Gina Isaac is currently starring as Stella in Rapture Theatre Company’s new production of A Streetcar Named Desire. We caught up with Gina just before the final week of the production at Edinburgh King’s Theatre.
A Streetcar Named Desire is an American classic, for those who are less familiar with it, could you tell us a little bit about the play.
It’s a story full of the heat and vibrancy of the city where it is set, in New Orleans. Blanche and her sister Stella, who is married to the brutish Stanley, find themselves thrown together and the story unfolds from there. You see the old world and the new clashing up against each other in the various characters in the play. There are too many spoilers in there to go into detail but it’s a wonderful story.
And your role…
Blanche is a fading Southern Belle who is desperately trying to hold onto a world that no longer exists. Like all of Tennessee Williams characters she is deeply flawed and yet striving with hope for something more.
How much preparation and rehearsal time did you get before the tour started?
The rehearsal period was four weeks, with a week of sitting around a table discussing and then ‘getting it on its feet’. Streetcar is a very complex play with layers upon layers for the actors to discover. It was a very intense but satisfying process.
How has the play been received so far, has it been different in different locations?
We’ve had a really terrific reception from all of our audiences, and every audience is different of course. The play is quite ‘light’ in the first act, and the story is very engaging, which seems to invite the audience in and they are really with us. Come the second act, things get dark pretty quickly but by then the audience seem to have really invested in the characters and you can hear a pin drop…with the occasional rustle of sweet packets.
What is life like backstage on tour?
I wouldn’t know on this job as I never leave the stage or the wings. I’m pretty sure they’re having a good time though. It’s normally a strange mixture of high and lows on any tour – it can be quite an intense experience working in such a bubble for months at a time.
Touring can be demanding; how do you keep your performance fresh and look after yourself when you’re having to travel as well as perform on stage at night?
Touring actually really helps to keep a performance/play feeling fresh. Every venue and auditorium is different with its own set of challenges, so you never really ‘settle’, which is great. You learn to listen to your body as an actor, as it will always let you know if you’re burning the candle too much. Some parts that you play will demand you look after yourself more than others…it’s a delicate balancing act but common sense really.
Can we go back a bit and talk about what inspired you to become an actor and the path you took to become one?
I used to watch a lot of the old MGM movies when I was a kid and I guess that’s what sparked things for me. I was lucky, in that I never wanted to do anything else so I was quite a clear about the path I wanted to take. I studied drama at school and attended a group at weekends. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to go to a drama school as opposed to university and I spent three years at the Central school of Speech and Drama and then entered the industry from there. The hardest part about being an actor is once you’ve graduated and become part of a very big, very competitive industry. You learn quite quickly if the life of an actor is for you.
Any advice for aspiring performers?
Gosh, that’s a tricky one. I guess one of the main things I have realised, is that every job you do informs and moulds you as an actor. You are constantly learning as an actor, always. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing it for. You take something from every job, the good ones and the ‘not so good’ ones. Also, always brush your teeth and if you’re on an OK wage, get a round in now and then.
Finally, why should people come along to see the play? and where else can we see it?
Because Streetcar is the most brilliant story…and everyone loves a good story. It’s totally engaging from the off and I think you really care about the characters and what happens to them. This is our final week at The Kings, Edinburgh, so do yourself a favour and come see it.
Gina will be appearing in Rapture Theatre’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh from 3 – 7 October 2017.