I spoke to actress Bessie Carter about her character in JB Priestley’s The Roundabout, running at London’s Park Theatre until 24 September 2016, how the show has been received so far and her famous parents.
Thank you so much for talking to me, today, I really appreciate it. When you first read the script what was your initial reaction?
Why hasn’t this been done before? I read it a couple of times and fell in love with it because it has everything you could possibly want in a play, a bit of politics, a bit of humour and a bit of sentiment. It’s quick moving, quite fast paced, witty and sharp. I really liked it.
Did you have any thoughts on how you wanted to play your character? Or did you find that this came about while you were rehearsing?
Well, when I read it I thought I have to play this part because I could see a lot of myself in Pamela, only child, both 22 years old. I thought as opposed to having to reach out and find the character, this was the opposite way around. Hugh, the Director was great at helping me to bring out more in the character of Pamela.
How have the audience reacted so far?
The response has been fantastic, people seem to really enjoy it, everybody seems to be leaving the theatre with a smile on their face. I have never done a comedy before so it’s a big change for me, and when it came to the previews I thought, oh, you have to wait for the laugh, this was something I hadn’t considered before. Because the reactions have been so great, word of mouth seems to be working, we’re getting fuller and fuller houses every night.
How do you feel that the space lends itself to the piece?
We’re setting it inside a conservatory, the space is very intimate so it feels as if we are in one room, it works brilliantly.
I can’t not mention your parents (Imelda Staunton and Jim Carter), because Gypsy was one of my highlights of last year and I am a fan of Downton Abbey, too. Have they influenced your career choice, or do you think you would have taken this path, anyway?
I think acting, for me was always going to happen, there was never anything else that I was going to do. They never pushed me or told me not to do it, they were just happy that I was finding my feet and doing what I wanted to do. When I was in school I was always in the plays and there was just no question about it. When I got into Guildhall School of Acting they couldn’t believe it, then I got this job and they are absolutely behind me all the way. They support me like any other parents, really.
What have been your main highlights from stage school?
At Guildhall in third year I tended to play character parts like the mad lady or the old lady and that was really fun. I loved playing Lady MacBeth in second year, that is a character that I would love to play again in the future. At stage school you have licence to do what you love to do every day and you’re with other people who love doing it as well.
What is your advice to anybody who would like to go into acting?
It’s not easy, although I know it’s easy for me to say, but a lot of it is luck. If you can’t imagine yourself doing anything else then you have to go for it and commit and work hard.
So, finally, what would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket to see the production?
It’s never been done before so you won’t have any expectation from it and you can take away what you want from it. It’s an entertaining night at the theatre, you’re not paying West End prices and because it’s an intimate space you’re guaranteed to be able to see it all. It’s very moving and I hope you’ll enjoy it.
As a quick aside, is King Lear at The Old Vic next for you after this?
Yes, I am outside The Old Vic right now, I’m rehearsing King Lear during the day at the moment, that opens in October.
I’d like to thank Bessie for interrupting her rehearsal for King Lear at the Old Vic to chat to me, it was a real pleasure to chat to her.