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"A rare gift to play this on stage": Actor Alison van Reeken on Tartuffe

Posted by on 11 October 2016 | 0 Comments

Tartuffe is quickly approaching! We chatted with actor Alison van Reeken (The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Blithe Spirit, Dinner, Dust and more) about the play: 

 

Before you commenced rehearsals in September, what were you most looking forward to about being involved in Tartuffe and why?
I was really looking forward to working on a comedy. I think it's such a great way to end the year for audiences and artists alike. And in particular this type of comedy, a French farce. It's a rare gift to play this on stage. I think farce is one of my favourite things to do! And I was looking forward to working with the interstate actors and designers, it's a great team.
Now that you have commenced rehearsals, how has your focus changed? Is anything challenging you or surprising you?
Not really, it's coming off the page so easily, it's a joy to watch. I spend most of the time laughing in the corner. The hardest part has been really wanting to skip straight to the time where I know the lines and not have the script in my hand. It's very physical comedy and part of being in a farce is like being on an out of control roller coaster so it's frustrating to have to stop and turn a page etc. it's about knowing it's close to flying but not being able to let go yet. 
Moliere’s original script has been adapted for a modern audience by Justin Fleming. Does this modernization or the language also change the physicality of the characters? How much does language influence movement for an actor?
I think originally movement would have been restricted by their magnificent clothes, those corsets and wigs that both the men and women wore in the 1600's. In this modern version we're very free to move as we please, but being farce although the movement and language are sort of naturalistic, everything is heightened. Nothing about the day in the lives of these people is normal, it all goes a bit crazy, but everything is 'true'. It's quite hard to explain. Justin has written all these extraordinary rhymes, and we also have to consider the stakes which in this play are VERY high. When the stakes are high, the physicality has to match. 
Tell us a bit about the journey of your character.            
My character is the second wife of an extremely wealthy man. We've decided that she doesn't work and spends her days shopping, going to beauty appointments and Pilates classes. We're setting up the family to be stuck in a cycle of consuming and entitlement, very first world, white upper-class. My husband Orgon is sick of this and is searching for something more, and this leaves him open to being taken advantage of by someone like Tartuffe. During the play my character's world is turned upside down and the family lose everything, but we see she is a real fighter and probably one of the smartest people on the stage-ha!
You have been performing in a solo work at night at The Blue Room as well as rehearsing for Tartuffe during the day. What advice do you have for budding artists about managing your time working in the arts?
More often than not it never rains, it pours. It's something every artist is used to; months of nothing and then three jobs at once. Artist are some of the most disciplined and tenacious people I know so for someone interested in that career I would suggest not shirking the hard stuff. Learn your lines properly, work on your script, focus and don't waste time in the rehearsal room. It's the only way to do several jobs at once and to do them all well. Sorry, that sounds very dull, but stressing about not being ready or prepared enough as you walk on stage is REALLY boring. The fun can only really start when all the ground work is done.

Alison van ReekenBefore you commenced rehearsals in September, what were you most looking forward to about being involved in Tartuffe and why?

I was really looking forward to working on a comedy. I think it's such a great way to end the year for audiences and artists alike. And in particular this type of comedy, a French farce. It's a rare gift to play this on stage. I think farce is one of my favourite things to do! And I was looking forward to working with the interstate actors and designers, it's a great team.

 

Now that you have commenced rehearsals, how has your focus changed? Is anything challenging you or surprising you?

Not really, it's coming off the page so easily, it's a joy to watch. I spend most of the time laughing in the corner. The hardest part has been really wanting to skip straight to the time where I know the lines and not have the script in my hand. It's very physical comedy and part of being in a farce is like being on an out of control roller coaster so it's frustrating to have to stop and turn a page, etc. It's about knowing it's close to flying but not being able to let go yet. 

 

Moliere’s original script has been adapted for a modern audience by Justin Fleming. Does this modernization or the language also change the physicality of the characters? How much does language influence movement for an actor?

I think originally movement would have been restricted by their magnificent clothes, those corsets and wigs that both the men and women wore in the 1600's. In this modern version we're very free to move as we please, but being farce, although the movement and language are sort of naturalistic, everything is heightened. Nothing about the day in the lives of these people is normal, it all goes a bit crazy, but everything is 'true'. It's quite hard to explain. Justin has written all these extraordinary rhymes, and we also have to consider the stakes which in this play are VERY high. When the stakes are high, the physicality has to match. 

 

Tell us a bit about the journey of your character.            

My character is the second wife of an extremely wealthy man. We've decided that she doesn't work and spends her days shopping, going to beauty appointments and Pilates classes. We're setting up the family to be stuck in a cycle of consuming and entitlement, very first world, white upper class. My husband Orgon is sick of this and is searching for something more, and this leaves him open to being taken advantage of by someone like Tartuffe. During the play my character's world is turned upside down and the family loses everything, but we see she is a real fighter and probably one of the smartest people on the stage - ha!

 

You have been performing in a solo work at night at The Blue Room as well as rehearsing for Tartuffe during the day. What advice do you have for budding artists about managing your time working in the arts?

More often than not, it never rains, it pours. It's something every artist is used to; months of nothing and then three jobs at once. Artists are some of the most disciplined and tenacious people I know so for someone interested in that career I would suggest not shirking the hard stuff. Learn your lines properly, work on your script, focus and don't waste time in the rehearsal room. It's the only way to do several jobs at once and to do them all well. Sorry, that sounds very dull, but stressing about not being ready or prepared enough as you walk on stage is REALLY boring. The fun can only really start when all the ground work is done.

 

Don't miss the radiant Alison van Reeken in Moliere's Tartuffe, a new version by Justin Fleming. At the Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of WA from 22 October to 6 November 2016. Tickets on sale through Ticketek. 

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