This January sees the return of firm Bristol favourite and one of the highlights of our 250th Anniversary year, Pink Mist. With the company now back in the Theatre, we caught up with returning cast members Peter Edwards (Taff) and Rebecca Killick (Lisa) to discuss bringing this special show back to life in 2017.
What excites you most about the return of Pink Mist?
Peter: It’s a story that still touches the hearts of so many families in the UK so what I’m most excited about is bringing it across the country and telling it to regional theatre audiences who haven’t yet had a chance to hear it.
Rebecca: I’m excited to have a new Arthur, this time played by the lovely Dan Krikler. I think it has really changed up what everyone is doing. It feels like we have a new energy that’s keeping the show fresh and, in a way, creating a new retelling of the same thing.
Peter: After two previous runs here in Bristol and a London transfer, it feels like we’ve performed this show a million times and yet Dan’s come in and will say words in rehearsals that make me go, ‘woah, I never realised that before…’ It’s a breath of fresh air.
Rebecca: Yeah. It’s really reminding us of and highlighting different aspects of the story that we maybe didn’t hone in on the last time we did it.
You’re both returning from the show’s run last year. What drew you back to these characters?
Rebecca: Lisa’s story is one that is probably so common for someone who’s married to or has a partner in the army who has gone through PTSD. It’s such a common story that’s still so resonant and current right now. There’s a lot of depth to her; her anger and bitterness towards the country, the government, the army and that whole world. It’s nice to delve into it again because Owen Sheers’ writing contains so much substance for her character.
Peter: I find it’s the strength of both the men and the women in the story that resonates with so many audience members. I remember during the last run, people came out to me to say, “Oh, your story really connected with me” or “It was really similar to my own experiences”. It really makes you want to keep on doing it because you realise you’re not just playing outlandish cartoon characters, you’re playing real people. That’s what I enjoy – what I relish. With Taff, I feel like there’s always more I can do, more places to go, more depths to take him to. That, and just the simplicity of the fact that it’s such a great script. The joy you have in saying the words is a real simple pleasure, but especially with Taff. I’ve never had a challenge like him with any part I’ve played before. He flexes the acting muscles well.
What’s been the biggest challenge in taking on these roles again?
Peter: I think the biggest challenge has been getting out of the mindset of, ‘Ooh! What kind of ways can I change this up?” or “What new nuances could I do?” Sometimes they can be completely wrong. We did a run through last week and I thought ‘Oh, wait. Maybe I’ll try out this scene a different way’, and it didn’t feel right. Not because it wasn’t the same as before, but because it wasn’t right for the character. So it’s all about reconnecting with the original reason as to why Owen wrote these characters, rather than just trying to be different.
Rebecca: Yeah, I’d agree with that. It’s been about a year since we performed the show last and you, as an actor and as a person, change so much within a year. I feel like we’ve all come back in with a fresh energy and ideas but there’s something so solid about the story as it stands that you can’t veer too far away from what we had originally, especially since it did work so well the first time around.
You’re hitting 11 other venues following your stint here. How are you feeling about spreading this Bristol story across the UK?
Rebecca: Very excited. Knowing that at every venue we go to there will be people who haven’t yet heard the story and seeing how it resonates with them. It’s a story that’s still so current now – a story that will never get old. For many people the fear of war is constant and I think this show paints a really clear picture of how it affects the people who are directly involved. Playing one of the female roles on the other side of it, it’s great for me to see this impact on women in the audience as well.
Peter: It’s going to be interesting. I remember when the idea of touring other venues first came about almost a year and a half ago. This was even before we went to London. People were asking me, ‘Are you going to change the accent? Are you going to base it in London? Newcastle? etc.” But you just don’t need to. Although Owen chose Bristol, it could be set anywhere because, at the centre of it, it isn’t the location but the story at the heart of it. It’s the effects that war has had on the many females, males, family friends, colleagues involved. My excitement comes from being able to take this story to some amazing regional theatres across the country and have their communities come see us and have Owen’s story spread.
With it being such a hard-hitting show, have you found it difficult to inject humour into the rehearsal room?
Peter: Rebecca and I have just finished up another production together in Bath and I think, particularly with us, we find it particularly challenging not to laugh at each other all the time
Rebecca: Not corpsing is the main problem!
Peter: Yeah, that’s the toughest thing. We just have to look at each other and we’ll start laughing – no matter how serious the play is. Sometimes even because the play is serious you can’t help catching each other’s eye and having to bite your tongue.
Rebecca: I think just having Dan, who’s so brilliant, has created a really lively new energy. The five of us who returning for the tour had already built up a really close bond but Dan’s integrated really nicely into that. We all feel really comfortable with each other and get on really well, so any moments in the show that need a little light heartedness or an injection of humour come quite naturally to us. I think that both Directors, John (Retallack) and George (Mann), are very good at drawing that out of us as well.
Peter: Despite it being a very hairy story, it’s a very light rehearsal room. We have so much fun. Even in our warm-ups we can have a laugh, a big joyous thing, and then when the time comes we really switch it on.
Rebecca: It is a dark story but it’s also an important one. The whole point is that there’s a sense of hope and a lightness to the telling of it and I can’t wait to share it in so many places across the UK.
Pink Mist returns to Bristol Old Vic for 7 shows only 23-28 Jan before setting off on its national-tour 31 Jan-1 Apr. For more information and to book tickets, click here.