Before the Nottingham New Theatre’s UNCUT Spring Season begins in earnest, Impact spoke to the co-directors and cast members of Stephen Beresford’s The Last of the Haussmans, the first show of the season.
1. What initially attracted you to The Last of the Haussmans?
Shane Chard (co-director): We were drawn to a family – oriented comedy piece from the outset.
Amy McWalter’s (co-director): We didn’t want a pure comedy, something everybody expects to be hilarious, and it is only that! Because of its relative newness it appeared unintimidating and you just fall in love with the characters!
2. Tell me about Judy Haussman, how has the actress worked to embody this older character?
Amy and Shane: Judy is The Last of the Haussmans, the matriarch of the family, but not your typical grandma!
Lydia Hawthorn (Judy Haussman): Her free-spirited way of life in the 60s has taken her to India and back, but has had an effect on her children. In the play, she battles with the idea of getting old but being young at heart! I had to remind myself that Judy is actually old, and therefore she can’t move as fast as she’d like. The others have said its like I’m playing myself forty years in the future, which is scary!
3. Jessica, playing 15 year old Summer must have also been a challenge?
Jessica Lester (Summer): I enjoy playing younger, and I’m not that much older than her, I’m 19. Being 15, you just try and get your point across, and everyone must agree with your way of thinking. At her age, 15, you really need your mum, and I feel sorry for her because her mum’s not there often! Fifteen’s a funny age, you’re not a baby but you’re not old either!
Amy: Some of Summer’s best moment are when she’s being silent! It’s when she’s not doing what she’s asked, or sitting a certain way that her character says the most!
4. On what level does this family-orientated play appeal to a student audience?
Amy: Because there are the characters like Summer and Daniel who are swept up in this crazy family. There’s something in each character that people will be able to see in their home life. That guy that you think your mum has always had a slight crush on and so you’re not sure about, for example!
Lydia: The comedic elements of the piece mean that if someone can’t relate to a drug-addicted uncle or whatever, then they will still laugh at the humour throughout.
Shane: Stephen Beresford’s writing is incredible; he captures the family situation so well.
5. It is less than a year since the production played at the National Theatre. Is this in any way intimidating?
Amy: It’s imitating that lots of people will have already seen the production both due to the ‘National element’ but also the fact that it was screened in cinemas nationwide. These guys of following in the footsteps of some serious heavy-weights – Julie Walters and Rory Kinnear, for example!
Lydia: Because they play is so contemporary it’s been very difficult to source any inspiration online. Of course Julie Walters is older, and closer to the age of Judy Haussman, and so I would have been interested to see her physicality in performance.
Amy: What is exciting though, is that our performance will be the student premiere of The Last of the Haussmans. I’m tempted to invite Stephen Beresford, but I’m a bit nervous about that!
6. What can you tell me about location and set?
Amy: Well firstly, that the PAS (Performing Arts Studio, Trent Building) is not the National Theatre, and we’ve had to make allowances for this! Secondly, Judy Haussman is a hoarder and therefore the house (or set) has got to be full of, well just stuff really! We just need the volume of props, most of them aren’t even used! The various charity shops of Nottingham should expect a visit in the very near future!
7. Talk to me about the rehearsal process. What have been the most enjoyable/ challenging aspects?
Amy: We’re the first UNCUT show of the season and time constraints have been a challenge, but we’ve taken them in our stride!
Lydia: I haven’t done a play since I was at school, I’m now third year. We did plays in 3 months and not 3 weeks!
Shane: The collaborative nature of the process has been very rewarding. Due to the nature of the play, we have all reacted differently to the situations that arise for the family and its been interesting to deliberate over the many ideas that have arisen.
8. And finally, in each of your opinions, why should people come and see The Last of the Haussmans?
Shane: Not only is it hilarious, it shows so many different relationships that people can relate to. Every family argues but most still love each other at the end of the day; it’s a very true representation. The audience gain an insight into a very intimate family scenario.
Jess: Yes, as member of the audience you will be a fly on the wall!
Lydia: This play includes some of the most touching scenes that I have ever had the pleasure of acting in and this is what makes it stand out. Yes, it is hilariously funny at times, but so are lots plays. It’s rare that you find comedy alongside such touching moments. You will leave The Last of the Haussmans reflecting on what you have seen and this is special in itself.
All: For lovers of naturalistic comedy, kitchen sink drama, this play ticks all the boxes. The audience will go through a full spectrum of emotions during the course of the play and really will live vicariously through the characters.
Performances of The Last of the Haussmans will take place on the 11th and 12th of March, in the Performing Arts Studio, Trent Builidng, Uni Park. For ticket information go to: https://www.facebook.com/events/565872206764854/