Isabelle Culkin talks to Raving Mask Theatre about their upcoming production of ‘Old Times’.
Raving Mask Theatre begins the Easter term embarking upon Harold Pinter’s most enigmatic play, Old Times.
Anna and Kate haven’t seen each other in a long time. Twenty years later, Kate, now married to husband Deeley, finds herself reunited with her once friend. As compliments on the casserole lead to confessions of sharing underwear, the evening becomes an exercise in power that damages all involved. Kate, Anna and Deeley all collide in an evening which unravels to reveal a more complex past than just reliving old times.
Why ‘Old Times’?
Lily James (Director): Old Times really stands up to quite intense analysis and interpretation. That makes it a really interesting project because it requires a great deal of unpicking before you can begin to even think about acting it.
Olivia Race (Kate): Everyone loves a Pinter play, and Old Times isn’t done much so we thought it would be a good challenge to give it a go.
Pinter has been described as ‘illusive’. Do you think this is a fitting description of ‘Old Times’?
LJ: Absolutely. Its main themes are lies, memory and power. It constantly pulls the rug out from under you.
OR: I think it’s a fitting description when studying Pinter, since it’s difficult to find one interpretation or meaning. However, when you’re performing it, you have to go with one intention and Lily has been very clear in her direction.
How do you think ‘Old Times’ relates to a student audience?
LJ: I think the themes of controlling friends and partners, and of turning reminiscence into a competitive sport, are pretty universal, but especially at university where all of your relationships are amplified and quite intense.
OR: It’s a weird look at how our future could be: revisiting university friends you haven’t seen for twenty years.
Do you have a favourite character?
OR: I actually love playing Kate, she’s so different from anyone I’ve played before and so different from myself! I don’t think any of them are my favourite though. I like and hate them for different reasons.
LJ: Deeley. He’s got all the odd, blackly comic lines.
LJ: “It’s too late. You’ve cooked your casserole.”
OR: “You said she was a vegetarian.”
How have you found working as a small cast?
LJ: Really cool. Lots of time to get to know everyone properly and everyone seems to know their character inside out.
OR: We get on really well as a cast, and it’s been great in terms of doing character work. Lily always has a quirky exercise for us to do at the beginning of a rehearsal which relates to aspects of the play, or just gets us ‘in the zone’.
What has been the most challenging part of the process?
LJ: The final monologue has taken a lot of work to decipher. The language is pretty symbolic at times, and trying to translate that into something recognizable has been good but tough.
OR: Acting like a forty year old who has been married for nearly twenty years!
Why should people come and see this production?
OR: Because theatre is fabulous, and Pinter is fabulous.
LJ: Because it will be really good.
Fill in the blank: ‘If you loved…, you’ll love ‘Old Times”.
LJ: If you loved Abigail’s Party, but wished it was much, much bleaker, this is for you.
‘Old Times’ will be performed at The Horsfall Room, St. Chad’s College, Fri 24 April – Sat 25 April, 7:30pm.
Image: Matilda Hunter