Karen Archer plays the main role of Juliana, with her real life daughter, Eliza Collings, taking the role of her daughter in the play. We caught up with Karen to find out a bit more...
Karen you are responsible for bringing the play to Theatre by the Lake and Park Theatre's attention, and are also a co-producer – how did you come across it?
I found the play by chance; I was sent it by someone on the director's course at RADA three years ago and am eternally grateful. I read it on my computer late at night and all I can say is I'd burst into tears by the last page.
I tracked down who owned the rights, and when I found myself in New York for a wedding, I went to meet the literary agents. By chance I met Mark Rylance a little while later while holding the play in my hands - he suggested I send it to his wife Claire who's a director. She read it and loved it too; meanwhile I'd got Park Theatre on board, and then Claire brought Theatre by the Lake on board who similarly loved it.
What drew you to the play?
It's a beautiful piece of writing; funny, dry, perceptive, intriguing, and incredibly moving. Our protagonist isn't always likeable - too sharp, too sarcastic, too unforgiving, too clever for her own good. But somehow we come to love her. The subject matter is incredibly topical: dementia (our protagonist's field of scientific research) has overtaken cancer in this country as the primary cause of death. And, of course, it's a wonderful, if challenging, part for a woman of a certain age.
How did your daughter get involved? Have you worked together before?
I had sent Claire a list of five names when we were casting the daughter, Lauren, and as a throwaway I mentioned I had an actual actress daughter. Claire immediately loved the idea of a mother and daughter playing these parts, and at the public reading Eliza absolutely blew us away.
We'd never worked together before except in the odd reading. Luckily, we quite like each other..! It's been a great experience.
What are you looking forward to about performing at TBTL? Have you been to the theatre before?
I came up to Keswick to see Eliza in Great Expectations which was at TBTL over Easter this year, and I'm really looking forward to being there for two weeks as opposed to a couple of nights. The theatre is terrific, and of course the area is just stunning. (I was born in Lancashire, by happenstance, and have always loved the Lake District since visiting as a child).
Why should audiences come to see The Other Place?
Quite simply it's a beautifully written play – thought-provoking, moving, gripping, and it constantly surprises the audience – you think you have a handle on what's going on and the rug is suddenly pulled out from under you. It's also brilliantly funny at points, which you maybe don't expect. And it's partly about a subject which increasingly affects a lot of people's lives.