A Hard-Knock Life

In The House Of Bernarda Alba, Sharda Harrison plays Blanca – a young servant who cooks, cleans, and has a tantalising secret of her own. Sharda, who was recently nominated for a Life! Theatre award for her performance in last year’s The Crucible, talks to us about working with Glen Goei and the veteran actresses in our ensemble cast.

Tell us about your character, Blanca, and how she fits into the Alba household.

Blanca is a young servant in the household. She is a character who represents the working class in society – like our domestic help or labourers. She is not very close to any of the daughters and definitely not Bernarda Alba. Blanca maintains a more intimate relationship with Poncia, another family servant who has worked for Bernarda for over thirty years.

Were you familiar with the play before you were cast in the W!LD RICE version? What have you uncovered about the play and its characters since you’ve been in rehearsals?

I had been familiar with Lorca, but not so much this specific play. I have uncovered how Lorca manages to explore class representation and political status in the play. For example, each sister represents a member of society, from the ‘intellectual’ to the ‘activist’. I enjoy this because it gives the play purpose, a strong drive. Also, the fact that this is a matriarchal household, now in the firm grip of Bernarda, makes me wonder about the relationship between gender and power. There is also, obviously, a lot of sexual suppression in the household where Bernarda’s daughters are concerned. This suffocation winds up going beyond just sexuality: it demonstrates how depriving a woman of her freedom can have dire consequences.

Do you have a favourite line in the play?

“She doesn’t realise the power a man wields on lonely women.” I hate this line but I love it at the same time, because it is true and it is a direct reflection of the entire crisis of the show.

Sharda and Glen puzzling out a moment in the play during rehearsals

This is your first time working with Glen – what has that experience been like?

Glen Goei is so fresh in the mornings and always has a smile on his face. Even if I am secretly having a bad day, seeing his face, bursting with positivity, makes me smile and want to do a good job in the rehearsal room. I am enjoying the freedom he has given to me to explore Blanca, within a structure that is logical and that does justice to the character. He maps Blanca out for me and points out the pit-stops and it’s up to me to craft the in-betweens and her journey to get to those pit-stops. If I am off-track, Glen brings me back to the purpose. It’s been a refreshing experience!

The cast that has been assembled is truly incredible…

It is an amazing cast. I am truly humbled to be in that room. I feel like a child again, learning acting for the first time. Everything I thought I was good at is just flung out the window when I watch these veterans perform. It is mind-blowing for me. At the same time, I am enjoying the honour of getting to bounce ideas off my co-actors and getting to dig deeper into certain scenes. I am working closely with Jo Kukathas, who really is making me realise all the holes in my craft, all the breaths, the beats that I miss in my over-enthusiasm to sink into a role. I thank her for this experience. She has given to me much more then she may ever realise.

What do you think audiences will take home with them after watching the play?

People need to be loved. So go home and give someone you love a hug. Please.

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