INTERVIEW: Doctor Foster star and current Nottingham Playhouse leading lady Sara Stewart
Fresh from our TV screens in BBC hit drama Doctor Foster, Sara Stewart talks Chekov, The Cherry Orchard and Nottingham’s Kitty Café.
You’re starring in the Cherry Orchard at the Playhouse – give us a brief outline of the story.
The story is set in 1904 Russia, the revolution is bubbling and change is afoot. The play starts with my character (Madame Lyubov Ranevskaya) returning to her childhood home, which is a large estate with a cherry orchard on it. And because of her and her brother’s irresponsible spending the orchard is going to be repossessed by the bank, and they must decide if they’re going to sell it or not.
It’s a play that deals with letting go, the past, the future, change, saying goodbye; something everyone can relate to, I’m sure. It’s also a clever snapshot of Russia at the time. Each character represents different political angles: capitalist, communist, romantic, anarchist and everyone is thrown together – but it’s not a political play. It’s incredibly human and in true Chekov style highlights the ridiculousness and futility of life.
Why did you want to take on the role?
It’s one of the great roles for woman of my age and certainly one that was on my bucket list. She goes on a journey and there is a real arc in her personal narrative.
Why should people come and watch the show?
People are often intimidated by Chekov plays, but this story in particular is very human and universal, and the adaptation is very accessible. I can’t think of many other writers that put the human soul on a platter and serves it up for us to feast on, so well. Although it’s set in 1904, this adaptation dusts the cobwebs away – we’re dressed in timeless 20th Century clothes, the language is modern, it’s very punchy and there are funny bits and moving bits. Tim’s set design is beautiful and what happens to the house during the play is very clever as it lays bare the act of putting on the show.
What drew you to the script/show? Have you worked with Giles before?
I’ve never worked with Giles before, but I met him earlier this year when he was touring his one man show. I feel very privileged to be part of such a symbolic and special moment in his career, this being his final show as Artist Director at Nottingham Playhouse.
Have you spent time in Nottingham? What’s your favourite thing about the city?
This is my first visit to Nottingham and I am loving it! The Playhouse is wonderful to work in – it’s so inclusive and I love the sky mirror and the setup of the venue. Everyone is so lovely, they all call you ‘love’ and ‘duck.’ I spent the afternoon in kitty café with my daughter this week, which was fantastic and I’m looking forward to exploring the city and visiting West Bridgford, which I’ve heard is lovely. There’s also a lot of beauty around Nottingham, it’s very hilly which reminds me of growing up in Edinburgh and I like the texture that hills give a city.
You’ve worked across film, TV and theatre – what makes the stage different and why do you love it?
The stage is often what draws people to being an actor as it will often be their first experience of acting. You have much more creative control and you are exploring themes and interesting questions, whereas TV is often led simply by entertainment. But I like a mix of it all, I like film and TV, interspersed with the challenge of the stage.
Who is the most famous person you’ve worked with?
Probably Gwyneth Paltrow, I played her sister in a play called Proof and shared a dressing room with her, which was an interesting window into the world of a Hollywood star. She attracted real A-listers to the theatre, we were visited by Madonna, Leo DiCaprio, Kate Moss, Tom Ford, Sting – it was always a surprise!
Fresh from our screens in Doctor Foster – the first series was so explosive, was there a lot of pressure on the second series? Did you expect the story to go the way it did?
Well Mike Bartlett is such a fantastic writer and also writes for the theatre, which I think is why the TV show was such a success, because he is grappling with clever questions and interesting moral mazes that you often experience in theatre, but some TV entertainment doesn’t go into that territory.
What’s next for you?
Christmas back home with family and friends!
Cherry Orchard is at Nottingham Playhouse from Friday 3 – Saturday 18 November Evenings 7.45pm, matinees Saturday 11 November 2.30pm, Thursday 16 November 1.30pm. Tickets start at £8
www.nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk, Box office 0115 941 9419