Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Playing the Princess of Pink

Claire Handley, currently studying Drama and French at Queen's University, Belfast, talks about playing one of the lead characters of "Popular" in this autumn's production - the radiant Miss Kerry Davison.

1. Claire, you're playing Kerry Davison in the first ever theatre production of Popular. Tell us a little bit about her.

Kerry Davison is the 15-year old princess of the popular clique. Her passions include pink, loveliness and attention on her. Kerry's best friends are Imogen Dawson and Cameron Matthews, also technically Meredith Harper, but Kerry and Meredith are prone to clashing, as Kerry does not always appreciate Meredith's tyrannical control of the group. Despite her outwardly fluffy demeanor, Kerry is also fiercely independent and most definitely not a subservient follower. Put it this way; if Kerry decides that she would like to wear a full pink ballgown complete with matching tiara to a casual house party, she will. Not pointing any fingers or anything, but I would like to point out that my own requests for a ballgown in the stage adaption of Popular fell on deaf ears.

2. You've spoken passionately in rehearsals about being a big fan of Kerry's. What about her makes you like this delightful being so much?

The thing I adore about Kerry, is the character's deceptiveness. At first, anyone might assume Kerry's just your typical one-dimensional airhead. In fact, Kerry is a really strong character, and she's definitely not someone to be messed with. Playing Kerry has been weird because I've only just got to a stage where I'm happy with her on stage, she's like totally complex and stuff. Apart from that, Kerry is just, like the funnest person ever and keeps me laughing constantly. 

3. Popular is set in a Belfast grammar school and you are a former student of Sullivan. How close to real life do you think the book and play are?

Oh God. Popular is worrying close to life for me. When I was in school, and friends will stand by this statement, I literally spent my time gossiping and doing make-up. Classes were an irritating and unnecessary inconconvenience and in classes which I did not care for, I would play hangman or paint my nails without shame. (Biology and geography, FYI, bleuugh). As for the whole BT9 thing, in Sullivan it was definitely more BT18/19 but that whole 'everybody-knows-everything-about-everyone' thing was exactly the same. In conclusion, book and play are very close to real life, both were delightful.

4. If you could bitch slap one character in 'Popular', who would it be and why?

Oh God. It would definitely have to be Coral Andrews. She's the worst kind of person - like that girl who manipulates everyone around her, but does it with such a sugary sweetness that people don't even know she's totally screwing them over. That, coupled with the 'i'm-sooooooo-super-alternative' thing, a performance put on solely to remind the world that she is different, and therefore better than everyone else - and definitely she makes a very worthy slapee. Although technically I am opposed to violence (mainly due to my lack of upper body strength) I would love to slap someone properly one day. Watching Emma, who's playing Imogen Dawson slap Matthew who's playing Michael, the other day in rehearsals made me really wish for a slap moment for Kerry, so maybe we can sort that for Kerry and Coral at one point? Just an idea... 

5. What has been your favourite bit of the rehearsal process so far?

I would definitely have to say, cheesy as it is, getting to know all the lovely Popular peeps! The banter in rehearsals is amazing, and every day we go in there is at least one instance when I laugh so hard it hurts. If you're coming to see the play, I guarantee you will get this same pain.

6. One reason why people should come and see 'Popular' next week:

If you don't know how to pronounce the word 'beau' (and no, it's not like 'bow') you need to be at the Belvoir.

To reserve tickets to see Claire rocking a beret next week in Belfast, contact popularbelfast@yahoo.com

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