ASHES to Ashes by Harold Pinter is the challenge for Pauline Fleming (Penny King in Coronation Street and Val Walker in Brookside) when she performs in the Arundel Jailhouse for the Arundel Festival.
She will be sharing the stage with Collin Baxter, who runs the venue.
Performances continue until Sunday (August 25), for what Collin describes as a fascinatingly-creepy piece. Rebecca and Devlin begin a conversation exploring the familiar themes of memory, fear and the past...
“The play was Pauline’s idea,” Collin explains. “We worked together a few months ago in the north, and we got on really well. We both respect each other as actors. Pauline was very interested in working with me again, and because the Arundel Festival was coming up, we thought it would be a good time.
“Pauline was really wanting to do something with a cutting edge. She has got a reputation for playing [difficult] women from Liverpool, and she wanted to take on something different. I was a little bit concerned. I like to go for the old favourites, but I am very glad to be doing this now we are. She just liked the fact that it is so dark. She had heard about the Jailhouse offering ghost tours. She thought the play was dark and disturbing. I read it and agreed! Yes, it is very dark and disturbing!
“We are not sure whether these two characters are lovers. We get the impression that they are or were. He is questioning her about a previous relationship where she was abused. He is very insecure about it. There is this tension between the two of them as to exactly what happened – this tension that you feel at any moment will explode.
“It is connected to the Nazi concentration camps. As the story unfolds, there are certain moments where you think ‘What is that about?’ You are not sure whether this man in the past was a Nazi that had raped her or whether she was genuinely in love with a Nazi...
“I haven’t done Pinter since drama school where we did a whole term of Pinter. At that time, I was like a sponge absorbing everything. It was just a new style of writing and acting that I had never done before. When I first looked, there was hardly any script and a lot of pauses, and then you discover there is so much going on in between the dialogue, and that is what makes it interesting.”
Collin has been running the venue since 2010 and is delighted with the progress it is making: “It seems to be growing each year. The first year was quite a struggle trying to get bums on seats for my regular events. I was beginning to blackmail friends to come along so that I didn’t have to pull the night. That was my intention, never to pull any nights. But now with the murder mysteries, we have several a month, and they sell out months in advance. And our comedy nights have been popular from the beginning.”
The past couple of Arundel Festivals have brought sell-outs – not that that stops Collin worrying. He recognises he’s just got to live with the cycle, the fear that no one will come, the relief when a show does well and then rapidly once again the fear that no one will come to the next one.
“I never let go of the stress, unfortunately!”
Doors open at 8.15pm; starts 8.30pm. Tickets on 01903 889821.