Welcome to Part two of our conversation with Anthea Thompson, Amy Louise Wilson and Emily Child, currently starring in The Fugard Theare’s sold out production of Florian Zeller’s The Father. Part one of our conversation can be found here.
I often ask in interviews if they feel if there are enough compelling roles for women but having tracked your three careers, I’ve noticed that you’ve all gotten to play some really great roles. I was wondering how you feel about that and how you manage to make sure that your body of work stays true to who you are and stays interesting?
Emily Child: I know actors are always saying that there aren’t enough female parts. Sure, in some of the older texts there are limits to the number of women in the story but I still feel like there are endless parts for women. I’ve never felt that I just can’t find a play. People are always saying in castings “I just can’t find a play for two women. It’s impossible.” If you read enough and you go to a library, if you hunt, they exist. Writers now, young writers, are writing all the time. All the new work, you go to The Alexander Bar and you watch new writers boost work, that has been great. I find it is making more and more possible for women.
Anthea Thompson: I’ve never had a beef about it.
Amy Louise Wilson: I do feel it’s a thing with film. It’s a big thing with film and TV. Almost always, the scripts that I get, the description of the male character will be like “smart, a family-man, intelligent, understands the world, very interested in climate change…” and then the description for the woman will be like “sexy and also cute.” The roles are there, and this doesn’t apply so much to theatre, the roles are there but they are limited.
Emily Child: I suppose film is designed sometimes for more commercial value but theatre, it has a different life in that way. I do think a lot of actors, if they see a part that is only on two pages, they are like “There are no parts for women in this.” What if it is an amazing part? The size of the part doesn’t matter. If people stop looking at how big or how many lines they have and more about the quality of the role, it’s endless.
Amy Louise Wilson: But there definitely is a paucity of women writers and women directors. I’ve worked with amazing, young writers like Joanna Evans and Genna Gardini and those are people who I am always going to want to work with because they are my generation and they are writing new stuff and they are women. There aren’t that many female playwrights that I know that are having a lot of output and women directors, young women directors. Which women director’s have you two worked with?
Emily Child: Amy Jephta is one as well. Maybe if you were to do the numbers. I do wonder why sometimes when there is equal opportunity once you are in the professional world, it feels like the professional work in theatre is available if you are wanting to produce your work, you can. I do feel that there are platforms for young writers, men and women, to produce and make their work. Funding is a problem for everyone no matter what your sex, I feel. It’s an endless debate though because there are also personal stories.
Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in the arts?
Anthea Thompson: I got 8% for Maths at the end of Standard 8. So I knew I wasn’t going to be an actuary. I played out of the academic side of things into art and those things. I think my parents knew before I did. They nurtured me along the lines of being fairly dramatic.
Emily Child: I was also really bad at maths and such. I was very shy. I didn’t speak as a kid so I didn’t think it was actually an option but then I did a play…
Anthea Thompson: And suddenly you found a voice.
Emily Child: Oprah talks about your ‘air couch.’ As cheesy as it sounds, it’s a space in the world that when you find it, in what you do, you sit back in your air-couch and you feel comfortable and you feel at home no matter where it takes you. I did this play in school and I felt completely at home and comfortable. Then there was no other option from then on.
Anthea Thompson: That’s the interesting thing, for me there was no other option. It was just somehow feeling authentic as a creative being. It almost swept me along with it rather than me choosing it in some very active way.
Amy Louise Wilson: There isn’t one particular moment that I can think of but my mom always took me to see theatre because we used to live near The Market Theatre, she was very much involved in that world. She used to take me when I was a baby and still crying and everyone would be like “Who brings a crying baby to a show?” She would. She carried on taking me and I just sort of grew up in that world I guess.
Do you each have a favourite role you have done so far or one you are most proud of?
Anthea Thompson: That’s like asking “who is your favourite child?” I don’t want to say that any of my babies are ugly. They are all valuable and they have all taught me something in different ways. It’s like asking “what is your favorite movie?” I can’t do it. I would have to give you an extra explanation as to why.
