Actress Shanaya Rafaat has fantastic theatre, film and television credits. She’s now playing Estella in Great Expectations at West Yorkshire Playhouse and TSOTA was so excited to find out more.
TSOTA: What did you find most challenging when auditioning and rehearsing for the part of Estella?
SR: I think the most challenging part about playing Estella is trying to understand the nature of her heartlessness. She’s been taught from a young age to attract men and break their hearts, to wreak Miss Haversham’s revenge on the male sex. The more I unpick the part, I wonder how much she enjoys this pattern of manipulation or whether she actually feels trapped by it.
TSOTA: Have you always been a fan of Great Expectations?
SR: Yes I have. It’s always been my favourite Dickens novel, mainly because I was fascinated by the character of Miss Haversham and the image of this ageing, crumbling bride who can never get over the tragedy of being left at the altar.
TSOTA: What has been your favourite role to date and why?
SR: I like playing complicated, difficult women like Estella. Figuring out their motivations and how they go about getting what they want. One of my favourite roles to date has been Lyse in The Illusion which is Tony Kushner’s adaptation of a Pierre Corneille play. She’s a wily, opportunistic maid who has her heart broken, briefly turns into an avenging fury and finally gets what she wants only to realise that she may not want it after all. I love parts like that which take you on a journey, where your character learns things and changes throughout the course of the play.
TSOTA: You’ve had film, TV and stage roles – what are the main differences between performing for screen and stage?
SR: I think the main difference is, of course, the presence of a live audience which makes the work feel more immediate and dangerous and therefore more exciting.
TSOTA: You’re starring alongside Jane Asher, who plays Miss Havisham. How are you enjoying working with her and the rest of the cast?
SR: Both Jane Asher, who plays Miss Havisham, and Daniel Boyd, who plays Pip, are very generous actors who make bold choices and I felt instantly comfortable with both of them which works well for our respective onstage relationships. I think the same could be said of the rest of the cast. Our director Lucy Bailey has brought together and guided a wonderful, unselfish ensemble who enjoy working together and constantly jump in with strong, vivid ideas.
Great Expectations is at West Yorkshire Playhouse 4 March to 2 April. TSOTA can’t wait!