Arts, Empowerment and University: Interview with Kate O’Gorman, Emma Pallett and Louise Harris

Impact Arts interviews Kate O’Gorman, Emma Pallett and Louise Harris, all starring in Lakeside Arts and Nottingham New Theatre’s collaborative production Blue Stockings.

Can you describe which character in Blue Stockings you play and how they are like/differ from your own character and your own university experience?

Kate: I play Tess Moffat, who studies Science (mainly Astronomy) and throughout the play she struggles in making a difficult decision between love and knowledge, eventually choosing one (I won’t reveal which!). I think if I was comparing her to myself she is more Science-based whereas I am more Arts-based and she spends a lot of time throughout the playing slashing the Arts and arguments I would make to defend the Arts.

Emma: I play Carolyn Addison, who is in many ways quite similar to me. She’s quite open-minded and headstrong and will offer opinions and put them forward. She loves to travel (as I do) but unlike me, she wants to be a doctor and is very much more interested in sciences, with her final project being on studying the impact of the Coriolis effect on ocean currents. I have however spent a lot of time around scientists so it is quite nice to be able to live the lives of people around me who have explained things like this to me before.

Louise: I play Principal Elizabeth Welsh, who is the head of Girton College (the women’s college in the play) and she is very different to me in that she is a teacher and a classicist whereas I am a mathematician. I think she has many admirable qualities as a figure though in that she is very strong-minded and passionate about the women beneath her getting the right to graduate and isn’t afraid of expressing her opinion.

How has working on a play at Lakeside Arts been different to all of the other plays you have worked on in the New Theatre? Have you learnt any new skills?

Kate: I think one of the first things you notice is that the rehearsal process is very different. It’s been a very intense three weeks rehearsing but you get a lot more time to research and explore character motivations and developing a character than I have had before with a New Theatre show.

Emma: You get a lot of chance to explore scenes in a lot more details than you get with New Theatre shows and you don’t stop to get it right. That is quite rewarding.

What do you feel the most valuable thing about being a modern day student being in a production of Blue Stockings is? Do you feel it has taught you anything about how you look at your own university experience?

Kate: I think it shows us how much we take for granted nowadays. Obviously, us as females now have equal rights to study but seeing how difficult it was for women to have rights is really quite eye-opening.

Emma: My character is quite modern, so it’s interesting to see my character in this quite old-fashioned environment. It’s quite fascinating to see how she interacts with other characters based on what she feels she knows and her own experiences.

Louise: It has made me quite reflective. It is now my final year and for ages I was saying I didn’t want to graduate, but experiencing this and showing me everything that women before me have achieved (in getting the right to graduate) has shown me that I can have the real world if I want it and that I am taking it for granted.

What do you feel are the most attractive and least attractive qualities of your characters, and why?

Kate: Tess is very determined and stubborn in a lot of instances. She has obviously shown a lot of determination to get to Cambridge. I feel sometimes that the audience will become frustrated with Tess’s naivety and how easily she allows herself to get side-tracked. Then again, she does learn from it in the end.

Emma: Carolyn is quite grown up as a consequence of her past experiences, but I feel sometimes she doesn’t think much before she speaks and that can be problematic.

Louise: Mrs. Welsh is very hardworking and very passionate, working towards getting the right to graduate (which has been the aim of her whole university career); but with that, she can be quite uncompromising and she can sometimes (because of her position of leadership) come across as very cold when she doesn’t mean to.

What do you feel this play has to say to New Theatre audiences/student audiences/society as a whole? What main message would you hope people come away from it with?

Kate: I think we have gone in with the idea of making it a play which anyone can see to learn more about the historical period, but I feel it is definitely more for university students as a kind of comparison to how things were and how things are now.  I also think it will be very eye-opening for young people who don’t know what inequalities exist or did exist.

Emma: I think it will resonate more with people who have been to university as a means of showing how much things have changed. I think a lot of people sometimes take for granted the battles which women had to go through to get a university education and I don’t think you realise that until you look back on it. Equally though, I think it will resonate with male audiences as much as it will female audiences.

Louise: I think even a younger audience will get something from this play. I mean my younger brother (who is unsure if he wants to go to university) is coming up to see this and I think he will be able to see from it just the wonderful opportunities going to university creates; so it can hopefully be inspiring for younger people.

What challenges does doing a play set in the Victorian era face? Do you think students should do more period dramas?

Kate: I think one of the hardest things we all have found (in playing Victorian women) is ignoring your own instincts about how to behave as a woman. I also think there have been many times where we have struggled to understand differences in language and the importance of different forms of language (i.e the form insults took) in that period. I don’t think the audience will struggle to believe it as real.

Emma: I think that one of the challenges of doing a period drama is creating a connection with the audience even though your character is so far drawn from them, and you need to still create a relationship with them.  One of the most fascinating things about doing this play is the level of detail involved in props, costume and set.

Louise: I think establishing the authenticity of the world and making it believable is one of the most difficult things.

Sum up Blue Stockings in three words.

Kate: Empowering.

Emma: Inspiring.

Louise: Human.

Tom Proffit

Image courtesy of Nottingham Lakeside Arts.

Blue Stockings is running at Nottingham Lakeside Arts until Saturday 13th May, for more information and to book tickets, see here.


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