The actress spoke to Emma Clarendon about starring in the stage adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s film at the Riverside Studios.

(c) Michael Wharley.

For those not familiar with the film what is ‘Persona’ about? Persona happens on several levels at once. It is a psychological drama about a famous actress, Elizabet, who has without explanation or apparent reason stopped talking and suffers bouts of paralysis.After several months in hospital in this state she is sent to a remote seaside summer house to recuperate. She is accompanied by a nurse, Sister Alma.The relationship between the two women, one completely silent, grows increasingly close until an act of betrayal tears them apart unleashing unexpected emotional violence and hurt, exposing their innermost secrets.This unfolding drama is framed by Ingmar Bergman’s extraordinary thoughts and private notes on the creative process.

How does it feel to be returning to the stage? Quite nerve wracking and a great challenge! But Persona is an extraordinary piece of writing and imagination, wonderful to explore and share with an audience.

Why did you want to be involved with this production? This theatre adaption of Persona is quite unique and unusual and is an enormous acting challenge for three actors. It is fascinating to work on material that explores the deepest parts of the human psyche, and the depths of  a relationship between two people. And at the same time to be drawn into the writer’s the process of creation, working on several layers of consciousness and reality.

After some of the performances the actors and director will be doing Talk Backs or a Q&A with the audience – I look forward to and enjoy connecting with the audience in this way, something you obviously don’t often get to experience in film and TV.

How has it been working on the show so far? Challenging and exciting!

What can we expect from this production of ‘Persona’?A rollercoaster of an emotional journey which the audience shares with the actors in the very intimate space of Studio 3.The story and the characters’ relationships are heightened by the presence of William Close – the renowned installation artist and musician who will be playing the Earth Harp. The Earth Harp is the largest stringed instrument on the planet. William and the base of the Earth harp will be on stage with the strings travelling out over the audience turning the theatre into the instrument and wrapping the audience in its magical sound.

Why should people come along to the Riverside Studios to see it? This is the first time Persona has been performed live on stage in the UK in English and our adaptation which includes Bergman’s deepest and most private thoughts about the creative process, is a world first – so it’s a unique opportunity to experience the work of a great master of theatre and film.

It is also the first time that William Close, creator of the performance art and music group, Mass Ensemble, the Earth Harp Collective, has performed in the UK. (The Earth Harp collective is a team of musicians William works with using the Earth Harp and his other invented instruments, as well as violin, voice, acoustic and classical guitar and percussion.) William’s  presence with the Earth Harp in Persona is a rare opportunity to experience this remarkable contemporary composer and musician.

Persona is the opening production of the new, rebuilt Riverside Studios in Hammersmith. It’s a fabulous new Arts Centre with 2 theatres, a superb cinema and state of the art TV production studio. The complex has a restaurant, a bistro, coffee bar and beautiful atrium exhibition space, all facing out over the Thames. So people should come to experience this most unusual piece of work in a fantastic new theatre and film complex!

By Emma Clarendon

Persona runs at Riverside Studios, 21 January – 23 February.