This week we caught up with actor Emma Pallant before she joins us this Tuesday, along with Richard Hope, for a very special CLoSer concert featuring two 20th-century takes on Shakespeare: Korngold’s Much Ado about Nothing and Shostakovich’s raucous re-working of Hamlet. She features frequently on stage at Shakespeare’s Globe, but you may also recognise her from Holby City or Doctors! Scroll down to read more about her passion for performing, her musical equivalent of a comfort blanket and love for Shakespearean roles.
What first made you want to become an actor?
I was performing in one way or another right from when when I was very young: I had ballet lessons from the age of three, then was in the usual run of school plays and eventually joined an amateur dramatics youth group. I think a shift came when I played Isabella in a college production of Measure for Measure probably aged 17 or so. That experience certainly moved the thought of acting being just something I do to something I want to keep doing. I found the text incredibly hard to learn, having never had to take on anything like it before. I put my lines on tape and played them over and over again, trying to drum those huge, complex thoughts into my head. Once I knew them, and I felt I understood something of the dark rhythm in that amazing language, performing it was an enormous thrill, and certainly like nothing I’d ever done before. We must have only done a few performances but I just didn’t want it to end.
What has your favourite role been?
I think the Shakespearean roles have been the biggest challenges, and the greatest joys, to play. The texts are so rich, there always seems to be something new to mine from them however many performances you do. If I was pressed to choose my favourite I’d have to say Jaques in As You Like It because the experience was different from any other classical role I’ve played: although Jaques is written as a man I was given the opportunity to play the role as a woman, Mistress Jaques. There was a real freedom in making something new from an iconic role. That level of ‘creating’ a character is often quite hard to find with Shakespeare as you’re performing in the shadow of everyone who has come before you.
Are you musical? / Do you play any instruments?
I don’t think I could be called musical, but I have a few modest musical skills. I can play the piano a bit and get a few notes out of a flute (if forced!). Music is an integral part of theatre and in various productions I’ve been in I’ve had to turn my hand to a rather eccentric collection of instruments to feed into the play’s musical landscape – ocarina, tambourine, guitar, recorder, handbells, dulcitone and various bits of percussion, as well as singing. I wasn’t particularly proficient at any of them, but I always enjoy having a go. I used to play in a steel band at my junior school and I loved that, that was enormous fun. There’s something about making music collectively that’s immensely satisfying so I’m lucky I occasionally get to do that as part of my job.
What is the most played piece on your iPod?
It’s probably something I’ve known for a long time so I’d have to say a solo guitar piece by Pat Metheny, “Solo from More Trains”. When I was a student I used to go to music shops at weekends and spend a few hours at the listening posts, searching for new music and this piece was on one of those ‘found’ albums. I wouldn’t say it was my favourite piece of music but I’ve known it for years: as soon as I hear those first few notes I’m taken right back to the time I bought it. It’s my musical equivalent of a comfort blanket!
What is your favourite cake?
I don’t eat wheat so my choices are limited, but I love a good lemon polenta cake!
Tickets are still available to see Emma Pallant narrate alongside City of London Sinfonia at Village Underground for CLoSer this Tuesday! BOOK NOW
CLoSer: The Entertainments
with City of London Sinfonia, Michael Collins, Richard Hope and Emma Pallant
Tuesday 21 October, 7.30pm
Village Underground, Shoreditch
Tickets (includes free drink), £15, £7.50 (concessions), £5 (students and 16-25s, no free drink, pre-register at cls.co.uk/cls-fiver)
spitalfieldsmusic.org.uk / 020 7377 1362.