Fans of Sex and the City can see Kim Cattrall up close and personal at the Old Vic, summoning the sultry tones of America’s deep south with a new production of Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth.
Starring opposite Broadway actor Seth Numrich, Cattrall –who shot to fame as the racy Samantha Jones in HBO’s Sex and the City- plays Princess Kosmonoplis, a fading Hollywood starlet who flees the disastrous premiere of her comeback film, seeking solace in drugs, drink and in the arms of Seth’s Chance Wayne, an aspiring actor and drifter turned gigolo.
Does Seth relate to his character at all? “God I hope not,” he laughs. “Becoming Chance Wayne is the worst thing. There’s an exciting element to his role but for the most part it’s pretty bleak. You hope you can avoid all of that as an actor.”
The play is particularly interesting in that it deals profoundly with issues that the playwright was struggling with at the time, Seth explains. “Tennessee was dealing with different versions of what it meant to be getting older, what it meant to be an outsider for his entire life. Chance is trying to make himself more worthy but he’s also a master artist in denial and ends up running from everything. The great tragedy of Chance is that he never really finds what he’s looking for.”
A huge fan of his co-star Kim Cattrall, Seth admits he hasn’t yet told her that he’s never actually seen an episode of Sex and the City. “I know what an iconic piece of culture it is and I have so much respect for her and what she’s accomplished, especially for the theatre work she’s done since then and the exciting plays she’s worked on in the past,” he says. “Rehearsals and working with her has been an absolute joy. I’m so inspired by her work and the level of honesty and vulnerability that she brings to the role. She’s so nice, so generous.”
The youngest person to ever be accepted into the Juilliard School’s theatre program, the 26-year-old began studying at the prestigious performing arts school at just 16 years of age. “It wasn’t like Fame,” he reflects, adding “well, it was similar maybe. It was an incredibly valuable experience to be exposed to classical theatre and really get the chance to dig into that material.”
The performer, who made his Broadway debut opposite Al Pacino in the Public Theater’s production of The Merchant of Venice, actually began his professional career with a role in Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke in his hometown of Minnesota, a long way from treading the boards at the Old Vic. “The history and legacy of the Old Vic are as well-known as its name in the US,” the actor explains. “There’s been such incredible actors, directors and iconic theatre artists that have been through its doors. I always felt it would be a dream to get to work there.”
With the curtains lifting on Sweet Bird of Youth on June 1, Seth admits it’s been a gruelling rehearsal period. “It’s mentally draining. The emotional arc and levels of darkness and ugliness you have to embody really takes a lot out of you,” he explains. “These are characters truly fighting for their lives, for their worth, to love and be loved. There’s a lot of struggle going on and to portray that honestly you live through that struggle.”
Sweet Bird of Youth is at the Old Vic, 103 The Cut, SE1 8NB from June 1-August 31. Admission: £11-£52. Phone: 0844 871 7628. http://www.oldvictheatre.com/