The Big Interview: Siobhan Redmond
photo source: Yorkshire PostEven a short time spent with Siobhan Redmond makes you feel that she’d be a very good person to be with if you got lost in the jungle.
She’d somehow manage to keep you laughing as you both grappled with snakes, slapped the bugs out of your hair and pulled leeches off your ankles. Put simply, she’s terrific company, and seems to see the funny side of every situation.
A vastly versatile actress of 30 years experience across everything from regular appearances with the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre of Scotland to long-running roles in The Bill, Holby City, Taggart and as ball-breaking cop Mo Connell in Between the Lines, she says she’s the “pest in the room” at rehearsals who relentlessly asks questions.
“I often wonder where the talking is coming from, then suddenly realise it’s me,” she says, her delivery somewhere between a giggle and a groan. Barely pausing for breath, she goes on: “I like to try and be as clear as possible about what we’re heading towards.
“I never suffer in silence – although some colleagues maybe wish I would. I realise my manners are not what they should be and I should sometimes shut up.”
It’s a co-production between West Yorkshire Playhouse and Glasgow Citizens’ Theatre, and the contemporary setting comprises three acts of the 400-year-old classical text by Christopher Marlowe plus two specially commissioned acts (three and four) by Irish writer Colin Teevan. The production promises lots of smoke and mirrors, with stage illusions created by magic consultant James Freedman.
Faustus is positioned as a modern day conjurer, whose hunger for notoriety is satisfied at a price when he makes a pact with the Devil (in the guise of Mephistopheles) in order to learn the black arts that will secure his celebrity among the rich and powerful.
“There’s always been argument over whether Marlowe actually did write acts three and four and some evidence that he didn’t, “ says Redmond. “Colin’s writing has brought something new and spellbinding to the piece, casting a different light and contrasting high tragedy with low comedy.”
As for the controversial casting of a woman as Mephistopheles – thought to be a first in this country: “People are entitled to their opinions, and it may upset a some who have a certain idea about the classical play. Faustus was orphaned and brought up by foster parents. He then became an academic, and has never known about women, so making Mephistopheles a woman makes sense. Anyway, in the end he sells his soul for a pig in a poke.
“(Some people) may hate it, but I hope most will come with an open mind. For me, those creatures who are not quite of this world like Mephistopheles are very exciting to play. You need to make them recognisable, yet you also have to believe that they’re from a different place.
“In this version Mephistopheles tells a story, and she is at times mother, sister, lover. She’s Arthur and Martha, she comes in different shapes and forms – and the price I have to pay for all this intense variety is that I get to wear a series of costumes that make me acutely physically uncomfortable.
“But it’s a small price. I’m the luckiest person in the world because I get to dress up every day and play.”
Read more at Yorkshire Post
Doctor Faustus, West Yorkshire Playhouse until 16 March; Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow, 5–27 April. www.citz.co.uk
Siobhan Redmond plays devil's advocate with Doctor Faustus
Herald Scotland interview
The lady’s for burning
You'd never confuse her with Clara Bow or Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, but this afternoon Siobhan Redmond can only be described as an It Girl. She’s telling me about the part she’s playing in Doctor Faustus, Christopher Marlowe’s soul-selling tragedy, and she just can’t settle on a gender. “I get to be both Arthur and Martha, which is delightful,” she says. Delightful but hard to pin down.
Breaking with convention, director Dominic Hill has cast the Glasgow-born star of Between The Lines and Holby City as Mephistopheles, the fallen angel tasked with luring the scholarly Doctor Faustus off the straight and narrow. It’s a part normally played by a man and, as she gets to grips with the role, Redmond isn’t able to say whether she’s a boy or whether he’s a girl or – more likely – whether it’s a matter of “yes to all of the above”.
“Demons are not gender specific,” she says at the end of a day’s rehearsal in Glasgow. “But they’re generally known as a boy and, yes, I’m generally known as a girl. That was one of the things that intrigued me. I had been thinking of Mephistopheles as ‘him’ but he ruthlessly exploits his femininity, so I’ve arrived at ‘it’ by default, just to remind myself that it isn’t human and you can’t expect it to conform to a set of gender stereotypes.”
So “it” it is – although she drifts in and out of “he”, “she” and “they” during our conversation. And that’s an ambiguity that suits this charismatic actor just fine. Having played the garrulous Barbs Marshall in Liz Lochhead’s Perfect Days, the manipulative Elizabeth I in Schiller’s Mary Stuart and the obstinate Gruach, aka Lady Macbeth, in David Greig’s Dunsinane (back for another Scottish outing later this year), she is more than up for the challenge of throwing an extra layer of mystique over one of the great roles of English-language theatre.
“The demon would come to you in a way that you would find most palatable,” says Redmond, who studied English language and literature at the University of St Andrews. “This demon doesn’t quite give you what you want, but close enough for you to find it interesting enough to become engaged with.” In the case of the orphaned Faustus, the vision of Mephistopheles as a potential mother figure could be very alluring indeed.
Breaking with convention one step further, this co-production between Glasgow’s Citizens and the West Yorkshire Playhouse is not exclusively the work of Marlowe. Acts one, two and five are as he wrote them in 1592, but three and four are modern-day rewrites. There are stylistic inconsistencies that suggest Marlowe may never have written those two acts in the first place and, as they are also full of satirical references long past their sell-by date, Hill felt justified to bring in playwright Colin Teevan as a 21st-century collaborator.
Read more at The Scotsman
My Day on a Plate: Siobhan Redmond, actress
A short, food-related interview at The Telegraph