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The juxtaposition of Cherry

Bessie Holland on her role in Così

Bessie Holland tells us about the arc of her character and how she embodies Cherry.

What do you think the driving force behind your character/s is?

Desire is one of her driving forces. Her desire to be loved and to love. To be heard and to belong. She’s intelligent and quick witted. She’s results driven, but unfortunately can use manipulation and bullying to get what she wants. I’d say Cherry herself is a driving force.

How do you inhabit your character? Does Cherry have specific gestures, movements, facial expressions or habits?

Cherry’s voice is how I tune in and inhabit her. It’s very important for Cherry to be listened to, she demands to be heard. So tonally I wanted to pitch her voice to make it uniquely different from my own. I wanted there to be a juxtaposition of how she looks and how she sounds. Cherry can be very intimidating and aggressive, she’s physically imposing. So placing her voice in a higher register — which almost sounds childlike — feels like a good way to balance her.

How does your character grow during the course of the play? 

When we first see Cherry, she enters the space somewhat defensively; barking back at Roy “it was a long walk” then screaming at Doug “go burn a cat”.

But by the end of the play, in her final scene with Doug, we see she has softened and isn’t so aggressively reactionary. She isn’t baited by his taunts like she once was. We see Doug and Cherry share a mutual love for each other.

Through her role in Così she has gained confidence and hope. Like all of the characters in the institution, Cherry has been dismissed a lot in her life, but through the play, she becomes an important contributor in a collaborative space.

In the final scene between Cherry and Lewis she is vulnerable and honest, without having to buffer her feelings with tomfoolery. While kissing Lewis she lets go of the knife, and chooses love over fighting.

How important is experimentation/improvisation in rehearsal for you, in regards to interpreting script/characters? 

It’s very important! Especially in rehearsals to continually experiment and discover new things or possibilities. Honoring your instinct, but resisting the urge to cement things too early as it can become rigid. The key is to keep playing.

Do you have a favourite line from the script? It mightn’t be your own. Why is it your favourite?

Oh golly, the script is great and there are so many moments, but not all lines are as funny on paper, it’s all in the delivery. During rehearsals we were constantly making each other corpse. Kath (who plays Ruth) says as an aside to Julie: “another illusion, patently we are in a theatre”. The way she says it gets me every time.

Published on 30 April 2019

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