Robyn Scott and Roxane Hayward have joined forces to star in The Fugard Theatre‘s star-studded production of Shakespeare in Love. Not only are Robyn and Roxane tackling roles that awarded their film counterparts Academy Awards, Shakespeare in Love marks a return to the stage for both women. We sat down in the audience of The Fugard Theatre to chat about the show, the journey back to theatre and the current climate for female actors in South Africa.
Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in the arts?
Roxane Hayward: Acting has always been my first love, it’s always been what I’ve wanted to do since before I could speak. I think, for me, the inspiring thing is that I had a dream and I decided that I would do everything in my power to make that dream come true. That, in and of itself, is inspiration to keep going and motivation to go, “Don’t give up on that little girl’s dream.”
Robyn Scott: I literally came out of the womb knowing that this is what I was going to do. I was incredibly fortunate to have parents who saw that I had some talent and then they nurtured that talent. I consider myself very blessed because I know why I am on this planet and that is to tell stories. It’s a wonderful thing to know every day that this is why I am meant to be here, to tell stories, to make people feel moved and forget that they have tax returns or that they’ve had a fight with their husband.
What was it about this production that made you want to be involved?
Roxane Hayward: I’m an absolute fan of the film Shakespeare in Love. It came out when I was quite young. It’s one of those films that I watched over and over again. Three years ago, I was in London when the original West End production took place. I loved it. I thought that the role of Viola was amazing and the fact that it is now onstage and there is an opportunity to maybe one day in the future perform in the play, was just a really great thought. Three years later and here we are.
Robyn Scott: It’s fate, baby. It was meant to be.
Roxane Hayward: As soon as I heard it was coming to South Africa and that there were auditions, I thought to myself, “I haven’t done theatre in 10 years but if I ever was to get back onstage and do it, this is the moment. This is the role. This is the production. This is the director. This is the theatre.” It just ticked absolutely every single box.
Robyn Scott: I’m a romantic by heart. I absolutely just adored the movie. I am a huge Queen Elizabeth fan and I’m a massive Judi Dench fan. I loved her in that. I haven’t been onstage in over four years since London Road. To get my tootsies back on the boards again, to play Elizabeth at The Fugard Theatre under Greg Karvellas‘ direction…I had never worked with Greg before and I have been wanting to work with him for a really long time. All the stars aligned and here we are.
You both mentioned that this is your return to the stage. What has the process been like of coming back to the theatre?
Robyn Scott: I’m a nervous Nellie by nature so it’s all pretty terrifying. I’ll be nervous until we close the show but that is who I am as an actor. The journey for Shakespeare in Love has been absolutely wonderful. The cast is just a crazy bunch of mad loons who are just incredibly generous and kind and I haven’t laughed in a process like this, ever before. All we’ve done is laugh and I’m talking about wee-laughter. All we’ve done is laugh and work hard. It’s been an absolute joy.
Roxane Hayward: It was really interesting to transition from film, which I’ve been fortunate enough to work in since the age of 10/12, to theatre. I trained in Theatre. I love Shakespeare. I’ve always wanted to do a play at Maynardville or a full Shakespearean play. The requirement for the first round of auditions for Shakespeare in Love was a Shakespearean monologue. I was like, “It’s been a while but let’s see if I can pull it off.” It’s amazing how it all just kind of comes back to you. It was really just a thing of going, “Ok. They are two separate mediums, let’s get my head space into the theatre medium and give it a go.” On the first day of rehearsals, I felt like a fish out of water. We’ve got some of the most reputable, established, critically acclaimed actors in the country, Robyn being one of them, who have really made a name for themselves in the theatre world in South Africa and internationally. I was really quite intimidated to be honest because here is this film actress on theatre turf. The nerves very quickly turned into excitement and a few days into rehearsals I had my first dialect session with Robyn [who] was also the dialect coach on Shakespeare in Love. That day was an anchor point just having those moments with Robyn and thinking, I’ve got this and I’ve got this lovely lady with me who will be with me along the ride.
