. To see how he has blossomed into a talented young adult makes me proud that I may have helped to encourage him back then
This is a classic dark comedy from Ayckbourn with a bit of a twist – has it been challenging balancing the “real” and the “imaginary” characters?
Not really, because the important thing to remember is that the audience are seeing the action through Susan’s eyes and to her everyone is real. There will be slight lighting changes to help the audience understand when her mind jumps from real to imaginary. At first the actors had to remember not to see or hear each other, but with rehearsal that has all been sorted.
What do you think is going to surprise the audience about this production?
Well hopefully the ending will be a bit of a surprise, but more generally speaking I hope it will challenge their perceptions of the people around them. We never find out for certain whether Susan’s mental decline is due to the physical trauma at the beginning of the play or whether it is something else. There is a lot more awareness these days of mental illness and I think this play helps people to see what it can be like from the sufferer’s point of view. Having read back my answers to these questions I think I need to finish by reminding everyone that it is a comedy and hopefully they will find it funny as well as poignant
Woman in Mind is presented by Masque Theatre from Tue 13 – Sat 17 February, at The Playhouse Theatre, at 7.30pm. Tickets are £9 (£8 concessions), and available online. For more details, please visit the group’s website.