About to star in Stephanie Martin’s play ‘Joy’ at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, the actress spoke to Love London Love Culture about the production…

Joy at Theatre Royal Stratford East. Rachael Bright (Mary). photo credit Bernadette Baksa.jpg
Rachel Bright in rehearsals for Joy. (c) Bernadette Baksa.

Hi Rachael, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to Love London Love Culture. Could you tell me a little bit more about the play and what it is about? 

For me, ‘Joy’ is a big hearted story about freedom and inclusion. It follows the story of Joy, an independent, strong and brave woman with Down’s syndrome and her fight to be given the independence she deserves. It’s a timely story that follows some of her struggles but also some of her happiness.

She has a loving and sometimes difficult family, with other close relationships that are questioned. Its also woven together with a Victorian sister story, which highlights how far we have come but also how far we still need to go.

What first attracted you to the play?

I was first in touch with the playwright, Stephanie Martin, at the beginning of the year. We had both been at a scratch night that Pluck Productions had put on at the Park Theatre. We were both doing completely different things but enjoyed each other’s work. She sent me the first draft of JOY and I was in love, I knew from first reading I wanted to be involved with this story. And there the love affair began.

How excited are you and the rest of the cast about bringing the play to the stage?

We are all so excited and passionate about bringing this story to stage, it’s so timely and current and has so much heart. We just want to share it with as many people as possible!

How are preparations going ahead of the first performance?

Prep is going well, so far! We’re all on the same page, we all want it to be the best it can be in the amount of time we have.

What do you think audiences can expect to take away from the production? 

I hope the audience take away answers to some questions they might have about some learning disabilities. I hope people laugh and cry and go on a journey with joy and I hope they are amazed at the talent of the incredible cast and creative team.

Could you tell me more about your character and how she fits into everything that happens? 

I play Mary, Joy’s older and slightly annoying but incredibly loving older sister. They didn’t grow up with a mum so Mary has also taken on a mothering role.Joy and Mary are best friends too, they have an incredible amount of love for each other but Mary also wants to start living her own life and wants to give Joy more independence.

What do you think makes this an important play? 

I think this is an important play because I think as a society we have come an awfully long way with accepting differences but we still haven’t come quite far enough. I think it’s important to talk about all types of ‘issues’ frankly, to question our own judgements and feelings and screw them up, throw them away and start again without prejudices.

What did you first think when you read the script? 

I first read a very early draft of the script near the beginning of the year and, like I said above, feel in love with the characters and the story immediately. It’s Frank, funny and hopeful.

Is there any other character that you would love to play in Joy?

To be fair, I think I’ve lucked out with the character I’ve been cast as. Mary is a complex, intelligent, funny soul and I love her to bits. For something completely different, maybe it would be nice to give the Victorian sister role (Maude) a go – just so I can dress up!

How  would you describe the play? 

A timely story about love, support, family and inclusion.

For those who are thinking of coming along to see it – what do you think the main reasons people should?

People should come and see it for SO many reasons. It’s a great venue, Stratford East are continually putting exciting new writing projects on and they need your support. Also, I think it’s a beautiful story, full of questioning and hope and I doubt you would have seen anything like it before. Oh and I’m in it too!

Joy plays at the Theatre Royal Stratford East from the 24th October until the 4th November. For more information visit: http://www.stratfordeast.com/whats-on/all-shows/joy#details

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