To finish our series of Q&As with actors of The Caucasian Chalk Circle, we chatted with actor Caitlin Beresford-Ord. Caitlin has not only performed in Black Swan productions, including As You Like It, The White Divers of Broome and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but she is also a Black Swan Teaching Artist, going to schools and communities to present acting and movement workshops. Caitlin fills us in on Caucasian and the rigorous rehearsal process:
Before you commenced rehearsals in late June, what were you most looking forward to about being involved in The Caucasian Chalk Circle?
I was in a production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle when I was studying at WAAPA in 1998 and the experience was wonderful. There is so much about the play that demands total commitment as an actor; physically, musically, intellectually and collaboratively. I was very excited about the prospect of working with a large ensemble again. On a more personal level, I played Grusha at WAAPA and am now playing the Governor’s Wife – I feel as though it’s coming literally full circle…or half circle to be more precise. And there is tremendous reward in that as an actor. I knew also that the opportunity of working with Dr Wang was going to be something unforgettable.
Now that you have commenced rehearsals, how has your focus changed? Is anything challenging you or surprising you?
The biggest challenge and delight has been how much my own process as an actor has had to shift. And it’s great to know that it CAN shift, that how I would usually prepare, rehearse and work to create a character is not fixed, it’s fluid. The physical demands are both challenging and exciting – we’re learning a new physical language and from artists like Dr Wang and Chen Tao who are masters of it – it’s an incredible process.
The production demands a lot of physicality from the actors and requires them to take on multiple characters. What steps do you take to prepare for the rigors of rehearsals?
Early to bed, early to rise, early to rehearsal, comprehensive physical and vocal warm up and unwavering focus! We’re being asked to make bold and theatrical choices with very clear delineation between characters and social classes. I have to arrive every day prepared to give Dr Wang as much as possible to choose from – there’s no easing into the day, we have to start with a bang.
Tell us a bit about the journey of your main character.
My main character is the Governor’s Wife, Natella Abashvili. Her journey is an interesting one as she’s not seen throughout the main body of the play, although she’s referred to. Her journey is indelibly linked with Grusha’s as it’s her child that Grusha rescues and takes on as her own. So when she (Natella) returns to claim the child, it’s laden with all those huge questions of nature and nurture, of what makes a mother, of rights and entitlement.
Natella is someone who appears to want to be adored and admired, rather than loved; someone for whom the acquisition of power, land, clothes is all important and her child a means of maintaining and consolidating that power. Ultimately, this is what results in her losing him.
Have you learnt anything from this very collaborative rehearsal process so far that is so valuable you will keep it in your bag of tricks forever?
I take something from every production – I’ve never been through a rehearsal process which hasn’t expanded and enriched me as an actor. This process is a wonderful return to a theatrical style and form – every scene change has it’s place, every move on stage is choreographed and meticulously rehearsed. As someone who directs regularly at high schools and universities, it’s very exciting to watch Dr Wang and see just what is possible on stage, to remind myself that the theatrical boundaries are often so much further away.