BWW Interview: Julia Sandiford Talks THE ONE, Soho Theatre

BWW Interview:  Julia Sandiford Talks THE ONE, Soho Theatre
The One promo shot

Following on from last summer's smash-hit Touch, Vicky Jones returns with her award-winning debut play.

Harry and Jo are up all night drawing the battle lines of their relationship with sex, violence and Wotsits. A viciously funny and daring play, The One invites you into the world of a couple trapped in a destructive and violent cycle of love and lust.

Vicky Jones's debut won the Verity Bargate Award in 2013. Back at Soho Theatre this summer for a limited run, we spoke to Julia Sandiford, who plays Kerry in the play.

How are rehearsals going?

Really good, we did our first run and that was scary but brilliant - we realised that we can do all of it in one go. We open rather soon and it seems reasonable to achieve everything we want.

What's great is that the play moves at such a pace and it's got such an arc through it. I'm not in all of it; there is this central couple, so I kind of thought that we'd be working on different scenes separately. But because it goes at such a speed we're working out the play together, and who everyone is together. We're having really meaningful conversations.

How much did you know about it before you got cast?

I knew of it and I was aware of Vicky's work. I missed the original production, which I'm kind of glad about. There's this whole imaginative world that I have thought of myself. It's so thrilling. I feel so lucky to be in it, because it's so well written.

What specifically drew you to the play?

I'd say a number of things. It's so honest about the relationships between people, because there's a couple that are so evenly matched. These people are so together, but so toxic and damaging - they're not able to let themselves go, and I just thought it was so brilliant because by being evenly matched they share a real pain.

I was also so excited by the reality. Something we discussed in rehearsals was that four years ago you see this couple and you think "God. That's awful and appalling, I'm going to watch it like a zoo." And it feels like now is a time where you watch it and you recognise yourself in it. You can really identify with all of the different relationships they're in and it's going to be brilliant for an audience to recognise in themselves and maybe think about the lives they are leading.

Another thing I was drawn by was that there were two great roles for women, and particularly there's a presentation of a woman that behaves really badly, but at the same time she's a completely normal person. I don't want Fleabag to have been this one beacon where we have a complicated, messy and badly behaved woman and we all point to the play saying, "That's it, we've done it!".

What's more important is that this becomes a character that we all recognise; it's something we can say exists and not just some sort of great oddity. For my part, Kerry, it was thrilling to see a woman who's having a crisis in her life and it's interesting to see how she deals with it.

I feel like Kerry has spent so much of her life being good and kind and supportive, and somewhat a secondary character in her own life. She reaches a crisis point and through that she becomes quite fearless. I think it's a surprise to her and it's a joy to play someone that's discovering that they can roar.

And where does Kerry sit in the play?

She is there as a challenge to Harry in terms of how he wants to lead his life. Harry is in this overpowering relationship that is damaging him, but he might think that this is the only way. There's so much passion, maybe he thinks they're meant for each other? Towards the end of the play he does say that Jo and him are special - which is something that people say when they're in an abusive situation.

And then there's Kerry as a contrast. She's a window of normality and love and potential happiness. She resembles another way and it's great for her to be introduced to present that choice to Harry, because then it's not fated that he could only be in a messed-up relationship. He could choose to leave, so what's he going to do?

But I think also Kerry in herself offers the audience a way of seeing another character who is also going through another crisis, and she shows that there can be all sorts of toxic and damaging relationships.

Where is she and what does she want? And how honest is she to herself? You know those people that walk around being like, "Oh I'm so good and kind..." - well are you really, when you're tested?

Do you think she is?

I think she is, but also it's interesting to see how far she's pushed. If you push a good and kind person, when are they going to fight back? And I think she's so pushed that she's taken to a place that she didn't know she could be in.

But then it's slightly reductive to think about good and bad. For someone that's always behaved well and supported others, when does she choose to fight for herself and her own happiness?

What's been an interesting moment for you when exploring your character/the play?

It's starting to make me question the narratives that we create for ourselves. You sometimes think that this is the only way it can be. It's made me think about my personal, romantic and professional life...

You make choices in life and you live by them and then you might get a surprise, because people don't respond in the way that you necessarily want. And that's when you're tested - you see what person you really are. How are you going to take responsibility for your own actions, rather than say, "Oh it's not my fault..."

Rehearsals have shown me that you show your metal when you're put into a surprising situation that is uncomfortable. By the time that Kerry reaches 30 she's decided what type of person she is and also she's got an idea of Harry from years and years of knowing him. But she now sees him with Jo and in some ways sees him as a monster and someone she doesn't recognise. Is she going to hang on to her idea of him?

Once again, how honest are we with ourselves. If you're honest you might get the chance to be free. If you dare... And I think the play and this job and this part has taught me how rich life can be, if you dare to do something rather than stick with your preconceived ideas.

BWW Interview:  Julia Sandiford Talks THE ONE, Soho Theatre
Julia Sandiford

For those that aren't familiar with the play, what's the difference between Kerry's relationship with Harry and Jo's?

Kerry is constantly supportive of Harry and Jo would rather challenge him. There's 10 years between Harry and Jo and he's been her teacher; I wonder if their relationship is more of a battle of intelligence.

Whereas because Kerry's an academic and they're of a closer age, I think they might share things together. They would watch foreign language films together, while Jo would just want to watch them in English.

If you took away the sex and the romance, then Kerry and Harry might be better suited. But of course sex and romance fucks everything up, doesn't it?

And why do you think Harry is with Jo?

Both of them are used to being the most intelligent person in the room, and suddenly they find another person who they won't always beat in a fight. There's no thrill in winning with Kerry because you're not competing fairly. And I also think Harry and Jo are really sexually attracted to one another - that kind of blinds you to logic.

What do you think the audience's reaction will be?

What we've already discussed about people recognising their own stories is really important. But I also think, and I really don't want this to be the hook, but I think the #MeToo movement has changed how we perceive things and talk about things and the language we use. I've said the word "rape" more often in the last ten weeks than I have in the last 10 years.

Some of the questions asked are: if you name something, is there only one meaning? What's right and what's wrong? With sexual relations, where does the power lie? Is something wrong if someone asks for it?

I think the conversation around language is so important. Something happens to Kerry where she has a very valid point and there's a definite conversation to be had around what's happened to her.

But in the panic of being goaded by Jo, she uses slightly the wrong vocabulary and then she becomes judged for what she's said. So I'll be so intrigued to the reaction to that. And I wonder if we are so reactive around certain kinds of vocabulary that we don't listen to what's being said? I think that's quite pertinent to now.

I've been surprised at how OK I've been with this text, because it is really close to the bone. But because the rehearsal is such a comfortable space, there's been such honesty amongst the whole room.

And it's not just three actors being spotlit and being asked intrusive questions; our director Steve [Marmion] also speaks so honestly about his own life, so it's felt very safe. It's really liberating having these conversations that we never have, and I want us to have more; but at the same time it has been hard because throughout I've been reflecting on my own relationships.

I've thought about what I've done and where I've been. But I've not been reflecting just on the past but also the future; in my future relationships, am I going to be this fucked up or am I going to now, with my massive wisdom thanks to The One, have a really empowered and wonderful future sexual and romantic life?

And I think the disappointing thing is I will just make the same mistakes, because we always do. I feel like there's every chance I'll go through this again.

Why should people come and see the show?

Because it's going to be a great night out that will get us talking. It's brilliant and it's bold. It's about all of us and it's really wonderful.

The One runs at Soho Theatre until 25 August

Photos courtesy of the Soho Theatre

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From This Author Charlie Wilks

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