Head-to-head interview: The Lady with a Dog’s leading lady & her new leading man

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After a successful run at the White Bear Theatre, Mark Giesser’s 1920s-set, Anglicised adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s 1899 short story The Lady with a Dog transfers across town to the Tabard Theatre, where it starts performances tonight (14 March 2018). Check out our head-to-head interviews with Beth Burrows, who received critical acclaim for her title performance, and her new leading man Richard Lynson, now joining the cast. And then get booking!

Damian Granville (Richard Lynson) is a banker and devoted family man with an unconventional way of taking his summer holidays: he travels alone and looks for a woman to seduce. This particular year he spots a beautiful young lady walking a white Pomeranian dog. How can he resist? He’s a skilful player and sure of success. Except Anne Dennis (Beth Burrows), married herself for just two years, isn’t quite what he bargains for.

Continuing as Anne and Damian’s respective spouses are Duncan MacInnes and Laura Glover (who also happens to be Richard’s real-life partner). Amongst reviews at the White Bear (See our Roundup here), My Theatre Mates blogger Anne Cox called the production “utterly enchanting” and Giesser’s decision to relocate the story to relocate Chekhov’s story to 1920s Britain as “inspired”.

The Lady with a Dog runs from 14 March to 7 April 2018 at west London’s Tabard Theatre, with Tuesday to Saturday evening performances at 7.30pm. Tickets are priced £16.50-£19.50. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE TICKETS!

Beth Burrows as Anne Dennis in The Lady with a Dog at the White Bear Theatre

In conversation with Beth Burrows

This is your second show in a row with Mark Giesser, after the success of Sirens of the Silver Screen. Tell us a little about that show and why your collaboration with Mark works so well.

Mark and I have been working together for about a year now. Our introduction was quite fortuitous – we met on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean – and I think our paths were meant to cross. Mark and I have a unique way of understanding each other, which I think comes from us both being writers.

Sirens of the Silver Screen is my one-woman show about the lives of Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe. It’s a new adventure into Old Hollywood through story and song, a whistle-stop tour of the lives of Hollywood’s golden girls. We staged two productions of it in 2017 – one in Bristol and the other at Upstairs at the Gatehouse, which was incredibly well received. The show is set to return to London this year and I’m starting work on a sequel. There’s a bit of a twist, though, so it’s going to be quite different… I don’t want to say anything else just yet!

What appeals to you about Chekhov’s short story The Lady With the Dog? And Mark Giesser’s stage version of it?

I like the fact that Chekhov’s story forces you to question your own morality and principles. I’ve always believed that infidelity is wrong and there’s never really an excuse for it. But doing this play has posed some difficult questions for me: is it better to be faithful or is it better to be happy?

I admire what Mark has done on a number of levels. Firstly, his development of Carl and Elaine (the spousal characters) is inspired. In Chekhov’s story, we don’t see them, but Mark brings them in as important characters who stalk the action and appear as both real people and phantom figures. I also enjoy the 1920s take on things. There is still a tight post-war social structure, but the edges are starting to fray – that’s partly why Anne and Damian are bold enough to embark upon the affair.

What were the highlights of The Lady With a Dog’s run at the White Bear Theatre?

The press night performance was a highlight – it was great seeing and hearing how much the industry enjoyed the show. We also had one couple push a note under the dressing room door last week saying ‘we had the best evening – you guys are amazing!’, which was really lovely.

Are you a dog lover yourself?

I absolutely am! I have a family dog who lives at home with my parents. He’s a (rather rotund) cocker spaniel called Toby. I love him very much, but I must admit I’ve actually always wanted a Pomeranian! This play is the closest I’ve got to that (and that’s still not close, seeing as she’s invisible…!).

Richard Lynson stars opposite Beth Burrows at the Tabard Theatre

In conversation with Richard Linson

What appeals to you about this Chekhov story? And Mark Giesser’s stage version?

The problems of human relations are timeless. We’ve been trying to figure out how best to deal with one another since we first walked upright and we haven’t got a handle on it yet! The story, both the original and Mark’s version, take place near the turn of the 20th century, a time when social conventions are powerful forces. People were expected to marry young, in many cases before they were ready. So what happens when you meet the person you feel you are supposed to be with? Social conventions are still strong motivators, but sometimes it’s easier to look at something relevant to today from one step removed – changing the time the story takes place in. It makes it easier to examine the question without getting so emotional about it.

Laura Glover in The Lady with a Dog

Your real-life partner Laura Glover plays your wife onstage. What’s it like working together?

Laura and I have appeared in friend’s short films before, but nothing like a proper play complete with explorations of intentions and subtext and things like that. We were not sure how good an idea it would be for a while, but it’s actually going just fine. The hardest part has turned out to be not giggling!

How do you feel ‘cheating’ on Laura with Beth? Any awkward love-scene moments in rehearsals?

The thing is, I’m not ‘cheating’ on Laura: Damien is cheating on Elaine. And both Laura and I have been to see each other in projects where we’ve had to kiss someone else on stage or on film. You get over it pretty quickly. It becomes just a professional thing: ‘Am I in my light?’ ‘Am I blocking the other person?’

How have you found coming into the company at this stage, with the other three already well versed in their roles and rapport?

Everyone’s been great! Actors do tend to get on quickly, and I’ve been made to feel very welcome. I’m not here to change the whole show, but if a new action or thought looks like it might be interesting to play, I’ll ask and we’ll see if it fits. What’s been interesting has been when the others have thought the same, and they’ve initiated little changes here and there. That’s the thing about theatre – it’s in a constant state of flux.

Richard Lynson in The Complete Works in 2001

Your other stage credits include myriad plays with the Reduced Shakespeare Company. Have you ever thought about doing The Complete Works of Chekhov (Abridged)? What might THAT look like?

Not to be too disingenuous, but much of Russian theatre could be condensed into: ‘Everyone walks on stage, spouts their mantras for a couple hours, there’s some violence, The End’! Having said that, there’s no violence in this piece, but maybe that’s because it’s a short story rather than a play. Maybe it could go: ‘Everyone comes on stage, shouts “it’s so hot/cold, the world is changing”, tragic realisation, The End’. I’ll have to ask Adam Long, the co-creator of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, what he thinks.

Are you a dog lover?

I’ve always loved the idea of having a dog, but when it’s a cold, rainy, blustery morning, and you think to yourself ‘my dog-owning friends are obliged to go out in this’, I’m not so sure I’d want one!

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Guest Bloggers on Twitter
Guest Bloggers
MyTheatreMates welcomes submissions from guest bloggers and other occasional contributors, including theatremakers commenting on aspects of their shows. Please email your suggestions to Mates co-founder Terri Paddock or submit them via our Contact Us page.