Zainab Hasan stars in the UK première of Michele Lee’s Rice, a co-production with Actors Touring Company.
Artistic Director of Actors Touring Company, Matthew Xia, directs Zainab Hasan (Nisha) and Sarah Lam (Yvette).
The production opens on 13 October, with previews from 9 October, and runs until 13 November at Orange Tree Theatre, with livestreamed performances via OT on screen on 4 and 5 November. Rice continues with socially distanced seating and safety measures, which remain in place until January 2022.
You’re starring in Rice at The Orange Tree theatre, what can you tell us about the play?
This play has so much in it. It’s about sacrifice. It’s about migrants. It’s about mothers and daughters. It’s about dreams, failure, loss, navigating the world in which we live, and finding our place in it.
Tell us more about your character, Nisha, and what has surprised you most about the role?
On the surface Nisha can feel like she’s quite hard and nasty, but it’s been interesting getting under her skin and realising that her hard exterior comes from a vulnerable place. She feels like she has to work twice as hard precisely because she doesn’t feel like she belongs.
She has the weight of the world on her shoulders. That she has a lot to prove; that the sacrifices she believes she’s making aren’t just for herself. They sense a bigger purpose. I love that Yvette brings her back down to earth a bit. Makes her see the world through a different lens.
What was it about Michele Lee’s script that really excited you?
I was really excited by seeing two women that look like we do, on stage together. I was excited to take on the challenge of a two-hander. Although when you’re in rehearsals you suddenly think ‘ok, this really is a challenge, what have I set myself in for!’ I mean that in the best possible way.
It’s exciting being pushed in ways you haven’t. The prospect of playing the range of characters I get to and playing a character like Nisha was exciting. And the relationship between Nisha and Yvette, which goes on a real journey. Two seemingly disparate women with disparate lives who have more in common with each other than they realise.
Why do you think this play will resonate with audiences?
I think audiences will resonate with this play because the struggles Yvette and Nisha go through are struggles we can all relate to. They’re multifaceted, multi-layered. They come with their own vulnerabilities and complexities. They’re not simply any one thing. They’re not just defined by what they do. There’s more underneath. They have their own story, their own truths.
What do you enjoy most about two handers and how have you and Sarah Lam bonded in rehearsals?
Oh gosh! Two handers are hard! It’s literally just you and another actor so you feel the responsibility and weight of it. Not getting things wrong, not dropping a line that could throw the other actor. It’s so scary but equally the beauty of it is, it’s just you and one other person, and so you have the time to invest in one another and nurture your relationship.
Sarah is fab. We both work really hard, and our professional approach is very aligned, but we also have a great understanding. She’s lovely. It really helps because you can feed your own personal relationship into the work you do on stage. It would be my worst nightmare not bonding with the other actor I’m working with on a two hander. Could you imagine!
What would you say to anyone thinking of coming to see Rice?
I really hope you enjoy and connect with it!