This week in *drama on the waterfront, Kathleen Burns answers questions about playing Beatrice in A Servant to Two Masters, which opens at Circa on Saturday 2 May.
You are based in Christchurch and I believe this is the second Circa Theatre production you have been cast in?
KB: That’s right. Last year I came to Circa for the first time to play Jill in Mother Goose. I was introduced to the madness that is the Circa Summer Pantomime, and also the delightful madness that is Gavin Rutherford and Simon Leary! They are two of the funniest actors I’ve ever worked with, and their work in rehearsals for A Servant to Two Mastershas me in stitches every day.
Q. Did you know the Goldoni play before you were cast?
KB: Yes! Or rather, I knew a different modern adaptation of it. In January this year I finished a season of One Man Two Guvnorsat The Court Theatre. This was Richard Bean’s adaptation, set in Brighton in 1963. The character I played was Rachel Crabbe, and I’m playing the equivalent character here at Circa, who in this version is called Beatrice.
Q.What appealed to you when you first read this adaptation of A Servant to Two Masters?
KB: There were two main pull factors to come back to Wellington for this show.
One: As I mentioned, I’d just come off a season of One Man Two Guvnors. What would it be like to play the same character in this 200 year old story but through somebody else’s lens? Would I play the character in the same way? As it turns out, the answer to that one is “no.” My voice and physicality for Beatrice in this version is completely different to Rachel! And I adore that. Two characters who look, sound and move differently, who live in totally different worlds, but who at their hearts just want the same thing and are essentially living the same story.
Two: The second reason is that I blatantly just wanted to come and get up to comedic mischief with Gavin Rutherford and Simon Leary again. Those two are truly alchemists when it comes to making comedy gold, and if I can bask a little in the gleam of it then I am one happy actress.
You are playing a character called Beatrice who is disguised as a young man. Has that brought certain challenges
KB: I think it’s fun. I’ve always enjoyed gender bending shenanigans! Everyone should have a go at it. When I’m playing another gender, it actually starts to illuminate to me the things I assume my own gender identity to be. When adopting a manly voice in my lower register, I feel stronger and more powerful. Does this mean that I equate masculinity with power? If so, does that mean I equate femininity with weakness! I would certainly hope not, but maybe I make assumptions subconsciously. I could talk gender politics for hours… Somebody stop me!
Last year was very busy and successful for you. What were some of the highlights
KB: I’m going to pick 3 highlights:
- Playing Linda in Blood Brothers. Such a beautiful musical and a gift of a role.
- Doing The Court Theatre’s opening night of White Rabbit Red Rabbit. If you haven’t heard of this show, then you are missing out! It’s just one actor, but a different actor every night. There is no rehearsal, you just walk out on stage and are handed the script in an envelope. The actor discovers the play at the same time the audience does and it is one hell of a ride!
- Continuing to be a part of Scared Scriptless. This is a late night improvised comedy show which I’ve been doing for more than a decade now with The Court Jesters. I love this work. Sharp, dangerous, hilarious improvised comedy at its best. We were also the second highest selling New Zealand works of 2014 which I’m very proud of.
A favourite role you have played?
KB: Today I’m going to say playing Grace in Duncan Sarkies’ Saving Graceat The Court Theatre in 2010. I got to hit a lot of stuff with a hammer, including Jon Pheloung. Fun!
Q. And one that is an ambition to play?
KB: One day… one sweet day… I would love to play Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd. Sometimes I practice A Little Priestin my bedroom, shower or car just so I’m ready when the magical moment happens…