Chronicles of Narnia star, Georgie Henley, will star in the world premiere of Philip Ridley’s new monologues, Angry, this February at Southwark Playhouse.
Along with Olivier Award nominated, Tyrone Huntley, they will perform the series of gender-neutral monologues on subjects as diverse as refugees, millennial anger, and interstellar travel. All five monologues will be performed by each actor over the course of the run, but which actor performs each individual monologue will alternate night-to-night.
We sat down with Georgie Henley to find out more about Angry.
You’re starring in the world premiere of Philip Ridley’s Angry, what can you tell us about it?
It’s a tricky one to describe, but it’s a collection of monologues which focus on different ideas of anger, whether it’s terrorism, or self-loathing masquerading as tough love, or how we normalise violence. Tyrone and I perform all six monologues but we alternate which ones we do in each performance, so it’s fascinating how the same words take on new meanings when interpreted by a man and a woman.
How did you get involved in the project?
I heard about the audition through my agent and was beyond excited because I’m such a huge fan of Philip’s work. I knew that there would be so many people auditioning and I hadn’t done any professional theatre work before so I just went in thinking okay I would love to just get a recall. I had to perform sections from two monologues and come up with different characters for each. And then I went and called my parents and cried out all the adrenaline! I couldn’t believe it when I got the recall and tried not to get my hopes up about actually landing the job but I couldn’t get it out of my head. I went in for a second meeting and then found out one torturous week later!
What is it you like most about Philip Ridley’s writing?
I think the amazing thing about Phil’s writing is that it has really created a movement and a language of its own within contemporary theatre; so many talented people have been inspired by him, and lots of people have tried to copy him. And when you see someone on stage trying to copy Phil you realise just how intelligent and precise his writing is. It’s truly unique. It manages to be bombastic and loquacious but also so so tender. You care about his characters. They feel like people you’ve met before in your life but they’re also like the people you meet in your wildest dreams.
What are you most looking forward to about working with your co-star?
This is my professional stage debut so to work with someone like Tyrone who has done such amazing things in the theatre world is so exciting! He’s not just incredibly talented, he’s so smart and talking with him about our characters has been genuinely inspiring. I always want to work with people who I can learn things from and people who are lovely human beings and he’s both, he’s the real deal.
What’s the biggest challenge in a production like this, where you alternate roles each night?
It’s almost like doing a one-man show but stretched across two performances, sometimes on the same day. Tyrone and I have to learn the whole show as if we could do the whole thing in one go. I think it’s just going to be about keeping things fresh and making sure the characters stay as separate beings. It’s so easy to pick up ticks but when you’re playing six different people you have to make an extra effort to differentiate!
What’s the benefit to the audience of seeing the roles gender flipped each night?
I didn’t realise how much gender affected the monologues until Phil, Max, Tyrone and I sat round a table and discussed the characters in depth. It was absolutely fascinating. I think that so much of how we perceive gender in society is constructed by an imbalance of power, and exploring how that relates to violence, sex, or the expectations we place upon ourselves, has been a very different journey for Tyrone and I. For example, one of the monologues is focused around an outburst of pure rage, and from a male perspective it becomes an act of intense aggression, but as a woman there’s always a fear of being deemed ‘hysterical’ if you become very angry or emotional.
There’s so many double standards and complexities at play here. And that’s not to say that the monologues demand the binary concept of male and female either; gender is such a nuanced spectrum and I feel like Phil’s words would take on new meanings whoever was speaking them. Also there’s not just a discussion of gender happening, but questions surrounding sexuality and race. I’m a white woman and Tyrone is a black man and in some monologues we’re both describing sexual or romantic experiences with men. Obviously the experience of a white heterosexual female character and a black gay male character is very different. I think gender is just one part of how the play and we as actors explore the identity of these characters. I’d be very interested to hear what audiences thought if they came twice and saw it both ways. If you can handle a double bill, then Saturday would be the perfect day to see both!
Are there any characters you’ve portrayed previously you could see having a monologue in Angry?
That’s a hard question! But a good one! I did a film that was released last year called Access All Areas where my character Nat was always super super happy and excited about everything. But every now and again she’d lose her temper and be a bit of a hurricane, so I feel like she could definitely let off some steam in a monologue. There’s also a monologue in Angry which requires a lot of manic energy which is something Nat had a ton of!
What makes you angry?
Intolerance. And incompetence. And there’s one man who is the epitome of both those things who is President of the USA. I also made myself read a few Katie Hopkins articles as research for one of the characters in Angry and that was just horrific.
I hate that we live in a society where people are paid to be fake outrage trolls for national newspapers. I get angry about so many things I read in the news. But I think it’s good to be angry. If we stop being angry about what’s going on around us then we normalise those injustices. On a smaller scale, my biggest pet peeve is people being on their phones in the cinema. I’m a big film geek and going to the cinema is my happy place and if your phone light is on and you’re talking really loudly about where you’re going for dinner afterwards in an integral moment I will give you a hard stare in the style of iconic love of my life Paddington Bear.
Angry is at Southwark Playhouse 14th February – 10th March 2018. Read co-star Tyrone Huntley’s interview here.