The Fugard Theatre’s large scale production of Shakespeare in Love starts up this week and will be running into the festive season. Written by Lee Hall and adapted from the Academy Award-winning (1999) screenplay by Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman, the comedy ran for an extended sold out season at the West End’s Noel Coward Theatre in London in 2014.
This all South African production features 21 actors and a dog, and is directed by the Fugard Theatre’s resident director Greg Karvellas (‘The Father’, Clybourne Park, Bad Jews, CHAMP).
Peter Tromp got the inside scoop from two of the cast members of the production: lead actress Roxane Hayward, and supporting star Sven Ruygrok.
How is Shakespeare in Love the play different to the movie? What can audiences look forward to with the production?
SVEN RUYGROK: The dynamics of this local power cast brings to life the story of Shakespeare in Love like no film on a laptop screen ever could. I truly think the audience will be amazed at the incredible set, stunned at the beautiful costumes, get a free abs workout from laughter and fall in love with the story. Oh, and there’s a dog.
ROXANE HAYWARD: Let’s be frank – the dog steals the show! All in all, audiences can still expect as much adventure, poetry, comedy, excitement and love in the play as they saw in the film. The film and play have a few differences when it comes to character relationships and developments – for example, the friendship between Will and Marlow is highlighted more in the play. There is also more Shakespearean text in the play than there is in the film.
Tell us about your character, what the rehearsal process was like and the journey you underwent to find your character. Did you employ any specific methods during the process?
HAYWARD: I play the role of Viola De Lesseps. She is a young lady born into wealth who dreams of a life as an actor – something that was illegal for women during this period. She defies the law and disguises herself as a man in order to act in her favourite playwright’s new play – ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by William Shakespeare. Mistaken identities and whirlwinds of the heart (ensue), and we see her fall in love with William (played by Dylan Edy) as she becomes his muse.
Working with Greg Karvellas has been one of the best experiences in my acting career and I have gained what feels like a world of knowledge from him. We had about five weeks of rehearsals and Viola grew from an idea into a living, breathing individual, enamoured by a world of spectacle, beautifully created by the other incredible actors and creative team.
There isn’t one specific method that I use during rehearsals. I like to craft my character’s back-story so that every line said is true to her. And I like to feed and play off the other actors with who I share the stage – that’s when everything comes alive. Two important notes from Greg that I will continue to carry with me throughout my career are “Be brave!” and “Play the stakes”.
RUYGROK: I play the role of Sam, a young thespian who is used to playing all the female roles on the London stage when suddenly puberty hits him hard. The rehearsal process was such a joy. We were all free to truly collaborate, come up with exciting ideas and interesting comical nuances that bring the story to life. I guess the only method I used was to listen intently. This is a big ensemble production with so much happening all the time that one cannot go off on one’s own agenda.
Give us three words you feel describe you best as an actor.
HAYWARD: Enthusiastic. Optimistic. Enchanted.
RUYGROK: Animated, raw and versatile.
* Performances are on Tuesdays to Saturdays at 8pm with a 4pm matinee performance on Saturdays and Sundays (except Sunday, October 15).
Tickets from R130 to R320 can be booked through the Fugard Theatre box office on 021 461 4554, or via Computicket.