The Big Issue: How are preparations going for your return to the National Theatre stage?
Lesley Sharp: We’re into week four of rehearsals and every day is long, but it’s fantastic to be back at the National Theatre. It’s an amazing play, I feel so very lucky. Theatres were among the first venues to close. Then, after last summer, they were opening and had to close very quickly – my friend Clint Dyer and Roy Williams had written the sequel to Death of England, which opened at the National and closed the same night. It was devastating. Just before Christmas, they were just getting the pantomimes up and running when lockdown came. So it’s been really tricky.
Does working collaboratively feel extra special after what we’ve been through?
It feels very special that we’re back as a community and in a room together, albeit with certain physical restrictions. We rehearsed on the Olivier stage this week and that was quite a shocker – being in that space, seeing all those seats. I was like, Oh my god, I wonder what that’s gonna look like with people in… because it’s pretty scary without them!
Even though it is an adaptation of Sophocles’ Philoctetes, we are contractually obliged to ask what it says about these times.
Just like with the political theatre of 70s and 80s that was so vital in the UK, these times are bearing down on our writers. And they are coming up with a response to the world that we find ourselves living in. I play Philoctetes, who – as a man with a wound – arguably stands in for a world with a wound or a community with a wound. How do we bear that? How do we resolve that? How do we express our grievance and frustration? How do we find a way of moving on? How do we find a way of coming together? All of that is in our play.