La Ronde embraces life’s game of chance as a roulette will be spun to decide the cast’s roles every night and throughout the play. With over three thousand different versions of the show, what will your story be?
Leemoore Marrett Jr & Amanda Wilkin talk to #TBB10 about La Ronde being race-neutral, colour blind casted and the concept of having to learn all ten roles within the play…
1# Tell us about this play…
Leemore: The show is about sexual desire, insecurities, fear, reality of life, shining a light on taboos and human interaction otherwise never seen in mainstream entertainment amongst a whirlwind of other things. But what’s unique about this play is it has ten completely different characters being played by four very different actors in race, culture and gender. This is virtually unheard of in our world, a play where anyone can play any part, no matter what race, age, sexual orientation, gender, political preference etc. they are!
Amanda: We’ve learnt all ten characters. Right before each scene, a roulette is spun and the audience see in the moment which actor will play which part. There are over 3000 possibilities for the show, and I love that any actor could play any part, no matter our gender or colour!
2# What made you say yes to this project?
Amanda: It’s a different way to work – not knowing what you’ll be playing until right before each scene. But I love a challenge and I love equality onstage. When I read the play I was laughing at some bits and my eyes watered at others, and yet it still took a little bit of time to say yes. I think maybe because I was too nervous, but I’m so glad I’ve been a part of this.
Leemore: Inclusiveness and being pushed outside of my comfort zone. I read the piece and I was terrified and thought no way… Ten roles you say? Only four actors? Learning ALL those lines? Never knowing what part we are going to play but for the spin of a wheel? Crazy! That’s what made me say yes.
3# How do you manage to separate real human emotions from your characters, bearing in mind the more soul and honesty you put into a performance the better? Or is that not the case, is it something else?
Leemore: It’s very easy to separate real human emotion because I’m not going on stage as Leemore Marrett Jr, he’s protected, he’s off duty for however long the play lasts. It’s the characters’ dilemma. There are human stories to be told and I donate my body and mind to tell them no matter.
Amanda: It’s important to be able to try and draw from your own experiences when creating a character. As for separating during performance… well sometimes it’s hard to shake off the emotions you’ve gone through that evening. You give yourself over to this character, to this situation and we all know it is acting but it’s important to look after yourself in-between shows. It can be very draining mentally. But that’s the brilliant thing about being an actor!
4# The play was written at a time when sex was regarded as sinful and taboo, how much of the original play was adapted to help it relate to modern day?
Amanda: It’s been completely adapted to London 2017. The characters are different but still show people from various classes in society. We play a Doctor, a London Bus Driver, a Royal, a Prostitute, etc. We live in a world where talking about sex isn’t as taboo as it was back then of course, but still people have very different views on cheating, or on sex between people of different classes/races/genders. I think the new adaptation stays true to the meaning of the original but also it translates the story very well to today.
Leemore: From what Max Gill has said, a lot of this has been adapted to reflect the times we live and there are still a few caveats that spring up from the original.
5# In 2017 society is considered sexually liberal and free, yet some believe that it’s all gotten a bit too much and we’re suffering from an over-saturation of sex. Do you agree with this? Is there anything from the original La Ronde play that could work today in regard to toning down how much sex dominates our world?
Leemore: Why should we be so caught up in the most natural thing for humans and animals to partake? It’s like people who have a problem with a mother using her breasts to feed her child in public. The notion that you would have an issue with someone doing one of the most natural and necessary things in the world, says more about the individual. I feel the same way about this; of course there are dark aspects of sex, like porn – which isn’t a true reflection of what sex is, but excluding that, sex should be celebrated as completely natural. We need not return to the dark ages where sex was treated as this thing that should be kept a secret. What La Ronde does beautifully, is to reflect a true relationship to sex that can be messy, awkward, imperfect and is easily relatable. If we took on the notion that we are “too free and too liberal” then the things we show and do in La Ronde probably wouldn’t be allowed to be shown on stage.
Amanda: I don’t agree. I think every generation has probably had people amongst them protesting that ‘it’s got a bit too free’ but what does that really mean? If we were more honest about how we feel sexually, then we’d be more open about what we require as human beings – and that may not adhere to the social conforms or structures that we’ve made for ourselves, but, we may live happier. Everyone is different. What we see as a traditional relationship, or traditional family doesn’t exist anymore- and nor should it. We are learning to evolve and evolve in public, not just behind closed doors.
6# Four actors, 10 characters, different outcome every performance, how much pressure does this put on you as actors?
Amanda: Before every performance I have to warm up ten different voices, ten different physical ways of holding myself and I still am skimming through my script last minute, going through any lines I haven’t said in a couple days. It’s hard!
Leemore: It’s unlike anything either of us has ever put ourselves through as actors! It’s an immense amount of pressure that Max Gill has somehow managed to make us feel pleasure from. It’s what keeps the show alive and keeps the characters or actors on our toes. I have never been more anxious doing a play and I think it’s a great thing, because it forces you to push boundaries and “tear up that sweaty cling film barrier that tells us what we should and shouldn’t do!” – to quote a line in the play! I think that sums it up perfectly.
7# What’s the most important thing you need to remember to do in order to not break the flow and keep the play moving?
Leemore: Don’t drop the ball – simple as that! We have a unique understanding of the play because we know that what we do in the first scene dictates how the rest of play goes, so whoever’s picked, knows that they’re setting up what kind of energy we want to charge the audience with, and that’s a powerful thing. Apart from that we know all the characters, all the lines and can always pick each other up if we get lost in the sauce!
Amanda: Come in on your cue! Don’t leave gaps!
8# What’s been the most outrageous or difficult request for a performance – how is it playing another gender and how do you avoid using stereotypical actions associated with the opposite gender?
Amanda: We never play a different gender. I am always a woman, and always a Black woman, but my sexuality in the play changes depending on who I’m playing opposite. I think one of the most difficult things to rehearse was to get comfortable with the other actors so that when you’re playing intimacy it looks real – the audience should believe you’ve known each other your whole lives, or been married for five years, or bumped into someone ten minutes previous. In order to be able to feel comfortable in the rehearsal room you need generosity and patience from those around you, so you can trust they’re not going to laugh at you, or feel uncomfortable. Saying that, you need a good sense of humour! There was a lot of giggles in the rehearsal room. Thank goodness!
Leemore: Well there haven’t been any outrageous requests really. Max Gill has written in a very clear way that transcends gender, race and sexuality down to a t. We’re not being asked to play anything but human beings. Furthermore, we’re challenging the notion of stereotype for example, we can have a woman play the bus driver, a job normally associated with a man, and the audience will totally buy into it because we’re showing the human before anything else, and that is what people relate to, everything else is just decoration.
9# What’s next for you both?
Leemore: No idea! I am having meetings, but as of now, I will be going back into my “resting” shed!
Amanda: A holiday please. Somewhere in the middle of nowhere.
10# If you could roll a dice and pick your fate for your career what would you choose?
Amanda: I want to play the great Shakespearian roles! Lear, Macbeth, Queen Margaret, Hamlet, I could go on. Notice I haven’t only chosen female characters on my list! To make a living as an actor is so difficult, so if I can live comfortably, and make exciting work that pushes boundaries I’ll be happy. I think we have a big responsibility as actors to show stories from all corners of the earth. To stand up for the underdog by shining a light on their story and to keep challenging ourselves to show diverse stories.
Leemore: Get great roles based on merit and not Instagram followers.
La Ronde is currently on at The Bunker from 11 February – 11 March 2017. Find out more and book tickets here.