BWW Interview: Glyn Pritchard and Kathryn Hunter Talk ONE GREEN BOTTLE
Written by the prestigious Japanese playwright, director and performer Hideki Noda, One Green Bottle is an existential tragicomic play starring Hideki himself, Olivier Award-winning and acclaimed actor/director Kathryn Hunter and Glyn Pritchard, in an English translation adapted by Will Sharpe.
What made you want to become an actor?
Glynn Pritchard: When I was three or four I went with my mum to take my elder sister to school, and whilst my mum was talking to the headmaster I sneaked off to my sister's classroom and hid under the teacher's desk. The lesson started and the teacher found me and stood me up in front of everyone. All the children were laughing and screaming. I think it started then.
Kathryn Hunter: I had a friend at school that used to drag me up to the top of the hill to listen to her audition pieces. I just enjoyed watching her. Then I started to attend evening classes and I found the whole world of pretend wonderful.
And then at university, what captivated me was the sense that a lot of people were working towards the same end - the community aspect and idea of being a part of a great team. It was electric. I was hooked.
What job would you do if you weren't in the industry?
GP: Gardening, all aspects of it.
KH: A simultaneous interpreter. I like languages and I guess I've ended up being an interpreter of sorts.
You're currently starring in One Green Bottle. Can you tell us about it?
GP: It's a farcical, slapstick cautionary tale.
KH: It's about the deterioration of family values and cultural traditions, and the loss of common faith in the one thing that binds people - so the characters go out and become obsessed with different things.
And what made you want to be involved?
GP: I was drawn to the idea because it was another opportunity to work with Hideki and Kathryn. It's a rather unique experience.
KH: Essentially, Hideki. It's a very special collaboration working with him because he has a very original imagination; he's very modern and yet always carries something about Japanese traditional culture within him.
The other reason was Will Sharpe's adaptation - it feels like nothing's been lost. Will was born in Tokyo and lived there until he was nine years old. He's seized the spirit of the play.
What's it like to work with Hideki, someone from an entirely different performance background?
GP: Hideki has a vast knowledge and experience of different theatrical practices - he doesn't necessarily have only one cultural approach to theatre making. But that said his Japanese theatre background influences much of what we do.
KH: In Japan Hideki's a complete superstar. He broke a lot of boundaries when he was younger by blasting through and creating theatre that was modern. He went and wrote, directed and invented his own style. It was very anarchic and physical, and created a huge following from young people.
At the time Japanese actors weren't use to collaborating so much, but Hideki came over to the UK in the early Nineties to work with Complicite. He picked up their methodology of working together. So, with us, it's always collaboration. He's directing, but he's taking ideas from us, and expecting us to have an input as well.
Can you tell me more about the music and soundscape?
GP: We're very privileged to have the music and some sound effects played by a highly respected Kabuki musician, Denzaemon Tanaka XIII. He's a great juxtaposition to what's going on on stage. He also has a fantastic theatrical eye and was very much involved in the making of the piece.
KH: Denzaemon Tanaka XIII is a full-time working musician at the great Kabuki Theatre in Tokyo, and is on stage with his traditional instruments and vocalisations. He's dressed in traditional costume, playing and deliberately juxtaposing between the old and the new - fitting the theme of the demise of cultural values. And then Marihiko Hara has composed the modern music, again adding to the deliberate clash of cultures.
What do you think the British audience's reactions will be?
GP: I have absolutely no idea. It won't be what they're expecting, that's for sure. You mention Japanese theatre to most people and they conjure up a sort of reserved, traditional, respectful theatre. Well, they ain't getting that!
KH: I hope they'll enjoy the physicality, the cross-gender casting and the clash of the old and the new. It's heightened - I hope they'll find it funny and enjoy the anarchy in the same way we enjoy it from people like Rik Mayall and John Cleese. And I hope they enjoy the themes - which is essentially about family, what it means, and how it works in today's modern world.
Tell me something that you're passionate about, and why?
GP: Well, I'm angry about a lot of things - I don't know if that's the same as passion? In a nutshell: I'm passionate about 'fair play'. Other than that, it's growing my own food. Planting a seed, nurturing it and watching it grow, and to then finally eat it is, in my mind, the closest you'll ever get to feeling like God.
KH: I'm passionate about yoga. I do it every day before going on stage. What I like about it, and how I think it relates to acting, is that it's essentially a spiritual practice; to be still and in stillness you may discover a bit about the mystery of life.
You've worked on some really exciting projects; what's been one of your highlights?
GP: Blodeuwedd is an ancient Welsh story that was dramatised by Saunders Lewis. We did an open-air, promenade production of it on top of a mountain in North Wales. The backdrop was the Snowdon mountain ranges and the final scene was positioned and timed so that it was lit by the sunset.
KH: Kafka's Monkey, King Lear... and then whatever is the current project becomes the most exciting. And of course, working with Hideki - he's extremely gifted and wonderful to be in a room with.
Which of your roles is closest to who you really are?
GP: Truth is, I don't really know who I am but there is, to different degrees, a bit of me in all of them.
KH: The thing is, you learn yourself into a role. I remember being asked to play Electra and thinking "God, she's just led by revenge, I don't know anything about that". Then you sort of examine your life a little bit and go, "That was revenge-led, that decision was definitely revenge-led etc..." So you kind of find yourself in it.
What role are you still yearning to play?
GP: Lenny from Of Mice and Men. I've been fascinated with the character ever since I saw a film version when I was a young boy. Now, he's a very tall, large and physically strong character and I'm 5ft 6in and weigh nine stone.
So I'm totally wrong for the part, and for years resigned to the fact that I'll never get to play it. Until a friend of mine came up with an idea of how I could. I hope to get working on it later this year. Hey, maybe I'll pitch it to the Soho Theatre!
KH: I've been asked by the RSC to play Timon of Athens and I'm really excited about that. That's rehearsing next October. And it'll be the first time that the RSC has cast a woman in a major male role.
I love the play; I directed it at RADA many years ago, because I think it's sort of unknown but very, very beautiful. It's usually thought of as a lesser Lear or a kind of curse play, but it's much more than that. It's like a parable.
Tell us something we don't know about you...
GP: Sometimes when I'm cooking, I pretend I'm doing a cookery show.
KH: I'm a yoga teacher.
What's been the hardest part of your career?
GP: Getting enough to eat!
KH: I don't know really. I have a twin sister who started as a social worker and then went into social policy, so every now and then I think I should be doing something a little more useful, that has a kind of practical input. But then you do a piece of work where somebody says that it really meant a lot to them, so maybe it is useful in a different way.
And finally, knowing what you now about the industry, what advice would you give to someone that is just starting out?
GP: Talent is abundant, opportunities are rare.
KH: Work at it. Work at your skill. And don't get distracted.
Photo credit: Helen Maybanks