Lady Caroline speaks! Gillian English weighs in with her character’s view on marriage, 1980’s morals, and the infamous gold pleather pants.
Q #1: Who do you play in A Woman of No Importance? Tell us a little about your character.
GILLIAN ENGLISH: I play Lady Caroline Pontefract, Lady Hunstanton’s [Andy Fraser] best friend. She’s very quick, very witty and incredibly sure of her position in society. However, she is on her 4th marriage, and all of her bad luck in love seems to have made the poor dear insecure. Although, with the way Sir John [Michael Vitorovich] behaves, it’s not unwarranted.
Q #2: Director Paul Hardy has changed the setting of the play from the 1890’s (which is when Oscar Wilde wrote it) to the 1980’s. What surprised you about making the time switch? Did you discover issues or social mores that were surprisingly similar (or not) almost 100 years apart?
GILLIAN ENGLISH: Lady Caroline fits in perfectly in the 1980s. It doesn’t matter if the rest of society has grown past certain social issues that would have been taboo in the 1890s; everything is a big deal to Lady Caroline. If everyone became moral and good, there’d be nothing to gossip about.
Q #3: Can you relate any anecdotes from rehearsal (e.g: : another actor – in character or out – doing something unexpected)?
GILLIAN ENGLISH: During one of our final rehearsals before we opened, James [James Graham, as the politician Mr. Kelvil – or “Mr. Kettle”, as Lady Caroline insists on referring to him] and Amy [Amy Zuch, as flirty/ditzy Lady Stutfield] really committed to their Act 3 entrance and James fell headlong onto the stage. I’m very glad I was offstage for that occurrence. Jason Thompson [who plays Archdeacon Daubeny] never makes a weak choice, so it’s never a wise idea to look him straight in the eye on stage, because you will corpse**; or at least I will, I don’t know you.
We always warm up as a group before a run, and once we did an exercise with some deep knee bends. By the time places were called, I was completely stuck to the inside of my pleather pants. It was a very uncomfortable first act. Speaking of those pants, I can’t actually move when I sit down on the set chairs, because the pleather sticks to the plastic. If I have to pivot or move, I have to actually pick my butt up and swing it around. It’s very feminine.
Q #4: Do you have a favourite line or moment from the play – yours or anyone else’s?
GILLIAN ENGLISH: I love when Gerald [played by Nicholas Porteous] says “Hello mother!” at the end of Act 4, it’s adorable. And Mrs. Allonby’s [Paula Schultz] exchange about Patagonia is hilarious, especially because she’s so drunk. And, Mrs. Arbuthnot’s [Áine Magennis] unintentional Brandy and Monica reference when she says “The boy is mine” in Act 2.
**”to corpse”: theatre lingo for busting out in inappropriate mirth.
Blame costume designer Brandon Kleiman for the pleather pants.