Robyn Scott: Because you need to feel safe. That is the difference between those mediums and that is why my greatest love is theatre because it’s alive. No night is the same. There is an element of danger to it. You don’t know what is going to happen. You need that safety and that nurturing.
Roxane Hayward: And that camaraderie and team spirit. There are 21 actors in this and numerous people behind the scenes. It’s a well-oiled machine and we all have one goal and that is to make an amazing production and do something successful to tell the story. It’s been really incredible to be a part of that. Every actor is just phenomenal. It’s been a real honour working with them.
Robyn Scott: It’s a sh*t show backstage. It’s actually easier to be onstage than it is backstage. The costumes are extraordinary. They come from the RSC. Rox and I both have quick changes that in the beginning you think, “We are never going to be able to do this. This is absolutely impossible.” There are amazing dressers and an amazing crew backstage but the generosity of everybody is that we all muck in. It’s actors opening these sliding doors. There are some crew but it’s actors doing those. We are all helping each other dress and undress. It’s a beast back there. It’s a well-oiled beast now. I think we’ve got it but it’s still dodgy. It’s that generosity of a company of people who come together to tell a story [that] is incredibly special. I think that helps so much for us coming back to the theatre again when you are working with these people who are just so insane and amazing.
I was already dying to ask you about the quick changes backstage because I feel like it must be more of a show backstage than onstage.
Roxane Hayward: Offstage is a full-on cardio workout. I do Muay Thai and I normally go every single day. I haven’t been for three weeks because I’ve just gone, “I actually don’t need to because I am doing all of my cardio running up and down the stairs backstage and changing.”
Robyn Scott: The costumes are beautiful. They are exquisite and we are honoured to wear them but my gold dress that I wear is 7kgs! That’s the one I have to walk in and then do the jig and they keep adding stuff to it! Like, “More pearls! Let’s give her more pearls!” You’ve got to make those costumes work and they do.
Roxane Hayward: The one thing for me, working with Robyn, was just learning how to breathe again. If you don’t breathe, the people even sitting in the fifth row aren’t going to hear you.
Robyn Scott: You’ve got to hit the back row.
Roxane Hayward: I’m working on all these exercises that Robyn gave me and then we put the costumes on and it’s a corset! It was like Keira Knightley in Pirates of the Caribbean where she goes, “Try wearing a corset!” That was literally me. I had my Pirates of the Caribbean moment because I couldn’t breathe.
Robyn Scott: And I was like, “No my Roxi, the corset is there to support you.” That is why opera singers love a corset because it supports everything. The tighter, the better.
Roxane Hayward: I still haven’t wrapped my head around that one.
Robyn, you are no stranger to Queen Elizabeth I. What is it about this character that keeps drawing you back to her?
Robyn Scott: When I was about 13, my brother was living in London and my mom and I went to visit him. I had never been to London before. We went to The Tower of London where Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth’s mother, was beheaded. I can remember walking in and looking around and having an overwhelming sense of, “I’ve been here before. I know this place.” It was absolutely overpowering and overwhelming. I became absolutely obsessed with Henry VIII, his wives but particularly with Anne Boleyn. I studied at UCT and in my final year, you have to do an audition program and all the people come and watch. I had chosen to do a piece out of a Dario Fo‘s Elizabeth: Almost By Chance a Woman. At the time, Marthinus Basson was the Artistic Director at Artscape and he came to watch the audition programs. I ended my program with playing this mad Queen Elizabeth as a 60-year-old woman. Two days later, I got called in by Christopher Weare, who headed up Drama and I thought, “I’m in trouble.” Chris said to me, “From what Marthinus has seen, they are going to put it on at The Arena.” I was 22 about to play a 60-year-old queen and it was my debut professional performance. 10 years later, Chris and I did it again and now this, although this is a very different Elizabeth. The first one was very large whereas this one is Stoppard. Stylistically it has to be a bit more real and [it’s] also difficult because Judi Dench played it and everyone knows the part because she won the Oscar for, I think it was the shortest time on screen in a movie.
