Questions with Lucy Bell and Simon Gleeson

With Mamma Mia opening in Albury Wodonga this week, we’ve been saving these special notes from the stars of Splinter until just now. We talk with Lucy Bell and Simon Gleeson.

What’s cool to know, is that one of Simon Gleeson’s early roles was in the original Australian production of Mamma Mia, the Musical. It went so well that he then went on to appear in the West End production in London. This was before he appeared as Jean Valjean in the 2014 Australian tour of Les Miserables for which he won best actor in a musical at The Helpmann Awards.

Equally, the film and television prowess of Lucy Bell is astounding. You’d likely remember her from All Saints, City Homicide, Rake, and Love Child. She and her sister Hilary Bell (the playwright) have reached critical acclaim in their own right, stepping into the limelight away from their family legacy in John Bell AO OBE, of Bell Shakespeare.

There is a quality of performance coming to the Hume Bank Butter Factory stage.

HotHouse Theatre: What characters do you play in Splinter?

Lucy Bell: Simon and I play a married couple. In the play they are called Woman and Man and we have a child that has gone missing. And at the start of the play she has just come back to us.

Simon Gleeson: That’s right, after nine months of being a way she has just been returned so we start the play in a very joyful place where she is finally back… which is how you’d think the end of the play would be but we start there.

HHT: What do you think makes the play compelling or interesting?

LB: It’s a very intense study of this relationship and how this couple copes with pressure of having had a child missing for 9 months and then dealing with what happens when she returns. It’s not as straight forward as you might think.

SG: I think what makes it interesting is that is a great exploration of trauma and what it does to any individual and a couple. We are being cagey with what we say so as to not give away anything, because there are lots of twists and turns.

LB: Its not a “who-done-it” but it is a psychological thriller… its very twisty.

HHT: What ways is this role different from other roles you’ve played?

LB: This is the first play that Ive done with only two actors – it’s a two-hander – and we are both pretty much on stage the whole time. It feels like rehearsals are going really really quickly because there is no time when we are sitting out – its very intense but I’m really enjoying being in such a little cast.

SG: Me too. I think there is a lot more ownership. What I’m enjoying, I don’t know whether Lucy is, is the sole reliance that you have on other person. I think a three-hander is the least I’ve been involved in so its nice that’s its really small, not just between Lucy and I but everyone in the creative team. We are just around a small table and being able to have a “bigger” voice is great.

HHT: This is the second season of an Australian play. What is it like coming back to a play that you know works?

LB: Well this play has been done before but in a very different way. We say it’s a two-hander but it is in fact a three-hander.  The way the third character is represented in our production is very different from when it was first produced, so we are actually having to rediscover ways of doing things. But knowing that the play has been done before, we can absolutely trust it. There are no radical re-writes or that kind of thing – so that’s nice.

SG: With every other play other than a new play, you come up against exactly the same thing. We were talking about Noel Coward this morning, it’s been done for decades and it works. What so nice about this is that it is Australian. That is the joy of this. It has been done once before, but it hasn’t been so thoroughly mined within an audience’s mind, that’s there is knowing or too much expectation of what it is. It’s so nice to be able to bring a work that a lot of people have never experienced before.

HHT: How would describe the play in three words?

SG:  Just going for three words “Chilling”, “Suspenseful”, “But Loving”. It seems like you wouldn’t put all those together but that’s how I’d describe it.

LB: Can I go with those three?

Splinter plays from 15 October at the Hume Bank Butter Factory Theatre for six performances.

There are only a small number of tickets left.  Bookings can be made here