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Camilla Aiko and Sorcha Kennedy (Scarlet Sunday)

Written by James Alston and directed by Imy Wyatt Corner, Scarlet Sunday is a two-hander play that delves into the struggle to reconcile great works of art with the dark deeds of their creators. Currently running at Omnibus Theatre until 17th March, we spoke to Camilla Aiko and Sorcha Kennedy who are both starring in Scarlet Sunday to tell us more.

Q) To begin with, please can you tell us a little bit more about Scarlet Sunday?

Camilla: It’s a play that delves into all the corners of what it means to separate art from the artist, but particularly from the perspective of two women with very different personalities and goals in life. Not all, but many victims of popular figures are female, so I think having this conversation unfold between these two women is a dynamic that we don’t often see in popular culture, but is very important to highlight.

Sorcha: The piece takes place across just two very intense scenes. It’s an incredibly detailed study of how two people with very different needs can become deeply dependent over a short period of time. It’s a tightrope walk at all moments, even when superficially, the subject matter is mundane, they are always attempting to connect, combat and influence the other. The death of an artist becomes both a burden and portal for both, in very opposing ways.

Q) Can you tell us a little more about the characters that you play?

Camilla: Ava is the daughter of a very famous visual artist, and has grown up very much under his thumb, pretty much until the day he died. There was a line in an earlier draft of the play where she mentions that she still feels as if she is “always in that room” (I may be para-phrasing), but I think it sums up why she’s there to meet Yasmin in the first place. She knows that in order to move on from what she’s been through, she needs to leave something behind, and she needs Yasmin to do that as she feels she cannot do it on her own.

Sorcha: Yasmin is a ferociously tenacious arts writer and curator. What defines her to me is a constant undercurrent of feeling just outside the world she orbits and idolises. She’s clawed her way to where she is and she’s being presented with a total golden goose - such an extraordinary opportunity that challenges any ethical principles she might hold. She’s single-minded and employs every tactic at her disposal. But she’s also giddy with childlike wonder and intensely charming too.

Q) What was it about James Alston’s writing that drew you into this production?

Camilla: I love the way James is able to draw out so much subtext. All of the lines are loaded, and they’re packed with shifting power dynamics all the time, so much so that I was surprised by how much more we found in the rehearsal room compared to when I was reading it on my own. I really liked the way he was able to seamlessly blend very poetic turns of phrase and colloquial conversation, which is so necessary for an emotionally charged piece like this.

Sorcha: There’s not a single spare moment in this piece as Camilla says, but what I really adore about this piece is the tonal whiplash. And I mean that in the greatest possible way. These characters are in such a pressure-cooker that one misstep; a poorly chosen word, a subtle glance - it’s all under the microscope and each can create a seismic effect on the other. He also writes the most sublime dialogue. The rhythm is masterful.

Q) Scarlet Sunday seems like a quite dark and tense piece of theatre. What strategies do you use to help yourself get into character?

Camilla: It is dark, but I think for myself the challenge was in being able to lean into the moments of brightness and action in Ava. Without those moments (mostly spurred on by Yasmin), I don’t think the dark moments would land as well. Having said that, I think a lot of what is rooted in Ava is shame. It’s that cruel thing about abuse, often what is left behind (even after the threat has been removed) is shame, and that can cripple a person to be

quite unpredictable - whether that manifests as being totally paralysed or filled with rage depends on the situation.

Sorcha: The piece goes to dark places but I play a character who begins the play on the brink of the most exciting moment in her career. So I begin there. My job is to mine Ava, to extract every possible detail about her, father, her life and story. I am utterly naïve to what I’m about to uncover so I don’t have to pre-access any darkness. As an actor I just have to be open to everything so that’s what I prepare. We open the play totally locked into one another and that’s the simplest place for me to begin, tuning into Camilla entirely. Her work is astonishing and takes me to those dark places as the piece unfurls.

Q) Scarlet Sunday is a two-hander play; how has the process been working alongside your co-star?

Camilla: Working alongside Sorcha has been amazing. She portrays Yasmin with so much energy and plays James’ script with so much variety with every word. I personally feel as if I’ve learned a lot from her, from her comedic timing and the way she inhabits Yasmin’s physicality, to all the discussions we’ve had in the rehearsal room about who these two people are. There have been a lot of moments during rehearsal and during the run that I have been in awe of her. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Sorcha: Camilla is an astonishing actor. We instantly had strong chemistry on stage and that’s thanks to her generosity and intricacy as an actor. She works in really fine detail, her delicacy as a performer is so admirable. From day one, she brought so much unexpected nuance to the script. The character is there in the writing but Camilla has gone far beyond. She has realised and embodied such a complex being and done something not all actors could accomplish. I feel privileged to have worked with her and don’t doubt for a moment that she’s going to have such a rich varied career going forwards.

Q) What are you hoping that audiences take away from this play?

Camilla: I hope they’re able to walk away with even more questions! I don’t think we’re trying to impose a certain view in a black-and-white manner at all, and James pulls out a lot of interesting parts of the discussion in his script. I hope they also remember the beautiful set, lighting and sound design by our creative team. Everyone has really pulled out all the stops on creating this beautiful, eerie, sensory world that brings so much to a play about visual art.

Sorcha: There’s a reason why non-didactic art is so vital sometimes. As Camilla has said, James’ work asks rather than answers questions. I would love for audiences to walk away with a certain amount of empathy for both characters and therefore, consider the humans embroiled in the headlines around these issues. For instance - it’s easy to cast objective judgements on so-called victims, placing them in a box designated “fragile”, only to question their veracity when they don’t behave meekly. Likewise, we can assume we’d never betray our own principles but perhaps it’s worth questioning whether they’ve ever truly been tested. Finally, echoing what Camilla has said, they will leave with such a MOOD! The sonic and visual world that this incredible creative team has conjured is truly stunning, and an absolute delight to play within.

Q) Why should audiences come along to see Scarlet Sunday?

Camilla: It’s funny, it’s serious, it’s silly at times but it’s also very honest. Both characters get the chance to really speak and voice their truth, but are never really fully destroyed by the other. It also never lets up, it’s a constant dance between these two women until the very end of the play which is hopefully entertaining!

Sorcha: Come for a pressure cooker peppered with hilarious release valves. It’s absorbing for all senses, it makes beautiful use of the unseen and unspoken.

For more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.

Photography by Alex Brenner


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