Roxane Hayward: It was seven minutes or something total screen time.
Robyn Scott: There is also all of that. It’s like what I said to Rox, it is just fate. I still have a love for her. I still have rituals with her. Every night before we go onstage, I stand onstage and I take my moment and I look around the theatre and I honour her and I thank her.
I wanted to reference one of the lines your character says, “I know something of being a woman in a man’s world.”
Robyn Scott: “Yes by god I do know about that!”
Let’s chat about that because it’s a large cast that is predominantly male….
Robyn Scott: Is this coming off the back of Harvey Weinstein?
I think it’s always coming off of the back of something.
Robyn Scott: It’s so funny because it changes but when I said that line last night, I thought that as I said that line.
Roxane Hayward: I heard the reaction of the audience with that. It’s so prevalent at the moment. I think it’s always been prevalent but I think now it has been brought to light.
Robyn Scott: It doesn’t matter LA, Cape Town, Jozi.
Roxane Hayward: It doesn’t matter [what] industry either. It does happen everywhere. I think it really is a great line in the play. It comes at the end of the play and when you say it, it sums up the role of the character of Viola. The whole play is about her trying to be a part of this theatre world, this world of poetry which was run by men and was a man’s world. She desperately wants to be a part of it. She gets a taste of kind of knowing what it is like to be a woman in a man’s world.
Robyn Scott: What she [did], in those days, was dangerous. She would have been put in the tower and it’s because of that cheeky wink with Elizabeth because Elizabeth knows about being a woman in a man’s world. The funny thing is that her reign was glorious. It’s like you kind of want to go, “Well girls really should be running the world anyway.” That’s a whole other thing and it’s also that Harvey Weinstein thing and it was so weird because that popped into my head last night as I said it.
Roxane Hayward: It hasn’t before?
Robyn Scott: No. I have had nights ago where I did think, “I’ve been bullied by male directors and it’s so nice to dig it in.” It feels powerful and fab saying it. I love it.
Going off of that, in your position as actresses in South Africa, how do you feel about the current state of the industry? Do you feel as though there are enough roles for women?
Roxane Hayward: I think it’s definitely on the rise. There are a lot more productions coming to South Africa. The quality of productions coming to South Africa is fantastic. The South African productions that are being done locally and being born from within our country is amazing and it is all on the rise which is great. There are some really great roles for women.
Robyn Scott: The film stuff is amazing.
Roxane Hayward: But, saying that, I do have a lot of friends in the industry who are male and 90% of the time, my male actor friends are a lot busier and getting seen for roles and working because there are so many.
Robyn Scott: Without a doubt. Across the board.
Roxane Hayward: Now talking feature films and TV work, predominantly a lot of the roles are male roles. There is more work for men in the industry but it’s on the rise. I think the more we talk about it and the more we voice our opinion, the more roles will be created for women to get involved in.
Robyn Scott: There are amazing movies and TV series coming and that is fantastic and please God may it please continue. The theatre scene in Cape Town also has exploded. Should there be more roles for women? Yes. Should there be more female directors? Yes. Should female actresses be getting more money than male actors? Yes and yes again.
Roxane Hayward: I worked with an amazing female director, Matshepo Maja, the other day on a short film. She was so great and it was such a refreshing experience for me because I actually hadn’t ever worked with a female director before. And it was really fabulous. I also have a few friends who are scriptwriters who are female and the work that they produce is also lovely and because they are writing from a female’s point of view with a female voice, the female characters are slightly more predominant in their work. We are getting there.
Robyn Scott: Should there be more roles for female actresses in Cape Town? F*ck yeah. I haven’t worked in four years. It’s not because I chose not to work for four years, I haven’t been employed. No one has employed me and then people last night are like, “You are amazing! Where have you been?” And it’s like, thank you God for people like Greg Karvellas and The Fugard Theatre and thank you god for Eric Abraham to go, “Let’s do a show and let’s have 21 actors.” That’s another amazing thing. You just don’t get that.
