Just a few days to go until the European premiere of Audrey Cefaly’s award-winning American two-hander THE GULF at London’s Tristan Bates Theatre. Find out what it’s all about from stars Anna Acton and Louisa Lytton, who play troubled lovers Betty and Kendra, in our head-t0-head interview below – and then get booking!
On a small fishing boat in the Gulf of Mexico, the divide between Kendra (played by Louisa Lytton), and Betty (Anna Acton) mimics the very world that devours them: a vast and polarizing abyss. Stranded on a boat together, they are forced to confront their differences and untangle the issues they’re faced with.
THE GULF by Audrey Cefaly is an honest representation of the challenges all relationships can endure, no matter the sexuality. This European premiere production is directed by Matthew Gould and presented by M Green Productions.
What did you think when you first read The Gulf? What made you want to be in it?
Anna: I loved it. I was instantly drawn into Betty and Kendra’s world and their relationship. The mundanities of their lives, their squabbles, their connections their love, their irritations, their activities. How did they get to this point? It’s very funny, it’s incredibly touching and it’s so tense, I was blown away by it. It’s pretty rare to get female two-handers, especially where those females are gay and not spending the entire play discussing men. These are two brilliantly rounded, strong, interesting female characters, and to be part of it is a gift for any actress. I think the play is ground-breaking and brave. Audrey Cefaly has written a truly unique yet universal play that everybody can relate to regardless of sexual orientation, and that’s really exciting.
Louisa: I was hooked from page one, it’s such an honest piece. And I haven’t had the chance to be part of a two-hander yet. It was something I was excited to be a part of.
How would you describe your character?
Anna: Betty is wonderful and complicated yet incredibly simple at the same time. She’s so full of life and playful and is interested in everything and everyone. She’s a dreamer and an optimist and is desperate to change her life and everyone else’s for the better.
Louisa: Kendra is cold, hostile and quite simply a loner. Like many young people, finding what her path ‘should be’ doesn’t come easily. Life for her is simple and should stay that way. She is holding onto a relationship for reasons even she is unaware of.
How important is the setting of the play? What have you learned about the Alabama Delta?
Anna: The location sets the pace first of all. It’s so incredibly hot, although when the audience meets Betty and Kendra, it’s towards the end of the day so it would be cooling down, but only a little. There are no time pressures on this fishing trip at the start and that dictates a lot. It’s a languid, hot, slow part of the world – their whole pace of life is very different to ours. It takes a while to switch from the frantic pace of London to ‘Bama time! I visited New Orleans when I was younger so not quite Alabama but a similar pace and intense heat. I’ve researched the area with movies, photos and YouTube videos.
Louisa: It’s hot, it’s quiet and it’s somewhere Kendra goes to escape. It’s actually really made me think about fishing and how peaceful and tranquil it can be.
How’s your Alabama accent coming along?
Anna: Music has really helped, as has the S-Town podcast! Not only did that help incredibly with the accent, but it also gave me a real insight into the inner workings of a similar town to Betty and Kendra’s. Suitable Southern-based TV and movies, in general, are a great place to start to get used to the rhythm and melody.
Louisa: Getting there. It’s always difficult using an accent for the first time, but it’s a healthy challenge and I’m really enjoying it.
Has The Gulf taught you anything about relationships?
Anna: Let people be. You can’t change them, it will only breed resentment. Also, habit in relationships has a lot to answer for!
Louisa: Lots. The play highlights the problems that most relationships face and choose to ignore. And just how bad we are as human beings at being honest, and how often we deflect or project onto those we care for the most.
Do you have a favourite line from the play? If so, what?
Anna: Oh, I couldn’t pick. I don’t have any one favourite one – there are so may great ones. Betty loves telling a story so she has a lot to say!
Louisa: “I’m not the answer baby, I’m not. I’m just me.” So many of us look to our partners for reassurance or validation and this is a poignant moment for me in the play.
The action takes place during a languid summer. What are your holiday plans this summer?
Anna: I’m planning on a trip to California with my family. My brother lives in San Francisco so we’ll fly in to meet him there for a few days and then drive along the coast to Los Angeles and Santa Monica.
Louisa: I have so many weddings to attend this summer that holidays are having to take a back seat. I have booked a trip to Hawaii though for New Year’s Eve for a few weeks to make up for it. I am super excited for that.
THE GULF runs at London’s Tristan Bates Theatre from 17 April to 5 May 2018, with performances (90 minutes) Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.30pm, Saturday matinees at 2.30pm, Sunday matinees at 3pm and a special Friday matinee on 4 May at 2.30pm. Tickets are priced £17.50, concessions £15. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!