Emily Burnett will appear in the world premiere of Tabitha Mortiboy's Beacons at the Park Theatre from 22nd March to 16th April. We caught up with her to talk about her new role and her acting career both past and future.
For those who an unfamiliar with Beacons can you tell us a little bit about it?
'Beacons' is a brand new play, written by the amazing 24 year-old, Tabitha Mortiboy. The play is about three separate people, Julie and Bernard both in their 50's and Skye who is 16. It's all set by Julie's ice cream van at the top of Beachy Head and it's about these three characters and how they come together and form a, sort of, dysfunctional family. But all of them have secrets and revelations which reveal themselves as the play goes on. It's really quite a poetic play, Tabitha's writing is excellent and she gives all the characters a real love of language… I think their words are precious to them. I don't want to give too much away- so you will just have to come and see it!
How did you come to get involved in the play?
Well it was just like any other audition really, the script got sent through for me to read ahead of the audition to prepare. But I only had to read the first page and I was already in love with the script and Skye, my character. As I read on, I just kept saying to myself 'I really want this one'. I was really lucky though, I only met Philip the director and Tabitha once before I got the part, but I was so excited when I got that phone-call.
What appealed to you most about this project?
Being new to the industry, the chance to work on any project is amazing for me because you get to learn new things on every job and meet new people to learn from. But especially with 'Beacons' I really loved Tabitha's writing. The character she created for Skye was exciting, intellectual and beautiful and that was just on the page, I wanted to be the one to bring her to life the way I saw her in my head. Also the chance to work with such an amazing group of people, Tessa Peake-Jones, Paul Kemp, Philip Wilson and the Attic Theatre company in such a close knit environment, I knew that the experience would be invaluable for me.
You have starred in both theatre and television now so how do the two mediums compare for you?
They are both just so different! With television I'm always surprised by the amount of people working so hard around you to get that one great shot. It takes an army and I love that bustle of people and how collaborative it is on set. But with theatre, it's all about the process as well as the end product and it's really amazing to go on stage every night and feel something completely new and different from a live audience.
This is your second stage appearance so how has the experience been for you so far?
AMAZING!... After my debut at the Soho with 'First Love is the Revolution', it's so exciting for me to work on a piece of theatre that is just so different. Getting the chance to learn from such experienced actors, in Tessa and Paul and from the director Philip, I feel privileged to be in the position that I am really. I love the process though, that's my favourite thing. Working with a completely new script and making new discoveries every day. You are constantly thinking, it's so immersive and I think I'm starting to really embrace that side of it. And knowing that nothing's wrong, things don't work, but nothing is really wrong. Every time I start a new show I find myself getting braver. I want to challenge the obvious and the easy. Philip is quite big on not making anything permanent and spending a good amount of time just experimenting and trying different things, which I have really loved. So you know what you show in the end is really the best option you, as a team, could come up with.
What is the atmosphere like during rehearsals?
I love how your cast and creative team become like your family throughout rehearsals. Talking with our director today, Philip, we couldn't believe that it had only been ten days since we first met and started working together, yet we are so, so close. Philip always tells us to look after each other and we really do. Tessa has literally become my go to cuddle for the day and you can always rely on Paul to make you laugh so much that you can't get your next line out. Me and Tessa are often holding our stomachs because they hurt from laughing so much. We really do have a great time. I think you have to, especially if you are doing a tough scene, you almost have to do a little dance after to bring you back to happy room you're in.
The play begins on 22nd March, so how are you feeling in the run up to first night?
Oh gosh, that's really not that long! I think everyone feels nervous on the lead up to a show. But someone once told me that 'if you have done your work you should be excited to show people the story you have created'- and I really am. I think it is an amazing show, with a real story and real people, that you can understand and relate to and I can't wait for people to see it. People may really dislike it, people may really love it, but as long as they aren't indifferent and they think and feel something, then I think we have done our job properly.
Please tell us a little bit about how you first got into acting.
Well I always loved musical theatre when I was younger, anything to do with performing, I was there. I also loved watching theatre and film. My Dad really loves good films and introduced me to great work really young; I I think that influenced me a lot. Being in the right place at the right time was massive for me. I am very lucky to have a great agent and the opportunities I have had so far. I think I made a solid decision that this is what I wanted to do and I'm a hard worker, so I'm continually working towards my goals.
How have you found working with Tessa Peake-Jones and Paul Kemp?
They are such amazing actors. I'm so privileged to be in a room with such experienced professionals at this point in my career. There are scenes in the play with just them and I always want to stay in the room, I probably should be learning lines, but, to hear how they work through a scene, the discussions they have, it constantly helps me with my work. They are so much fun and such beautiful human beings. They bring such joy to the room and I really couldn't be luckier with my Julie and Bernard.
What is next for you?
Oh gosh, if anyone reading this would like to give me a job that would be great, thanks. No, honestly, I'm so excited for the future. What's next? I have no idea yet, but I'm really positive about what could be round the corner. I think I'm at a point where, just to be working in the industry, is incredible. I just hope to continue working, making great work and creating change. Who knows, I heard they were discussing the next 007?… I say the sky's the limit!
Previews: 22 Mar 2016
Press Night: 24 Mar 2016 (7pm)
Plays until: 16 Apr 2016
PerformancesTue - Sat Evenings 19.45
Thu & Sat Matinees 15.15