Anna Samson is an accomplished Aussie actor, performing across theatre, television and film for many years. Looking at her credits, which span comedy, satire, drama, thriller and more on main stages in Australia and overseas, her immense talent and passion for the theatre is clear.
I caught up with Samson to hear all about her role as Kitty in Consent, written by Nina Raine and directed by Craig Baldwin, which Outhouse Theatre Co will bring to Sydney’s Seymour Centre this June. Consent places the justice system under interrogation for the way in which sexual misconduct is handled by the courts, from the perspectives of two barristers taking on a sexual assault case on opposing sides and their families. Read on to find out more about Samson’s journey into acting, her experience in the role of Kitty, the wife of one of the barristers, and of course her wine pairing for the show.
What has been your journey into acting and the theatre?
I was born and spent some of my childhood in England and in London going to the theatre is very much part of social culture. I was about four years old when I confronted my parents with my plans to be on the stage. Like many children, play and performance had a wonderfully natural relationship for me. Looking back I can see there was a frustrated actress burning in my Nan. She was a great comedienne and she could command your attention and change the energy of a room remarkably. Perhaps I picked up on this power.
I took the idea of being an actor awfully seriously from a very young age and was strident about wanting to go to drama school and be taken seriously even as a very young woman. When I realised that acting was a reality, that I had the support and opportunities to properly pursue it, I relaxed a bit. I went to a performing arts high school here in Sydney, I realised those dreams of drama school and have been fortunate to work in theatre for a while now. The stage has always been where I feel my best, and it gets the best of me.
Tell me about your experience of developing and performing in Consent with Outhouse Theatre Co
The script is so good. It’s so smart, so witty, so knife-edge dangerous that there is no script development process as such. Nina has done a huge amount of the heavy lifting. It’s a process of brining to life her ideas, her questions and her characters.
Many of the relationships in this play are lived-in; marriages and old friendships. Creating that history, that familiar dynamic is electric work. The audience must really believe they are looking into the lives of these couples, with all their hurts and secrets and foibles bubbling underneath. The parties these characters have on stage must feel like real, messy, silly, awkward, dangerous, dinner parties.
Working with Craig is a revelation. From our first conversation I realised he would be the type of director I could do my best work with. The actress Belinda Giblin heard I was considering Consent and said to me ‘You absolutely MUST work with Craig’. She was right. He has a way of making me feel very safe in all the nessicary magic unknowns of live theatre. He has a galaxy brain that matches Nina’s.
What is the one message every person who sees Consent should take with them out of the theatre?
I hope that’s going to be different for every person who sees it. I know that is a vague answer, but I do. These characters Nina puts on stage are very close to all of us, even if we would like to pretend otherwise. I hope everyone has some questions when they leave the theatre. Questions about themselves.
What do you enjoy about the Aussie theatre scene, and what needs to change?
There is so much talent in Australian theatre. I was thinking recently about The Second Woman that is about to open at The Young Vic in London. This was concept originated in Sydney by theatre makers Nat Randall and Anna Breckon. Or the incredible success of Prima Face, that originated at Griffin, just streets away from my apartment. We have incredible theatre minds and a wealth of talent here.
When you are ensconced in the safety of a show or a company it is a wonderful place to be.
I do feel that theatre makers can feel lonely in the “scene” here.
I feel many fears in our industry. Fear of saying the wrong thing, putting on the wrong play. Fear of there not being enough work, fear of being left out of what little work there is. Fear of criticism, fear of the new, fear of taking risks. The red tape and structures many theatre companies are beholden too often sees brilliant plays fall to the wayside, or only seen by smaller audiences and we often don’t have enough support to properly develop new plays. I see a strange divide between the independent and subsidised sectors here in Sydney, that makes no sense to me at all.
What type of wine would you pair with Consent, and why?
The characters in this play are constantly drinking! They all love a glass of bubbles, of red, of white, you name it. These characters relish a good time. You really could pair any wine with the play!