Florence Roberts stars in The Original Theatre Company and York Theatre Royal’s tour of The Night Watch from the international number one best-selling author Sarah Waters, adapted by Hattie Naylor.
First performed in 2016 at Manchester’s Royal Exchange, the first revival of The Night Watch tours the UK until 23 November 2019 and is directed by Alastair Whatley.
You’re appearing in The Night Watch on tour, what can you tell us about it?
The Night Watch is a stage adaptation of Sarah Waters’ best-selling novel about a group of people caught up in the aftermath of and during World War II. The action is played in reverse, so we start in 1947 and end in 1941. I’d say it’s a play about human beings first and foremost, and the intimacy and connection we crave in times of crisis. The demand for female workers during the Second World War resulted in a surge of empowerment, both intellectual and sexual, and this is one of several themes of the play: Kay falls in love with Helen, who falls in love with Julia, who was in love with Kay. It’s a story about love, liberation, grief and desire, set against the chaotic backdrop of wartime London.
How would you describe your character?
Helen is a complicated character. I’d say she’s the instigator of the knotty love triangle, quite unaware of the emotional chaos she causes. She’s naïve and has a desperate need to be loved, is impulsive and makes rash decisions (like sneaking out during a black-out with her girlfriend’s ex-lover), but is never quite content with the decisions she makes. I feel like she’s always looking for something, but doesn’t know what. She’s a bit of a firecracker.
What has impressed you the most about Hattie Naylor’s adaptation of Sarah Waters novel?
Mainly the fact that Hattie has condensed a pretty mammoth novel into a slick play that’s just under two hours long… She uses a technique of overlapping scenes, giving you the sense of time stretching and intersecting. As a theatrical device, this creates something pretty magic and unusual. I also think Hattie has picked the themes to focus on carefully and sensitively, so that it’s faithful to the novel but also manages to be entirely its own thing.
Have you learned anything about yourself as a performer while working on The Night Watch?
I’ve never had to perform a play backwards before, so this was a pretty new learning curve. As the action of the play reverses, so does my character’s journey. Helen’s emotional peak happens in my second scene, and so as a performer you have to use all your knowledge of what is about to happen (as the actor) to portray the truth of what has happened before to my character. If that’s confusing, just wait until you see the play… No, it’s really pretty straight forward!
What are you enjoying the most about touring?
I love exploring cities and towns I’ve never been to before, and might not get to visit if I wasn’t touring. The cast are a great bunch of people and we’re having such a laugh.
What would you say to anyone thinking of coming to see The Night Watch?
It. Goes. Backwards.
Main Image: Florence Roberts