Roxane Hayward: The other interesting thing that I would like to add to this question, the rise of social media has really influenced a lot of casting. I think it is kind of trickling into the theatre industry as well but definitely for the international film and TV productions. A lot of the time, you have to harness a bit of a social media following which takes up so much time and we see so many young actresses wanting to get into the industry dedicating their time and their energy on their social media accounts, which is very important to get out of non-existence and have a bit of an outflow but we must never forget that using our time and our energy to hone our actual skills and our craft and our knowledge is the thing that will create longevity in your career. At the end of the day it always boils down to talent. I think we will soon be reminded of that within the industry.
What has playing these characters taught you?
Robyn Scott: I have learned how to take a character that I know in my bones and delicately change her and find humor and how to go about doing that. That was the job for me. How do I play her again but completely differently that will serve the style of Tom Stoppard and tell this style in this play for this story? I think, as an actor, that is what it was about for me. It was how to go about doing that and keeping everyone happy who does love the movie and who loves Judi Dench and all of that because I am not Judi Dench. I am Robyn Scott. That was the task for me and I hope that I have made her my own.
Roxane Hayward: If I have to sum it all up, this role has taught me to be brave in so many aspects of the term. Viola, herself, is a brave young woman but coming back into theatre and working with such an incredible team, I’ve really had to be brave. The words that Greg has said to me throughout the rehearsal process have been, “Rox, be brave. Just do it and give me more. I can always reign you in but just be brave.” They are words that I go to bed at night thinking, “Ok. It makes sense to me. Be brave.”
Robyn Scott: And you are being brave, babe.
Who are some South African woman in the arts that inspire you?
Robyn Scott: Sylvaine Strike, Karin van der Laag, Lucinda Hooley [and] Jaci Smith were the women and actresses that I got to look up to when I was in my 1st year at UCT Drama School. I always said, if I can be a combination of all of those women, watch out world. I’m “mummy” to a lot of actors. I take on that role but they are my mummies. When I’m with them, I get to be the baby and I love it. I just hope that they are proud of me. I must also say Antoinette Kellerman is like, I actually get nervous when she walks into a room. I get quite starstruck and I can’t talk. That voice! She is like stratospheric.
Roxane Hayward: Taryn Sudding! I used to watch Kideo growing up and I loved her. I wanted to be her. I thought she was the most fabulous thing I’d ever seen. She was my Kideo woman and that was it and then I saw her in The Wizard of Oz and a few other productions that she had been in over the years. I kept all the programs of all the shows she was in. I kept everything. I was going through things for a visa application and I came across The Wizard of Oz program with Taryn Sudding. She crossed my mind and then I thought, “Come Roxane, you have a flight to catch. Put it away.” I got on the plane and Taryn Sudding was sitting next to me! I went, “I’m so sorry, this is going to make me sound like a psycho but I have to introduce myself. You’ve been such an inspiration to me!”
Robyn Scott: Was she amazing?
Roxane Hayward: Yes! She’s such a beautiful soul and she just exudes this light. I also love Anthea Thompson. I’ve seen her in a few things and trained with her briefly. It was a great experience and in that short space of time, she really did give me a few pointers that I’ve kept with me. Sabrina Chinneli-Smith and Bronwyn Gottwald were my drama teachers when I was little. They helped me create the foundation blocks for me as an actress and gave me that confidence and that drive from a really young age. They are lessons that I will never forget. And last but not least, the lovely Robyn Scott. I can’t not mention her and I’m not just saying this because we are sitting next to each other right now. It’s been eight weeks now that we’ve known each other but I’ve learned so much. It’s really been special having you by my side through this journey.
Robyn Scott: But not just this journey.
Roxane Hayward: And more to come!
You can follow Robyn via her official website.