Associate Director, Nicola James reporting from the The House on the Lake rehearsal room with stars Huw Higginson and Jeanette Cronin.
Huw Higginson: You may remember Huw as PC George Garfield in The Bill, appearing in over 600 episodes over ten years. He is also a favourite on EastEnders and starred on the Griffin stage last year in On the Shore of the Wide World.
Q. You’re playing a lawyer in “The House on the Lake”, how has your time on “The Bill” helped you prepare for this role?
A. Well I played a policeman on The Bill, so we did come across a lot of duty solicitors, briefs and silks. That role gave me an idea of the law and the process so I suppose, in a way, I am across some of the procedures and it’s helped me as far as that’s concerned. What’s probably helped me more is that my father-in-law is a judge and, on my Dad’s side of the family there are lawyers and QCs, although I’ve not seen them for a long time, so I sort of know how they smell…..
Q. Last year you starred in “On the Shore of the Wide World” the hugely popular Griffin Independent show, so you’ve spent some time on the Griffin stage. What was your favourite thing about performing on the Griffin stage?
A. My favourite thing about performing on the Griffin stage this time is that there will only be two of us in the dressing room as opposed to twelve! Because the dressing room isn’t that big, and when we did On the Shore of the Wide World… I’m being facetious really.. The best thing is the intimacy. Because the audience is so close, you are in conversation in the performance with your audience, it is a very intimate relationship – you have to tell the truth. So, it’s the intimacy which is lovely.
Jeanette Cronin and Huw Higginson
Q. The House on the Lake is a two-hander as you said, how do you find the experience of working with one other actor and the director in such an intimate environment?
A. The advantage of it is that you’re involved in every aspect of the play. If you’re in a play which is more of an ensemble, ensemble is the wrong word, but if you’re in a play where your character only appears sporadically your scenes become islands if you’re not careful. Whereas, in a two-hander, you’re a part of the whole journey; beginning, middle and end, so you’re on board the whole time. The tricky thing about doing a two-hander is the volume of lines! Which in this play in particular is a challenge, but a challenge that will be met.
Jeanette Cronin: Jeanette is a legend of the Griffin stage, starring in The Boys and Holding the Man, arguably two of Griffin’s best known productions. She went on to star in the film adaptation of The Boys alongside David Wenham and has a huge list Australian television credits including Crownies and Janet King.
Q. You have previously been involved in two wonderful and successful plays at Griffin – “The Boys” and “Holding the Man”. What was it like playing a mother with boys on the wrong side of the law?
A. One of the most interesting things about that role was how much she appreciated what they were capable of, and whether or not they did it and that was one of the big things to unwrap in the play – how responsible was she and how much insight did she have? That concept is pushed all the way through the play because she takes it right to the end of “they didn’t do it”, “they didn’t do it, “they didn’t do it”… And also from an audience point of view – how much is she responsible for their behaviour? And if she is, then why? What happened to her for her to be like that?
Q. You’ve described this particular rehearsal process as going into a “vortex”. How is it to work in such an intimate rehearsal environment with just one other actor and the director, how is that experience different to working on a larger scale production?
A. It’s good in that you get to really unpack it. That, in a sense, there is more opportunity for you to get into it – to unravel it. Also, this particular play is about trust, so it’s making sure we’re all on the same page. Because we have to get to the bottom of each person and then to the bottom of the play itself, we have to go down that hole which the characters go down.