Amazing Grace writer and director, Leo Charlton, sits down with actress Alice Harling to find out more about her experience acting in the play.
LC: Prior to Amazing Grace, you did a lot of work with Stagecoach. How was that whole experience, and what did you learn there that you’ve carried forward?
AH: I attended the Stagecoach performing arts school every Saturday at 14 and 15 years old. Stagecoach was an amazing experience. In class we practiced; acting, singing and dance to enact numerous seasonal performances. Through Stagecoach I was given an agent and was able to act as an extra in the BBC school drama Waterloo Road. I have carried forward a lot of acting exercises, i.e. improvisation sessions that I’ve been able to apply in practice for Amazing Grace.
LC: What pulled you into Amazing Grace and made you think ‘this is a project that I want to be a part of’?
AH: I was actually able to read the script way in advance to it being even imagined as a stage production. Upon reading I thought how interesting that would be to watch and even more so be a part of! I felt like it was not anything I had seen before but included elements of some incredible cult movies. The dark and realist nature of the play made it something that I could not miss out on.
LC: How has the process for Amazing Grace been different to what you’ve done before?
AH: The majority of productions I’ve been a part of in the past have been in a musical theatre format. The rehearsal process, therefore, is very different. In the case of Amazing Grace, I’ve not had to learn any songs or practice any dances. I have had to focus more on acting naturally, looking internally and invoking the necessary emotion of each scene. Something, I add, that has not proved simple. However, what’s the point in doing something that’s not a challenge?!
LC: What, so far, have been the most enjoyable moments for you on this project?
AH: I have enjoyed building a tightly knit cast family in rehearsals. The relationships we have built while rehearsing are something that will certainly translate to the stage and make for a smooth, fun and fulfilling production. Witnessing the script evolve throughout the project has also been incredibly intriguing. It is great to know that the finished product will be something that we have all created, something for us all to be very proud of.
LC: Speaking about Lizzie, this character was somewhat different in the first drafts to the finished version. For better or worse, in your opinion?
AH: The initial imagining of Lizzie was quite normal. She was still an interesting character with a fun personality to work with but the changes made have made her a much more complex character and shaped the play as a whole. She is no longer just “the one that got away”, for she never really goes. She is undoubtedly more enjoyable to play and so I feel the changes to her character are for the better.
LC: How do you go about effectively playing two very different personalities?
AH: It is a very difficult task to pull off a subtle but eerie change of personalities as Lizzie’s character progresses throughout the narrative. To do it effectively small changes in tone, movement, and facial expression have to be made to make it known to the audience that something has changed within her. It is not as simple as going from bubbly to rigid, to make it cohesive it has to be done gradually so as not to give anything away and or confuse the audience.
LC: What gave you the greatest in with Lizzie? Do you see much of her in yourself, or vice versa?
AH: In Lizzie’s first scene of the play, I see slight elements of myself. What interests me about her character is that she is flirty but withdrawn. She toys with Lockwood, she matches his intellect and she effectively has him wrapped around her finger. To be able to manipulate the main character in this way is immensely amusing. Lizzie and I also share a mutual wanderlust that is easy to translate to the stage.
LC: Without wanting to go into spoiler territory, what exactly do you think that she did to Lockwood?
AH: Intentionally I think Lizzie made Lockwood fall madly in love with her, something I feel she has done to others in the past. She left with him a lasting memory, while he didn’t ever cross her mind again. Unintentionally she made his memory of her inauspiciously unforgettable.
LC: How has the experience been for you, and what do you think people who come to see this play will get out of it?
AH: This experience has honestly been eye-opening for me. For someone who thought that they would never want to act in anything ever again being cast in this play has rekindled my love for amateur dramatics. The people who come to see Amazing Grace will traverse through a range of emotions in a relatively short period of time. In true Amazing Grace fashion, I hope they will be left with an unforgettable lasting memory of the play.
LC: What do you plan to do after Amazing Grace is over?
AH: The week of the play is also my first week back at Leeds Beckett University for my second year. I will be focusing on my studies while eagerly anticipating the next production that Leeds Arts Centre and Leo Charlton has to offer.