Interview with Lucy Pickles, who plays the leading role of Margrit, in ‘The Feast of Solhaug’ at the Baron’s Court Theatre in London.
Q: How does it feel to star in the English-language premier of The Feast at Solhaug?
A: It’s very exciting for all of us – we are officially making history this evening on our opening night.
I get to be the first actress to play the last of Ibsen’s heroines to get her English-language premiere and that is not something I expected to be able to say EVER! I have loved Ibsen ever since my school drama teacher introduced us all to A Dolls House and then I saw Rosamund Pike playing Hedda Gabler and thought, I’d give anything to get to play one of his women one day. I couldn’t believe there was a man writing in 19th Century Norway breathing life into these complex and human female characters, often strong but trapped in circumstance. All of us involved in this play have kept this in mind throughout – let’s do this for Ibsen: poet, feminist, humanist.
Q: Do you identify with your character, Margit?
A: Definitely, yes. I think anyone who has ever been in an unhappy relationship or felt the hurt of unrequited love can identify with her feelings of suffocation and entrapment. Sometimes finding yourself in an hopeless situation, one that you’re not perhaps brave enough to get out of, can make you behave badly and in ways you don’t recognise. This is certainly true of Margit.
Q: Do you think the play has relevance today?
A: I do – as we know there are still women in the world being forced into unhappy marriages because of culture, religion or poverty. But broadly speaking, I think the themes of the play will speak to anyone who has ever felt trapped in a loveless relationship, anyone who has made mistakes or been let down by a family member and anyone who has felt the highs and lows of true love. Love can make us act irrationally, as most people will know.
And I think The Feast at Solhaug is important in relation to Ibsen’s other works; in his later works he crafted bolder, arguably more controversial plots and characters. This play is the beginning, in a way, of his development of those themes and as a playwright.
Q: East 15 teaches a lot of method acting techniques? What did you have to do to get into character?
A: That’s a good one. East 15 was amazing at teaching us the importance of research. I wanted to know as much as possible about the play and its context; this is always my starting point. I know that costume is important for me – Kelsey (the other actress in the play) and I couldn’t properly become Margit and Signe until we felt the weight of those medieval gowns. I draped myself in jewellery in rehearsal to feel the physical discomfort of Margit’s gold, a symbol of her psychological issues. Also, setting was key – I looked at pictures of the uplands out there where Norway borders on Iceland. It is a huge expanse of land with very few people, subjected to harsh conditions and isolation. And I loved looking at paintings by Edvard Munch.
Q: Did you find the language of The Feast at Solhaug challenging?
A: Probably the most important part of this process has been coming to terms with the style and language, as evidently it is a very text-heavy play. It was important, as actors, for us to become really familiar with the verse. Only then could we understand and feel everything that we are saying. At first it feels like reading poetry but it’s so important to move away from that and use it as relatable, conversational dialogue.
Q: What role would you most like to play in the near future?
A: I would love to get a chance to play Hedda Gabler now. She is like Margit in some ways, but darker. She is so unhappy and she plays with people in cruel ways. Margit does have some redeemable features and Ibsen was concerned about upsetting the conservative people of Bergen so couldn’t be bold enough to take her to the same extremes as took Hedda. It’s a difficult role but I’d love to have a shot.
Also, Medea – I saw one of my absolute favourite actresses, Helen McCrory, play her recently at the National Theatre. A lot of the women of Greek tragedy appeal to me… They used to terrify me until I realised they can be made human and relatable.
Q: Who is your role model?
I have a lot of actresses whose work I truly love and admire but Meryl Streep is my number one. She brings herself in all her glory to every role she does. She can move me to tears and have me absolutely cracking up with laughter the next. She’s so honest.
Q: You’ve left drama school only recently: Do you have any advice for recent drama school graduates?
A: Keep going! Have patience, don’t panic and keep busy. Don’t sit at home waiting for the work to come to you. Most importantly, write and create your own work. When I left drama school, I formed a Theatre Company called Spectra with six amazing women and we had a sell-out run of our show, After Penelope, at the White Bear Theatre. We have some really exciting projects coming up this summer!