'It is a celebration of laughter' - Interview with Serena Manteghi (The Hound of the Baskervilles)
Actress Serena Manteghi has starred in a number of productions including 'The Railway Children', 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame', 'The Terrible Infants', 'Antigone' and 'Build a Rocket' (Winner of the Holden Street Theatre Award 2018 and winner of the Sunday Mail Best Female Solo Show awarded whilst the show was being performed in Adelaide). Currently Serena is staring as Sir Henry and other roles in the UK Tour of Original Theatre Company and Octagon Theatre Bolton's production of 'The Hound of the Baskervilles', an brilliantly funny take on the classic thriller that provides a masterclass in the art of physical comedy.
I was fortunate enough to ask Serena a few questions about the show, the tour and how it feels to be back on stage after the last 2 years of lockdowns and enforced closures.
With theatre finally open again, how does it feel to be back on stage?
To be on stage has always felt like an immense privilege that I haven't ever taken for granted. An actor's life is always somewhat precarious so in some ways we were perhaps best prepared for a year away from work however it was a shock to realise just how deeply-rooted that desire to be sharing an auditorium with an audience was. After the year we have had, to be back sharing stories and, without sounding too lofty, gathering as a community feels particularly special.
‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ is a very fast paced, high energy show. Do you have a favourite scene to perform?
It is indeed very fast-paced and the quick-changes alone make the level of focus required a little daunting at first. That said, it is all in the name of joy and silliness so that makes all the hard work worth it. Someone said 'all you need to focus on is enjoying yourself' and in the spirit of that, I think my favourite scene is the 'lamb in a bag' scene as I just love playing that slightly unpredictable yokel character.
I imagine that after the lockdowns and everything, it must be nice to out touring again. Do you have a favourite thing about being out on tour?
My favourite thing about being on tour is having a day to just walk around and explore in my own way :) I usually find the best coffee in town, explore the charity (I am a charity shop obsessive/addict) and independent shops and then finish with an ice cream!
You play multiple parts in ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’, including Sir Henry. What is it like to play so many characters and have to change them so quickly?
I get asked this question a lot and I feel like the answer isn’t very interesting, (sorry!) But I suppose, whilst it’s a lot of hard work gymnastically to switch your face, physicality and vocal range around, I think it comes quite naturally to anyone whose job it is to inhabit a person separate from themselves. So whilst it requires a lot of energy, it is the basics of acting really.
With the pandemic very much still ongoing, does it affect the way in which things have to be done in regards to touring life?
I suppose the most noticeable effect has been lateral flow testing twice weekly and the anxiety around that; whilst waiting for that half hour to past you are thinking ‘My God, am I about to ruin a lot of people’s week!’.
Why should people come and see ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’?
The feedback we’ve had most often from the show is that it is exactly the tonic we all need after the 2 years we’ve had. It is a celebration of laughter, joy and inventive, theatrical storytelling.
What is it like to perform a show with such a small cast?
It’s lovely because we all enjoy performing together so much which I think you can tell from watching it. Also, you can bond a lot closer when it’s a smaller cast, you have to because this show is so reliant on the cohesion of everyone involved, not just the cast but the whole team putting the show together. Most theatre people will tell you the best thing about the job is making new families on each gig and it’s the truth, you get to know, bond with and love all these new people.
You play a lot of roles in the show, but if you could play one of the other characters, which would you like to play and why?
Oh that’s an interesting question! I’ve never thought about it, I suppose you’re so focused on finding and delivering your own characters you don’t really think about everyone else’s. Maybe Cecile Stapleton because that dress is just fabulous and everyone loves a bit of fan-acting!
I would like to thank Serena for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer these questions and wish her all the very best for the rest of the tour and for the future.
If you would like to catch 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' out on tour, you can find information about upcoming tour dates here https://www.originaltheatre.com/our-productions/the-hound-of-the-baskervilles/about-the-show
Photo credit - Pamela Raith