Emily Child: You are always a different person when you take on a different role and you are in a different phase of your life so there is no way of comparing really over time which one stands out.
Anthea Thompson: Each production becomes its own sort of family. As dysfunctional as that family might be at times, you end up loving that family. It’s not just a part. It’s bigger than the part.
Amy Louise Wilson: Am I allowed to say that my favourite thing that I’ve seen Emily in was The Pervert Laura?
Were you familiar with each other’s work prior to this?
Emily Child: I am a huge fan of Anthea’s. I haven’t been brave enough to tell her. I was starstruck.
Amy-Louise Wilson: Emily told me “I don’t know if I should tell Anthea that I am such a big fan of hers. I’m too embarrassed.”
Emily Child: I’m glad I’ve gotten to now. I was trying to send you those vibes in rehearsals that I am a huge fan.
Anthea Thompson: Thanks! This has been great I must say. I like working with women. It’s a very good energy. I didn’t know Amy, but I love you now.
Amy Louise Wilson: I love you now too. We hadn’t met but I had seen you perform.
Anthea Thompson: We are lucky.
If you could go back to your younger self at the beginning of your career and give yourself one piece of advice what would it be?
Anthea Thompson: Take risks. It’s possibly as simple as that. Take risks, surrender. Be brave, bold.
Emily Child: Your gut is always right. Every time I have said yes to something and I haven’t actually really thought if it was the right decision, every time, it has been the right call. Say no if your gut says no. Don’t just say yes because you think you need it in your career. I do think maybe be brave but say no more.
Amy Louise Wilson: You don’t have to say yes to everything just because you are starting out.
Anthea Thompson: I think I was meant to hear this today. Something came in for me today but my gut says “it is not the right time. It is not the right part.” And I was sitting learning it at home and I almost got this internal wrestling and I genuinely have goosebumps now. I think I was meant to hear that now. It say it’s ok to say no. It is not going to disappear, parts aren’t going to disappear into a black-hole. I just have to find a reason to say why I’m not doing it. That’s the whole thing. You don’t want to burn bridges either.
I think it was Amy Poehler who said “the word ‘No’ can be a complete sentence.”I think she was saying that women are often afraid and they feel the need to justify….
Emily Child: I think that can be very true.
Who are some South African women in the arts that inspire you?
Anthea Thompson: Well I am sitting with two now, that’s genuine. For me, people like, the doyenne’s of theatre, Antoinette Kellerman, Sandra Prinsloo. The women who are also creating work, Lara Foot, Janice Honeyman I’ve got the most enormous amount of respect for. Again, it’s such a wide variety. There are so many people who do different things. Marianne Thamm, Shimmy Isaacs. People who come into the creative process from different places.
Emily Child: All these young generations fascinate me now. People like Buhle (Ngaba), who come and is writing books and informing the arts in a new way, performing theatre in a way different to how I expected in a way or different to what I am used to, because I am set in my ways, my generation, my teaching. I feel like there is a powerful movement of young practitioners coming. I am excited to watch how it’s going to change us all of us.
Amy Louise Wilson: Those are the people who I am inspired by. The people who I am inspired by, obviously it is just a given to talk about those greats but again, it’s people like Genna Gardini, Joanna Evans, Ameera Conrad, young theatre-makers, those are exciting people that I think are…
Emily Child: But that whole cast of that play Black Dog at the Baxter, that whole cast is so exciting to me, to watch their progress now as an ensemble because they work so beautifully and I think they are working together again, but that idea of teamwork and company moving forward from the younger generations I think is very exciting.
Anthea Thompson: I think it comes out of a genuine need, those companies that form, because it is so hard. The agenda is, in a way, quite pure and that is lovely to see.
Emily Child: Like we were saying, there is no other option. If you need to make it you must.
