BWW Interview: Actress Lizzy Connolly Talks THE TWILIGHT ZONE
Lizzy Connolly's past work includes On the Town, The Wild Party, Once in a Lifetime and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. She's now tackling Anne Washburn's adaptation of TV classic The Twilight Zone at Almeida Theatre; previews begin 5 December.
What first attracted you to this project?
I worked with Richard Jones on Once in a Lifetime, and found him an incredibly inspiring director. I love the way he works, I love the way his work feels to watch, as an audience member, and then to tackle as an actress. The Almeida is a very special venue too - there aren't many whose programmes are as versatile and cutting edge. I just saw Albion, which I loved - Victoria Hamilton is extraordinary.
Is your preparation different for plays versus musicals?
It's the same process really. The musicals I've done haven't been set in stone "Move here, do that" ones - there's been a lot of thought behind the text and the characters, just like with a play. I love working in depth.
Richard's process is definitely unlike anyone else's. He always seems to come up with a different angle on what you're expecting. You go in with something in mind, maybe from the audition, of how you're going to do this, and then in rehearsals he takes you in a different direction - usually the more risky direction - and you come back round and incorporate elements of your first ideas, but in a new way. It's fun and scary at the same time.
Richard's work is so precise - does your facility with choreography help at all?
I do like visually stylish work, and Richard's got an incredible eye. So yes, I can appreciate the aesthetics of things too, and I'm quite comfortable with creating that. We've got a fantastic movement director on Twilight Zone, Aletta Collins - I love seeing how she slots everything together.
Had you seen much of the TV series beforehand?
I've gone back and watched it - I love it. It's so of its time in many ways, but then the acting and filming style was ahead of its time too. Its exploration of human behaviour, what's real and what's not, there are so many questions we still have today. It's my favourite kind of genre work - thinky spooky, rather than jump scares.
How close is Anne's adaptation?
It's definitely tipping its hat to the original episodes and the style of those. It's actually good fun as an alternative sort of Christmas show, because it pays homage so lovingly.
If you're a fan, you'll definitely recognise some of the stories - it is quite episodic. Lots of the original characters and text are referenced. I watched tons of episodes before reading the script, and I do think Anne has picked out the really rich characters and interesting ideas and fun sequences.
Are you playing several characters?
Yes, everyone is doing multiple roles - it's very much a team player ensemble piece. It's a really talented bunch, and I'm excited by everyone I'm working with, which you need in this kind of piece. You have to have the grounding and strength in that ensemble, knowing you can trust in each other's work.
Are you enjoying that challenge as an actress?
Definitely - not just doing several roles, but different styles of roles. I often play quite quirky, maybe a bit stupid girls, so the roles in this are straighter and stronger than I've done previously, which I love. It's more complex and three-dimensional, and I get to show more of who I am and what I can do - as a performer, and as a woman.
Do the themes feel particularly resonant now?
It's so funny how history repeats. Now, with Donald Trump's finger hovering over the big red button, it's never felt more relevant to revisit that era's nuclear paranoia and mistrust of government and so on.
Twilight Zone isn't just spooky tales - it's about why we act the way we do, as human beings, about mortality and relationships and how we define our reality, our consciousness, how we handle the unknown. It just happens to look at those things with a great sci fi backdrop.
What's the tone of the production?
It really honours the original, in that it takes the 'not serious' seriously, and the 'serious' not seriously. It all fits together so cleverly. Nicky Gillibrand's design is fabulous - her costumes are so beautiful. Sarah Angliss's soundscape is amazing. Anne is always in the room, thinking, answering questions, having loads of discussions. The creative team are all so committed, and that translates to the passion that we feel as actors.
Certain directors create a particular atmosphere in the rehearsal room, and that's part of why, whatever role Richard asked me to do, I'd be tempted to do it. He's so inspiring, and he puts together clever, caring people, who in turn inspire one another.
What would you like to do next?
I want to do everything! More theatre, more film, more TV. I love comedy, but I'd really like to do more projects that make you think. I'd like to write and make work too - I really want to be as creative as possible at all times. I'd prefer to do a smaller project if it's one where I can contribute creatively, rather than stepping into a set role.
Finally, why should people come see The Twilight Zone?
I love a Christmas panto or ballet with my family - this is definitely different! But I actually think it's going to have something for everyone. It'll fill that gap for teenagers who want something they can relate to, some people will remember when it was first on, others will know all the references, and then some might not have have seen it, but it'll feel familiar because of all the film and TV it's since influenced.
So if you want something that's clever, entertaining, unusual and gives you plenty to think about, come enter the zone!
The Twilight Zone at Almeida Theatre 5 December-27 January, 2018
Photo credit: Marc Brenner