GETTING TO KNOW: CAMILLA BLUNDEN

Camilla Blunden has worked in professional theatre for over 40 years as an actor/director/ creator/ mentor/ educator in Canberra with The Street Theatre, Jigsaw Theatre Company, Shortis and Simpson, Eureka! Theatre Company, CADS, The Ensemble Theatre Company, Theatre ACT, About Face Theatre Company, Canberra Youth Theatre and Women On A Shoestring Theatre Company (WOASTC), also as characters and statues at a variety of events. Toured 2015-17 with one-woman piece All this Living, first performed at The Street Theatre in 2015/16, and in the past with WOASTC and Jigsaw.  The work has been in a wide range of styles of direction and performance from classic to contemporary, to children’s theatre.

Image Credit: Shelly Higgs

The Street talked to Camilla Blunden who plays Anne Marie in A Doll’s House, Part 2 at The Street Theatre.

YOU HAVE AN ILLUSTRIOUS CAREER IN THEATRE. WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF THE KEY MOMENTS FOR YOU?

This is a hard question because there are so many memories from the work I have done over the years.

I have been involved in a range of theatre from work with Jigsaw Theatre Company where we performed indoors and outdoors for children including Hurdy Gurdy Ghost Gum to independent theatre performances at lunchtime and late night, to founding Women On a Shoestring with Robyn Alewood with our first work Did you Say Love including feminist band Salvation Jane.

Canberrans flocked to An Ocean Out My Window by Andrew Bovell for one of his first plays written for us conveying various Canberra peculiarities. Other memories come to mind including Bartholomew Fair, when my character Mistress Overdo was sick over boots of the actor playing my husband; Child of the Hurricane about Katherine Susannah Pritchard; and Three Tall Women.

Growing in theatre here in Canberra, I began directing new scripts written for Women on a Shoestring by a range of writers to illuminate and increase women’s presence and stories on stage, including At The Crossroads written by Jan Cornall, after a lot of research aided by all the cast, with country women’s input; Empty Suitcase by Merrilee Moss including more research again, women adventurers and well-known dancer, Aida Amirkhanian.  I have also worked with Justine Saunders, well-known Aboriginal actor, Maria de Marco from an Italian family, Julie Ross with a Canadian background and Chrissie Shaw, Aussie actor composer and performer of music.

We also toured many times to every State and Territory in Australia except Western Australia over 20 years with our work funded by Playing Australia. I remember the wonderful people we met in so many country towns. Locally the exhibition at CMAG about our work of 20 years certainly was a highlight.

At The Street, I directed a locally written play about Chekov’s sister, Maria, as part of a Double Bill To Silence. Then four of us theatricals created and performed Destination Home based on our own stories of migration and at the end of the performances so many of the audience stayed to tell us their stories. Most recently touring my piece All This Living after performances at The Street Theatre touring to country towns, there were more great talks with audiences.     

WHY DID YOU TAKE ON THE ROLE OF ANNE MARIE?

I was very pleased to get the role of Anne Marie as I found the play a very fascinating piece of writing in its construct, intention and the characters. Anne Marie is a character who has not had an easy life and has done a lot of good with what she has. She has given a lot to others but also has very strong beliefs of her own which she pursues. She speaks up and out and doesn’t cow tow to everyone. The security of her work and the home that has provided her with has kept her going and she is very attached to that.

TALK US THROUGH YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS FOR BRINGING ANNE MARIE TO LIFE?

Like any character as an actor you explore through the text as many aspects of the character as possible finding her through what is in the text what it reveals about her and what other characters in the play say about her. All of this starts to be explored and the physicality and the nature of the personality starts to become clear. Anne Marie from the beginning had a strong physicality explored in the text and so I started to discover that and use it which also then contributed to growing her voice and her internal being. Then you have moved into her away from yourself and feel at home with her and from there the character continues to grow in rehearsal up on the floor working with the rest of the cast.  

WHAT IS IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO A SUCCESSFUL AND FRUITFUL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN AN ACTOR AND DIRECTOR?

That we collaborate, that the director offers and the actor offers so together they can understand and shape the individual person being explored and developed. That the director has vision of the play, the script, its style, the set, costume, sound and light, all opened up to the cast; what we are all aiming to achieve through the words, actions and then the characters which we bring to life.  Your character with the other actors grows as we all make discoveries as the work develops. This is a strong creative process.

THERE ARE FOUR ACTORS – THREE WOMEN AND A MAN – IN THE WORK. WHAT HAVE YOU DISCOVERED TOGETHER IN REHEARSING AND PERFORMING THE WORK?

A committed, supportive team, hardworking each bringing their own contributions and a willingness to understand what is being discovered by others as well as their own individual role. Being open to each other and assisting the process of the development of the piece in rehearsal. Then in performance keeping up the concentration and opening up to the audience including them in the events that are occurring. 

WHERE DOES CAMILLA MEET ANNE MARIE?

Anne Marie and I both like being mothers and having children in our lives. She is more conservative than I am and not flexible in many ways and not a feminist like I am.  I am interested in change and growth, she feels happier holding onto her fixed point of views and doesn’t cope well with change, it makes her insecure in many ways. She has had a tough life as well, whereas I have not. I have had many more opportunities than she ever had and much more support from others. She does speak up and out, and so do I when I feel it is necessary.

DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE MOMENT IN A DOLL’S HOUSE, PART 2?

Not sure about this one. I do like Anne Marie’s straightforward information about her difficult body and also the final scene between Nora and Torvald.

THE WORK DEALS WITH FAMILY, MARRIAGE, RESPONSIBILITY AND FREEDOM OF CHOICE, – IS A DOLL’S HOUSE, PART 2 A WORK FOR OUR TIMES?

This is a work for our times raising many interesting observations about the present day and the future. It is unexpected because of the time it is set shown in costuming is 1894 and the language very contemporary. Lucas Hnath is a very interesting young writer who is dealing with many issues that are still very much present in our society with regards to male – female relationships, feminism, also class implications as well, positions of people in our society and their opportunities; understanding how relationships function between the sexes and what can and can’t happen, and also children’s places in this.

WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR FROM AN AUDIENCE?

Really just that they are getting something are involved with what is happening that they are being pulled into the story and the characters and ideas and enjoying it as well as being provoked in some ways.

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR YOUNG WOMEN ENTERING THE PERFORMING ARTS INDUSTRY TODAY?

Go for it! stand up for yourselves, be inventive, create for yourself if necessary, keep growth going in all you may have learnt in your training and add to it extend it.   Remember it can be a very difficult career and you must be flexible and explorative and may need backups earning money which may be slightly different from being on stage, TV or film.

WHAT’S INSPIRING YOU CREATIVELY AT THE MOMENT?

Relaxing a bit and surmising and looking forward to a break and still reading and catch up on a few films. National Theatre Broadcast’s Alan Bennet recent play “Halleluya” very much of now and what is happening in the world.

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