Rita Tushingham's gamine, elfin face was one of the defining images of the 1960's, representing as she did a new wave of cinema interested in reality rather than escapism or glamour. Among the classic 1960's movies she appeared in were "A Taste of Honey," "The Knack" and "Dr. Zhivago."
Now, after an interval of some 15 years, she is back in the West End, in The Vagina Monologues. Theatrenow met her at the Covent Garden hotel on her way to the Arts Theatre, where she is co-starring with Aicha Kossoko and Nina Wadia.
How does it feel to be back in the West End after such a long break? "Well, its been about 15 years since I was in Children, Children, so it's quite an experience, but it's great fun — the three of us work very well together, and its a fascinating show to be in."
There's a lot of humor in it? "Yes, which is very important. I think a sense of humor vital to get through life: It's a great link between people and can be very effective in a getting a point across." The actresses use cards during the show, I gather? "Yes, that's the way Eve planned it." [She points to a neatly ribboned stack in a holdall.]
Let's hope you don't leave them on a bus, then — like Lawrence of Arabia did (on a train) with The Seven Pillars of Wisdom! "Aaaa! Don't say that! I'm sure we could manage without them, but it's the style of the show. They're people's responses to Eve's questions, they're their stories, which we tell the audience. In a series of monologues, hence the name of the show. There's no dialogue, as such, as in a normal play, but we are all three very different characters, and one of the reasons for the success of Monologues is the way they get the balance between the three actresses right."
As an actress, would it be fair to say you are still best known for your film work, despite a lot of experience on the stage? "Yes, that's right. I started in theatre, in Liverpool, which is where I'm from, and which I love as a city. I acted at the Liverpool Playhouse, and I have very fond memories of it, but although I love the theatre I'm in love with film."
What's the main difference between film work and the theatre? "In a sense theatre is more involving in that you are very aware of the need to get ready for the evening performance, a long way in advance, and to keep the energy going, whereas in film you tend to work in shorter bursts, and have to summon up the energy for a particular scene very quickly, once the director tells you he's ready. With theatre I find I'm very aware of the evening performance from about two in the afternoon.
"You also need to warm up your voice more in the theatre, because you'll be talking for longer and need to project it out to the audience. But it's the audience that's the biggest difference. Part of the pleasure of being back onstage is listening to the buzz of an audience before the show starts; and the thing about Monologues is that is has a sort of party atmosphere — there's an excitement about it, and that energy carries on during the show, of course."
—By Paul Webb Theatrenow