Actress Sarah Roy talks about her new play Catherine & Anita and the mix of challenges and cathartic relief that comes from playing such emotionally-charged characters every night.

Sarah Roy

Sarah Roy

I remember seeing Cush Jumbo’s Josephine and I at the Bush Theatre a few years ago and thinking, “Wow. I want to do that.” I’m a firm believer that you should always do the things that scare you and the thought of doing a one-woman show was terrifying. So naturally I had to give it a go.

I’d worked with Derek Ahonen (the writer and director of Catherine and Anita) for years in New York so I asked him what he thought of my crazy idea. We had a few discussions about the direction we wanted to go in and Catherine and Anita was born.

Catherine and Anita is a dark comedy about a woman a mental health disorder who is attempting to overcome some outrageous obstacles in her life with the help of her best friend Anita.

One of the biggest challenges for me as an actor doing this play is portraying a character with Catherine’s problems when I have no firsthand experience of them. I did a lot of research in preparing for the role and one of the things I became acutely aware of is how difficult it is for a lot of people to talk about their illnesses particularly to family and friends.

Although the issue of mental health is becoming more talked about now, it still has a certain stigma attached to it and the loneliness that can come from living with a mental health problem is something that Derek and I wanted to touch upon with the play. Although as an audience member you see the vulnerable side of Catherine, she is an incredibly empowered woman and the challenge is making sure that that comes across to the audience as well.

The other obvious challenge of playing such an emotionally charged character, particularly in a sixty minute one-woman show, is the physical and mental exhaustion. It is important to me as an actor to look after myself physically and mentally which means a lot of gym time and meditating!

I can’t wait for Edinburgh audiences to come on Catherine and Anita’s wild journey and I hope that it can bring awareness to a topic that needs more conversation.

Catherine and Anita plays at the Assembly Rooms from 3rd-26th August (not 15th or 22nd) during the Edinburgh Fringe.