GETTING TO KNOW: PIPPA GRANDISON

Pippa’s career has spanned nearly three decades and has seen her performing extensively in film, television, theatre and musical theatre throughout Australia and overseas. Pippa’s recent career highlights include the role of Judith Durnham (Georgy Girl: The Seekers Musical); Barbara in Michael Gow’s Europe at the Seymour Centre; Mrs Braddock in The Graduate alongside Jerry Hall; Mrs Banks in Mary Poppins for Disney/Cameron Mackintosh (Australia/NZ tour); Small Time Gangster for Boiler Maker Burburry Entertainment; and, the role of Elphaba for the Sydney season of the Broadway smash hit Wicked for the Gordon Frost Organisation.

Other theatre credits include: Bell Shakespeare’s Just Macbeth; Sydney Theatre Company’s Waikiki Hip and Black Rock; Company B’s The Threepenny Opera; Hair of the Dog’s production of The Misanthrope; The Vagina Monologues by BCHM. Music Theatre credits include: We Will Rock You; The Pajama Game; The Witches of Eastwick; Mary Bryant; Into the Woods; A Little Night Music. Television credits include: Home and Away; Mr & Mrs Murder; Underbelly: Razor; Magical Tales; All Saints; Balmain Boys; South Pacific; Twisted Tales; Water Rats; E Street; GP; Brides of Christ; Golden Fiddles; A Country Practice; Come in Spinner; the Habibs. Feature film credits include: Mr Accident; A Change of Heart; Hotel de Love; Dating the Enemy; Muriel’s Wedding; Over the Hill

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The Street talked to Pippa Grandison starring in Boys Will Be Boys as Astrid.

 YOU HAVE AN ILLUSTROUS CAREER ACROSS THE STAGE, TV AND FILM – CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE PLACE AND EXPERIENCE OF THEATRE FOR YOU IN THE MIX.

Theatre has been a part of my life since I was 16 years old. I was accidentally cast as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and it kind of took off from there. I should explain. For the last two years of my high schooling I was at a wonderful school in Perth WA called Hollywood High. We had a great drama and music department there and they were renowned for putting on theatrical shows for the public. I had no aspirations to be an actor, but I adored my drama classes. I had always loved singing, but it was only ever for fun. A friend wanted to play scarecrow and asked me to read opposite her in the auditions. Long story short, I was cast as Dorothy. Much to my surprise as I wasn’t actually auditioning as far as I knew. I read it on the school notice board after some students alerted me to it and decided to give it a go. I caught the theatre bug.

From there I moved to Sydney with my Mum and made contact with an agent and my career began.

Of course there were film and TV roles interspersed with my theatrical ventures, but the stage has always held a special place in my heart. That’s why I keep coming back to it I guess.

Rehearsing a piece is my favourite part. The collaboration with a group of like-minded and creative people is always exciting. Getting it up on the floor and playing with ideas is such fun.

The roles I play have changed (obviously) as I get older. A lot darker now, but my love of the craft is still the same.

Once we get it up and running, there’s the thrill of giving it to the audience. No turning back once you get out there. No, ‘sorry can we go for another take please?’ It’s all in the moment. Quite scary at times, but when you have the trust and connection required with your cast mates (assuming it’s not a one woman show) there is a comfort in that.

I have loved both straight and musical theatre. I have been allowed to play, create and express myself and for that I am truly grateful.

WHY DID YOU TAKE ON THE ROLE OF ASTRID WENTWORTH?

I took on the role of Astrid because I loved the play, the character and our director. Caroline’s vision for the piece excited me. It is also unlike any role I have undertaken and I knew it would be a challenge. Careful what you wish for…

 TALK US THROUGH YOUR PROCESS IN BRINGING ASTRID TO LIFE?

Astrid came to life in an interesting way. There are two worlds she inhabits and one came quicker than the other. Again, Caroline was instrumental in getting Astrid off the page for me as her understanding and love of her was infectious.

I struggled with playing a woman who is so unapologetic and supremely confident as I am the opposite, but once I found my feet it became quite empowering.

There is great pain in Astrid but it is buried deep, so the layering of her took a few weeks to get right. There’s also a huge amount of dialogue, so the only way to get that down is to hammer it over and over and over again. My brain has had a workout that’s for sure.

When she sings we see her true soul. The woman she doesn’t even know herself, and that came easier for me. All in all she has been a most complex character to bring to life, but I have enjoyed the challenge immensely.

 THERE ARE FIVE WOMEN ACTORS IN THE WORK WHAT HAVE YOU DISCOVERED TOGETHER IN REHEARSALS?

Working with essentially an all-female cast has been fantastic. I discovered a warm, safe environment where we could all share and express so easily. Not that I haven’t had that with mixed gender casts, but this process has been emotionally challenging for us all as women due to the content, so the constant talking, sharing of experiences and free flowing tears at times has been quite freeing. My emotions are right at the surface, most of the time, so feeling like I was safe to let them out instead of trying to be tough and not make others uncomfortable was/ is a gift.

 DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE MOMENT IN BOYS WILL BE BOYS?

I don’t really have a favourite moment per say as it changes night to night depending on how the audience is responding and how the show is flowing for me personally. That’s one of the pleasures of working in theatre actually. Keeps it fresh.

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

Successful relationships, in my opinion are based on good communication. An actor needs to be able to understand what the director wants from them, so communication is the key. Conversely the director needs to be able to understand the actor’s process and hopefully be able to work with that.

Creative people can be a little, how can I put this? Odd. That’ll do. Actors in particular can be very sensitive. Wonderful in any case, but sometimes it can take a bit of time for director and actor to work each other out. Finding that ease of connection and understanding is so important for the piece of art you are bringing to life. It helps if you like each other, but that’s not always the case.

Regardless, it’s about the work, so with that as the focus and clear communication then the results will bear fruit. (Hopefully.).

WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR FROM AN AUDIENCE?

I don’t think you can expect anything from an audience. You can hope they enjoy the piece and take something away from it. If you have done your job properly they should at least understand what you and the piece are trying to say and/or doing to them. How they respond does have an impact on the actors of course and each audience is different, so they keep you on your toes.

It’d be great if their phones were always on silent and in their bags. Better if their lollies weren’t in crinkly papers that rustle in the quiet bits, but apart from that I want an audience to be totally immersed in the experience. I love being in a theatre audience. It’s so exciting.

 DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR YOUNG WOMAN ENTERING THE PERFORMING ARTS INDUSTRY NOW?

My advice to young women entering the industry now, would be to be true to yourself. Focus on the work and your character when you’re lucky enough to get a job, and don’t take the fame and fortune stuff too seriously. Acting is a craft. Enjoy it. Oh and don’t take your clothes off unless it serves the piece and you are comfortable doing so.

WHAT’S INSPIRING YOU CREATIVELY AT THE MOMENT?

Music is inspiring me creatively at the moment. I’ve been wanting to record a jazz/blues album for a while now, so that’s next on my list. Stay tuned!

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