Anthea Thompson: …And tell stories. And boy do we have a lot of stories to tell.
The Father will run at The Fugard Studio Theatre, from 8 November to 3 December 2016 Tuesdays to Saturdays at 8pm with 4pm matinee performances on Saturdays. Tickets, ranging from R130 to R160 are now available and can be booked through Computicket on 0861 915 8000, online or at any Shoprite Checkers outlet. Bookings can also be made at the Fugard Theatre box office on 021 461 4554. There is a generous 15% discount available for the Friends of The Fugard members.
Tickets to see Amy Louise Wilson in The Mother, directed by Janice Honeyman at The Fugard can be found here.
Cover photo by Jesse Kramer.
Sarafina Magazine and Jesse Kramer maintain copyright of all images. For usage please contact us.
Emily graduated from the University of Cape Town in 2007 with a Theatre and Performance Degree, specializing in Acting. She then worked as a member of Cape Town based theatre troupe – The Mechanicals. Her work has garnered her numerous awards and nominations including the 2015 Fleur Du Cap for “Best Actress” for the role of “Laura” in Louis Viljoen’s “The Pervert Laura” last staged at the The Fugard Theatre. Other theatre projects include Steven Berkoff’s “Decadence” directed by Christopher Weare, “LEAR”, written by William Shakespeare and directed by Guy De Lancey, “CHAMP”, written by Louis Viljoen and directed by Greg Karvellas where Emily performed at the Edinburgh Festival 2013, as well as LA based, Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre production of “Urban Death”, directed by Jana Wimer. Emily was recently seen at The Baxter Studio Theatre, Grahamstown and Hilton Festivals 2015 in “Born in the RSA”, directed by Thoko Ntshinga, as well as Mike Bartlett’s “CONTRACTIONS”, directed by Greg Karvellas at The Alexander Bar and Hilton Festival 2016. She will perform in “The Emissary”, written and directed by Louis Viljoen in the Cape Town Fringe Festival 2016. On camera, Emily’s projects include the SAFTA winning series pilot, “Armed Response”, BBC’s youth series “Young Leonardo” as well as feature films “Shirley Adams,” directed by Oliver Hermanus, “The Dark Tower” directed by Nicolaj Arcel and “Beyond the River”, directed by Craig Freimond, to be released in early 2017.
Anthea has proved herself to be a highly versatile performer, director, writer and theatre maker. Some of her theatre credits include: the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet, Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, Rosalind in As You Like It, Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shirley in Shirley Valentine, Margaret Hymen in Broken Glass with Sir Anthony Sher, Kate in Taming of the Shrew, Myrtle in Tennessee Wiliams’ Kingdom Of Earth, which travelled to the Tennessee Williams Theatre Festival in Provincetown, Mooi Maria in Pieter Fourie’s classic Mooi Maria and she currently continues to tour with the translation of Geraldine Aron’s Afrikaans translation of My Brilliant Divorce. She has won four Fleur du Cap awards and the Best Actress Award at Aardklop for Mooi Maria as well as a Kanna nomination for My Briljante Egskeiding. The exploration of Alzheimers as a disease is close to her heart as her mother is in the advanced stages and she believes it is something that needs to be brought to the stage to shed light for both sufferers and families that are affected by it.
Amy Louise Wilson
Amy Louise Wilson is a film, theatre and television actress from Johannesburg. She studied Acting and Contemporary Performance at Rhodes University, Shakespeare and Performance Studies at Leeds University (UK) and Acting Honours at the University of Cape Town. Her stage credits include the one-woman show Scrape, Four Small Gods (Magnet Theatre) and the Silver Ovation award-winning The Year of the Bicycle (performed in Cape Town, Durban, Germany and most recently at the Market Theatre). Major television roles include Fox’s The Book of Negroes and ABC’s Of Kings and Prophets. She has played leading roles in films such as Warner Brothers’ A Cinderella Story and Netflix’s new drama The Siege of Jadotville.