Interview with 'This Wide Night' actress Samantha Steer

In the first of two interviews with the cast of  'This Wide Night', today we interview actress Samantha Steer and ask her about her theatrical  background, and what it is like playing 'Marie'.

Samantha Steer

What is your theatrical background?

I have been performing since I was around 8 years old where I was always in the school plays and worked with local amateur companies throughout my youth. I studied literature and theatre studies at the University of Kent and after I graduated last summer I spent my year back home working with the lovely people at Green Room.

Why do you like acting and what do you think you gain from it?

To say why I enjoy acting is a pretty tough question. Theatre is one of the great loves of my life and I think that is the simplest way I can answer the question. Being centre stage and having all eyes on me is really not the point for me at all. I really do thrive off theatre being an artistic medium which feels like a conversation. Real people, sharing one space, some story-telling, some observing, but all learning and listening and expanding our humanity through each others’ reactions. I love the way theatre can show you new sides to people’s stories you might not really have considered until you see it performed, seen the pain and joy and fallibility of people right in front of you. I love acting because I love being a part of telling people’s stories when they might not be heard otherwise.

What was your first reaction to reading the play?

On first reading the play, I wasn’t sure what to make of it.  I found it very static but after reading it again, I found that there was so much more to it than initially met the eye.  As it comes off the page, I have found that it is really all about human beings struggling in a difficult world and that the issues are very relatable such as trust, friendship, mistrust and vulnerability.

What research did you do to prepare for the part and how did it make you feel?

Another way I understood my character more deeply was to watch lots of documentaries about prostitution and prison life.  I found it deeply sad how difficult many women find it to break free from prostitution and equally sad how many ex-convicts actually seemed to have a better life in prison.  It is all very intense and quite upsetting.

How do you feel about your character?

I didn’t understand Marie initially, I found that she was so different from my own personality and it was hard to relate to her after a first reading of the script.  However, after reading it again, thinking about what she had been through and talking to Sandra about it, I found myself respecting Marie and understanding her motivations.  I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to do the character justice and I would be portraying her as a kind of parody but felt, as the weeks went by, that my portrayal became more real as my understanding of her deepened.

What is the most difficult thing about playing the part of Marie?

The hardest thing about playing Marie is that it is such a different part from those I normally play.  I am quite young looking which means I am usually cast as younger girls or sweet innocent young women.  This part has pushed me right out of my comfort zone and really stretched my ability.

What is it like working opposite Sandra?

Working alongside Sandra (who plays Lorraine) is such a fantastic time. It is great to work with someone who shares such a similar love for theatre and invests so much in the same sort of stories that I am so interested in investigating, unpacking and then sharing with those who are also curious enough to come along to the shows. Rehearsals are hilarious, but also so productive and forward moving as I witness both of our characters morph and change each week.  We have had the chance to learn new things about our own character by bouncing off one another. It is a treat to work in this tiny cast of two as I feel the bond we now have between us is able to shine through in our acting bringing a great authenticity to characters which, at first reading, felt very far away from ourselves.

What would you like people to take away from seeing the play?

I would like the audience to feel the power of the fact that these are real life situations and the play is based on truth.  I think the play has many different angles and layers people can view it from and the mood the audience are in when they go in will affect how they view the play.  The main message, I feels, is to know the value of the people around you.