Meet Jess Chambers, Bell Shakespeare’s Voice and Text Coach
22 Feb 2019
Elizabeth Nabben plays Mariane in our current production of The Miser. We sat down with her to chat about her character and the play.
1. Molière, like Shakespeare, wrote his plays for ensembles. How has the cast approached becoming an ensemble during rehearsals?
We do ensemble work in our daily warmups, and in our fight and movement sessions with Nigel Poulton. What is really amazing as one of the younger actors in the ensemble is you learn so much from the incredibly experienced actors like John Bell, Michelle Doake, Sean O’Shea and Jamie Oxenbould. They’re comedic geniuses and right from the first read-through a standard was set. Ensemble building is so much about trust and observing the rhythms of the text and making sure you’re all part of the same world, driving toward the same point of the scene.
2. What is your favourite line/scene in the play?
I do enjoy saying that John Bell’s character Harpagon “looks like a bucket of smashed crabs.” Which is not true, as John Bell has beautiful cheekbones and does not look at all like a smashed crab. It’s one of many fabulous lines in Justin Fleming’s adaption.
3. What can audiences look forward to from this production?
It’s a heightened and hilarious world, but I find it very human in its stakes. I think that in life, when you’re feeling relaxed enough with people that you trust, you actually do have incredibly high stakes. You’re very passionate about who you love and what you want out of life; your ambitions and conflicts. So there’s an honesty to this production, and a beautiful dagginess.
4. How have you and Peter Evans tackled the themes around arranged marriages.
My character is in an arranged marriage with John Bell’s character Harpagon, and Peter keeps drawing us back to the reality of that struggle. To be a woman in that time you are property. The comedy only works when you have the stakes of the conflict – how trapped they are and how much they want to break out. Otherwise there is nothing to fight against.
5. This is a play about love and money and the chaos that can ensue when these two things come into conflict. Why do you think these themes still resonate?
I think it’s interesting being a young person in Sydney thinking about how to survive financially. There are parallels between this play and contemporary Australia, as being part of the ‘elite’ is all about family money. A lot of my friends are still living at home; they can’t afford to move out. The only way you’ll ever be able to buy a home is if you have family ‘help’. It’s going back to a classist inheritance system, which is terrifying. The power that Harpagon wields with his money and inheritance is something that I think still exists in Sydney. We can’t buy in. The money issues still feel real.
Visit our website for more information and to book tickets to The Miser.
Elizabeth is a graduate of VCA. For Bell Shakespeare she has previously performed in Othello. Her other theatre credits include Picnic at Hanging Rock, Antigone and Tis Pity She’s A Whore for Malthouse Theatre; Dance Better At Parties for Sydney Theatre Company; The Crucible for Melbourne Theatre Company; The Rover for Belvoir; In Real Life for Darlinghurst Theatre; Triangle for MKA; and The Trouble With Harry for MKA/Melbourne Festival. Her film and television credits include Truth, 100% Wolf, The Doctor Blake Murder Mysteries, Restoration, Winners and Losers and Childhood’s End. Elizabeth’s radio and voiceover work includes Going and Going, Women of Troy and SheZow. Elizabeth was nominated for Best Newcomer at the 2013 Sydney Theatre Awards and was nominated for Best Actress at the 2014 Greenroom Awards. She is a member of MEAA.