What We Have Been / What We May Be We're speaking to Nicole Cooper this week, who has been a familiar face at Bard in the Botanics since 2009, playing roles including Rosalind, Viola, Ophelia and Desdemona.
1. When, where and what was your first encounter with Bard in the Botanics?
Shortly after my second daughter was born I had wanted to get back to work and into a rehearsal room and I was lucky enough to get a place as Gordon Barr's assistant on a production of King Lear he was directing with the MA students at RCS. I got to know him and the company and after we had finished Lear, Gordon asked me to audition for the production of Richard III that he would be doing as part of BITB season that year. The rest as they say...
2. Who would you describe as an unsung hero of Bard in the Botanics?
It is definitely the stage management/ production team. They work so hard to make sure the season comes together and are often in the gardens packing up, waterproofing, resetting etc. hours after the show has finished – even if it's pouring!
3. Which individual performance by an actor has made a particularly lasting impression on you (it might be one that you saw, worked with or was in a production you were involved with)?
I'm going to cheat because I have two. Stephen Clyde as Bottom in Midsummer Nights Dream – it was like a comedy masterclass watching Stevie do his thing in that production and I genuinely loved watching – we never knew what he was going to come up with so every night our reactions as the lovers watching the mechanicals were entirely genuine. My other one is Jennifer Dick as Emilia last year in Othello. Her performance in the final scene was heartbreaking. I remember reading the script and thinking what a hard part Emilia was to play. I hated that I only got to see it properly in rehearsals and not on stage in the show – I had to fight the urge to open my eyes and watch every night ( I was a very dead Desdemona at the time!)
4. Of your own work, what is the most fulfilling production you’ve been a part of?
I have been so lucky to play some of the best characters ever written. I don't think I can single one out because I've had 'moments' with all of them. I think the most fulfilling thing is to feel like you've told that persons story in the most truthful way you can – that you have had a connection with the audience, made them laugh or cry. The fact that we can see our audience in BITB productions means that when you get those moments in a show you can really feel it. I always felt it at the end of As You Like It when I sang Rosalind's farewell song!
5. Which Bard in the Botanics production or performance did you miss that you wish you’d seen?
I wish I had seen Merchant of Venice. Although I know the play, I've never seen it before and its a production that everyone still talks about and remembers fondly.
6. Which costume (of yours or someone else’s) would you most like to have worn or is simply your favourite?
Firstly can I just say Carys Hobbs-Sargeant is a miracle worker and every year she creates the most beautiful costumes. I loved my Ophelia dress and my Rosalind/Ganymede costumes. And I usually have costume envy for Beth Marshall's costumes – she always looks amazing!
7. What is your favourite spot in the Botanics Gardens, known or unknown?
I remember walking into the gardens for my audition for Richard III and I was so nervous. I found a quiet place near the Kibble Palace to sit and focus before I went in and now every time I walk past that spot I remember that moment.
8. Bard in the Botanics has staged 24 of Shakespeare’s plays. Which of the titles we haven’t yet produced are you most excited about being staged?
I'm looking forward to the extravaganza that will be Love's Labours Lost one day – it has a massive cast with so many different stories going on through it. I'd like to see what Gordon or Jen would do with that! I also love Cymbeline and it would be great to see a production of that play.