BWW Interviews: Stuart Hughes Talks Soulpepper's ENTERTAINING MR. SLOANE
To kick off their Summer 2013 productions, Soulpepper is currently staging Joe Orton's "Entertaining Mr. Sloane".
"Entertaining Mr. Sloane" is a dark comedy about an interloper, Sloane (played by David Beazely), who moves in with a family, which consists of a sister (Fiona Reid), brother (Stuart Hughes) and their father (Michael Simpson). As Mr. Sloane hangs around the house, his undeniable sneaky charm works on everyone, but that can't help him escape his dark past.
Stuart took the time to speak with BWW over the phone about his character in "Entertaining Mr. Sloane", being an actor and a director, and working with his wife, Michelle Monteith.
BWW: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me, Mr. Hughes. How does it feel to be a part of Joe Orton's play "Entertaining Mr. Sloane"?
STUART: I feel very thrilled. I'm having a great time with it. It's a great play to learn. I've never worked with BrenDan Healy before - I've seen his work before - I held him in high esteem in terms of the work I've seen. I just love being in the rehearsal hall with him - he's very rigorous and very thorough and yet at the same time gives a great responsibility, but he's very rigorous about the work and that excites me. And Fiona Reid and I have worked together numerous times. We worked together at the Shaw Festival, oh god, I have to say almost thirty, thirty five years ago, and then we worked together intimately since then on shows - we did "Doubt" together and "Streetcar Named Desire", [which] we did years ago for Soulpepper in the first few years. So it's been a real pleasure - she's a good friend and I have great respect for her. And Michael Simpson as well - we too worked together about thirty five years ago. And the young boy David Beazely has just been a real charm to work with - he's a hard worker and I think he's been just a ball to be on stage with. So I'm very pleased with the company and very excited by it, and I think it's a perfect company to attack this piece, which is not an easy piece to go about. I think trying to get it right - it has its pitfalls, and I think this is the company - everybody is working very hard and we had a lot of laughs, but we also took the play very seriously and I think out of that, hopefully comes the humour that Orton had instilled in the piece, but also the heart of it which I think is the real steal in the piece as well.
BWW: Tell us a bit about "Entertaining Mr. Sloane" and about the character you play (Ed). And what's the most exciting and the most challenging part of playing Ed?
STUART: It obviously centres around a family and somebody who enters that family - an interloper, and we're not quite sure whether he's sinister or whether he's naive, and the family is dysfunctional. And I think they're dysfunctional because nobody actually gives license to their true feelings - who they are, and so they're continually putting on masks or faces instead of giving license to their true natures. And I think when people do that, then what ends up happening is you end up acting inappropriately - fear becomes part of the quotient, part of your cosmetic. And then what happens is that fear forces you to behave - like in my case: my character is a bit of a dictator within the household and treats his sister almost like a servant, and has an appalling relationship - actually almost no relationship - with the father for twenty years. And I think the character Ed doesn't really admit to himself what his true wants and desires are, so he's constantly sublimating them, excusing them, disguising them and putting a facade over what it is that he wants, and I think he wants love, as we all do, but he has tendencies that he doesn't want to admit to himself or to others that he has. And in terms of playing the piece and in terms of rehearsing it and constructing it, that was the joy and also the great challenge was to try to figure out who this fella Ed was and all the other characters, but who this fella Ed was. In one sense, he's denying what it is he wants - what kind of relationship that he wants; and in the next breath, he's revealing blatantly it seems for a moment where his appetite truly lives - and does he lust for the boy or does he just want to be a mentor and a teacher for the boy; and is he lascivious or does he truly have honourable intentions in terms of being an instructor, a father figure to this young boy. And it's a dance - it allows for a great deal of humour because when we see somebody pretending to be something else that they're not, that is an opportunity for a great deal of classic comic situation. It reminds me very much at times of Moliere and some of the figures - I think about part two for some of the older figures who are lusting after the young women, but then they also pretend to have this higher moral ground, and of course that's where the humour lies within that. But that also allows, as in Moliere, where the real heart of it is and the sadness and the pain - you know when somebody has been deceived. And I think Orton has - and I love Moliere - but Orton has a very specific set of fangs, I think, to his writing, at least particularly this piece - there's a vicious sneer to it - a dark sneer. And it's a great thing to play, to try and find that balance, as they say, between the light of the piece - at times it almost feels like vaudeville musical - and I think he was using that intentionally - it has a quality of a musical two-hander at times. And then at other times, it feels very much like the angst that one can find in a Chekhov piece, where peoples' hearts are being ripped open and they're being deceived and it means everything to them. And to find that balance has been a real joy, and it's a real joy to go out and play and to try to figure it out every night, and do that dance.