May, 2017: Lisa Burke will tread the boards for the first time with NWTC in And Go to Innisfree...
What has interested you most about your character and this play?
When I first read about the auditions for And Go to Innisfree I was delighted by three things:
-the rehearsals took place in the daytime
-all female cast and director, with a great age range for the three female roles
-it was a ‘short’ (one act) play, but, even so, each of the three parts had near equal weighting
And Go to Innisfree felt like a bit of gold-dust when I first read about it in The Wort for open auditions. It is not often that one comes across an all-female play which has only three characters, from younger to older, with a strong script and an uncommon question (for theatre) at its core.
For me, theatre work is often very hard to consider as I have two children for whom I want to be present in the evenings. Frequently theatre rehearsals are evenings and weekends, automatically ruling it out for many mothers.
I am a strong advocate of meaningful roles for women and this play is interesting on a number of levels, becoming more interesting as I get to know more about it through rehearsal.
And Go to Innisfree is centred around a women called Anna, now nearly 80 years old, standing on a beach in New England. She has had a good life, not without loss of course, but her memory is faulty. She has sold her house and she is trying to decide what the best next decision is. What are her choices? Young Anna, and Middle Anna (me!) play various voices in Old Anna’s head, trying to persuade her of one thought or another, pulling for her attention.
Young Anna reminds Old Anna of her frivolous nature, the excitement that is possible in youth, the lack of concern for consequence. I, Middle Anna, am more cautious, concerned and anxious. I probably have a family of my own and I know all about consequence. I have not yet lost my ‘marbles’! I am always trying to regain control of Old Anna’s mind and lead her down the path to the ‘right’ and logical decision.. to go to live in the condominium by the sea, not far from the house she has just sold.
Old Anna has a great poignancy to her. She is beginning to lose her memory and thoughts disappear or reappear with no apparent linkage, which is destabilising for her. She feels alone and frightened of making this big decision. Her only sounding board are the voices of her younger self in what remains of her memory. But her decision making rests on something external too… Just as we sometimes flippantly make choices depending on whether we see a red car or a green car, for instance, or flip heads or tails!
There is another lovely facet to this play… Anna’s heritage is probably Irish, as evidenced by a little song that Anna’s father used to sing to her. And so, between myself, Niamh and Rachel, we have the spectrum of Irish / American accents covered!
Have you enjoyed exploring this role?
It’s always a joy to delve into a piece of literature more deeply, as that’s where more and more is discovered. Why did the playwright use this particular idea here? Why ants…oh aunts! Why blueberry tarts? Why silver pickle forks and cut glass salt dishes?
The English language is so bountiful and through the use of words it is possible to place this play to a certain part of America, with another area historically referred to, plus the Irish roots to the family’s history. All of this can be deduced through the words.
My own role can hardly be spoken of without referring to the other two Annas as we form one being.
With Christine, we have worked on trying to develop similar body traits to our Anna bodies.
With the words of the play there is great overlapping of ideas and thoughts and linkages between the characters. We all flow from one thought to the next.
My job, as ‘middle Anna’ is to keep ‘old Anna’ on track; to make sure she forms the ‘right’ decision, the sensible and logical choice of moving into a condominium in the retirement village nearby. I am aware that ‘she’ (old ‘me’) is losing her mind and I try to keep anchoring her in reality.
For myself, I’m probably in the hectic stage of life with perhaps four children (we imagine, at that time), with ‘so much to do’, keeping ‘so busy’. I feel frantic and slightly stressed; always something to worry about for other people. I am in a ‘caring’ stage of life and have lost the edge of risk-taking and zeal that I once had when I was young. I’m now ‘sensible’ and I offer old Anna the grounding she needs as she drifts off so often on other avenues of thought. I’m tired. I worry…
I guess it’s quite easy to relate to this character myself as I am a mother (to two girls) and I know how life changes with motherhood. The opportunities for youthful ‘fun’ are no longer present in the same way. Risk-taking turns into a selfish choice when there are others who need you to be there, always.
My Anna would have lived in a time when the onus on mothers was entire. Things have changed somewhat today, but not as much as they could perhaps!
If you were to sum up the play in one word, what would it be?!
Palindrome (that’s a joke… I was thinking of the symmetry of Anna!)
Introspective (especially for females)