What We Have Been / What We May Be
Interview with Associate Director, Jennifer Dick
Today it's the turn of Associate Director, Jennifer Dick, to take a wander down memory lane and consider "what we have been" at Bard in the Botanics.
1. When, where and what was your first encounter with Bard in the Botanics?
Jen: The short answer is that I was an actor involved in the very first season, playing Phebe in As You Like It and Caliban in The Tempest, so I was there from the very, very beginning. Or even before then, I helped out at initial fundraisers, performing extracts of Puck and Lady Macbeth.
2. Who would you describe as an unsung hero of Bard in the Botanics?
Jen: Well, I hope that we would loudly sing the praises of everyone who works for us but I guess that in terms of the public eye, the unsung heroes would be our Stage Managers – people like Sam Ramsay, Kay Hesford, Suzy Goldberg etc. They have been an incredible and huge and important part of Bard in the Botanics but their work and their contribution isn’t always seen by the public. While our actors and our designers will get public acclaim for what they do, these are the people who don’t necessarily get the public plaudits for their work,
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)?
Jen: That’s a very difficult question for me because I’ve seen lots of amazing performances but honestly where my head went to first there was Paul Cunningham as Hamlet. He was the actor I wanted to play the role from the very early stages of wanting to do the play and I thought he brought such humanity and eloquence and wit and sexiness and charisma to that part. I always remember the moment in the scene at Ophelia’s grave when he shouted “I loved Ophelia” – it got to me every time I watched it.
4. Of your own work, what is the most fulfilling production you’ve been a part of?
Jen: I’m going to answer this doubly, as both an actor and director, and oddly enough both productions were in the same season, probably because the more I work, the better at it I get. So my most fulfilling Bard in the Botanics production as a director is Julius Caesar because I think it’s my most realised work in terms of what I wanted it to be and how it turned out, which were very close. Also, because despite it being a very serious, intense piece, we laughed so hard in rehearsals – we worked really hard but we had such an amazing time and the fact that it found an audience and made such a connection with him is all you can wish for any work you create.
And as an actor, I would say playing Emilia in Othello. I felt like I got to a place in my acting that I hadn’t got to before where I felt like it was fresh and new every night. Every time that I did it I trusted it enough to let it live every night – not that it was massively different every time I did it but just that it was in the moment and it’s the first time that I felt completely in the moment throughout a whole performance.
5. Which Bard in the Botanics production or performance did you miss that you wish you’d seen?
Jen: I think there’s only 1 – no, 2 productions that I didn’t get to see. One was 2003’s Much Ado About Nothing with the wonderful Sarah Chalcroft as Beatrice which I didn’t get to see because I was in Antony & Cleopatra at the same time. And the other was The Taming of the Shrew in 2004, which starred Kirk Bage as Petruchio and Candice Edmunds as Kate (Candice, who’s now better known as Artistic Director of Vox Motus Theatre Company). I’ve heard brilliant things about both shows but I think I especially would have liked to see The Taming of the Shrew on a particular night when one actor (who shall remain nameless!) looped a scene two or possibly even three times, to the hilarity of the actors and possibly the audience too so I think I would have liked to be there to witness that.
6. Which costume (of yours or someone else’s) would you most like to have worn or is simply your favourite?
Jen: This is dead easy for me. When I was in Othello last year, I played Emilia but also the Duchess of Venice in Act One and I had a rather wonderful Elizabethan costume topped off with the most incredible red suede, full length swishy coat and, believe me, all actors will know what I mean when I say there is nothing better than a swishy coat to do swishy coat acting with. I loved that coat and actually probably it will end up finding its way in to my wardrobe.
7. What is your favourite spot in the Botanics Gardens, known or unknown?
Jen: That’s really hard because I love the Botanic Gardens – they feel like my home – but my favourite spot for performing is the space we currently use a lot which is not the most beautiful place in the gardens (it backs up against the end of a glasshouse) but you can combine in it a large audience with all the stuff that’s great about working outdoors – I feel that in that space you can really draw the audience in, even a very large audience in. My favourite spot just to be in and where I will go and eat a picnic or read a book is up at the top of the gardens, in the rose garden. There’s a little enclosed space there that’s mostly hedged off and it’s very quiet and very peaceful and a lovely place to sit and enjoy a book or some nice food from Waitrose.
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?
Jen: I’m going to say as an addendum to this that we’re working from a canon that includes 38 titles so we’re not including the disputed titles like Cardenio or Edward III. In terms of the plays we haven’t yet staged, I’m excited to see them all make their Bard in the Botanics debut but especially Coriolanus because I love it (one of the very first speeches I ever learnt from Shakespeare was one of Volumnia’s). Richard II I also love and think is a really beautiful play. King John I only recently discovered through a production at the RSC which really split opinion but which I thought was brilliant so I’m excited to see what we do with that one. So those and many more – I can’t possibly narrow it down to one.