Catherine Lamb, an actress who has appeared in many successful pieces (The Crown, Cucumber, Taming of the Shrew), is starring and producing in the one-woman play Bunny. Written by triple-BAFTA nominated Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), the play is coming to London's White Bear Theatre.
Not only is Catherine playing the lead in the play, she has also produced it. She explains that this has been one of her biggest challenges.
Whilst starring in the popular play, Catherine has also set up her own theatre company, Fabricate.
Catherine says: "Setting up my own theatre company (whilst) getting the rights for this show has probably been my biggest challenge; it’s all suddenly quite real.”
Since seeing Bunny at the Soho Theatre at the age of 18, she has always related to the role of Katie: “It’s a show I have always wanted to do," she says.
"The first time I went to see it I felt like it was made for me; it related to both my fears and desires. It hasn’t been done for ages and it could not be more relevant than it is right now.
“I read it again a few months ago during the craziness in the news. I thought this play is good because it forces us to look at the state of our nation today. In the play, my character is made to question why she is threatened [by] people from other backgrounds [and] cultures.
“We see her facing challenges, but [the play] also borders on being slightly racist. It’s aggression that we’re seeing from important and influential people today, and we are being bombarded. Young people are expected to grow up without developing these prejudices and ideas, and they’re made to think it’s someone else’s fault. It’s very relevant with the political climate from a young girl’s point of view.
“The play is based in Luton, which is like a concrete jungle, and also relates to London. The play can relate to outskirts and big cities as it can [portray] different worlds."
Writer Jack Thorne is a huge success, having worked on shows such as Skins and This is England. Bunny was brought to life in 2010, and "It’s surprising how he knows how an 18-year-old girl thinks," Catherine explains.
"In a way it's stand up, a one person show. The play looks at how women are made to feel inadequate and supressed. These shows need to be put on.”
Catherine hesitated to explain why the play is called Bunny, as she anticipated it may be a spoiler.
“It’s essentially a nickname and comes at a timely part of the play. She (the character) comes across as being a very confident young woman. (She) talks about sex incredibly confidently, which is great; but she is actually extremely insecure about other stuff too.
"The play is a 60-minute monologue, where we follow her one extraordinary evening after school. An ice cream gets whacked out of a hand and suddenly there is a drastic change. She’s put in a vulnerable and compromising situation. She has to make a decision, whilst she also has a revelation.”
The themes of Bunny challenge the themes of inadequacies and powerlessness, which are two big emotions to portray. I asked Catherine if she undergoes any kind of preparation in order to play the character.
“Not really, I think as long as you understand the character and who she is.... when the writing is so brilliant, that it just comes naturally.
"I never do any method acting. It just comes as long as you’re focused and understand your character.
"Anyone can relate to that time in your life when you’re growing up and a teenager. You don’t feel important and (are) always paranoid you’re not cool enough. She (the character) just wants to be liked.”
Catherine continues: “I think it will be so great if we manage to get good audiences and feedback; I am confident it should go down well. Performing it is exhausting but in a good way. It is a bit sad. It is also just as relatable to young guys and girls, to be honest.”
The arts has an incredible ability to tackle relevant issues in a theatrical setting. Catherine gives her opinion on why the play is being produced again at this time:
“It’s the political relevance of it, and the animosity that’s happening between different cultures. We want to try and challenge that. We should celebrate these cities together. It’s the people that make the city.
“What’s important is that it needs to reflect everybody in your society (which) I think is really difficult if you grow up watching people who are the same as you. People listen in the arts – plays make you think, just like films. It’s getting people to think about the things going on around them; if you’re not interested in politics (the arts) might make you think.”
The theatre can act as a useful medium for bringing such issues into focus, she says:
“It’s very useful, the play’s funny. If you’re working hard all day, having a laugh is more of what you want. Comedy is a brilliant way to do that. A funny play it accessible and appealing.”
Having had successes both on screen and on stage, Catherine explains why nothing can compare to working in the theatre:
“You can’t compete with a live audience. Their reaction is different every single night and you can feel if they’re with you or not. It’s useful because you adjust your performance accordingly. Any audience love it when you go wrong/. If you handle it well it’s good because you’re sharing a bit of you and you always get a bigger applause. But there’s no control over what take they use in TV.”
What can we expect more from her in 2017?
“‘Bunny’ is certainly my focus at the moment, but I’m filming a series called ‘Acting Up’ which is a comedy coming up later in the year. It’s odd because I’m usually crying and dying in plays, so this is a bit different! I’m going to be working on something in Edinburgh too.”
The creative arts industry can be competitive and it can be difficult to keep consistency. When I ask what advice she would give to students in this industry, she replies with the most authentic and simple approach:
“I would say the most important thing is that when you get your first job, always make sure you’re lovely! People will want to work with you again. If you’re nice to have around and do your job well then they’ll want you back, use you, and be loyal to you.
"Just remember, keep smiling, it’s worth it! Remind yourself how lucky you are (to be) doing what you want. Try and create your own work and build up your own networks you’ve trained with. Make things together and don’t be afraid for it to be terrible!”
Bunny is playing at the White Bear Theatre from today until 25th March. Find out more here.
Additional reporting by Sophie Dishman.