Arts & Culture
Richmondite Jill Raymond is one of two actors taking on the one-person play ‘Shirley Valentine’ at Metro Theatre from Jan. 13 to 29.
Photo by Tracy-Lynn Chernaske
Richmond actor starring in one-person play
By Hannah Scott
Published 11:31 PST, Thu January 12, 2023
Last Updated: 3:26 PST, Mon January 30, 2023
Richmond actor Jill Raymond stars in Metro Theatre’s Shirley Valentine, a story about a bored Liverpool housewife who takes a trip to Greece with her best friend.
The one-person play sees Raymond splitting the role with Tamara Prescott, with each actor taking on half the performances. Raymond says working with a solo show is difficult because it removes the element of reacting to fellow actors onstage.
“I think especially in a show like this, where the fourth wall is consistently broken, so much of the play comes from when the audience is present,” says Raymond. “So much is going to change as soon as there are people there in the audience with me.”
Describing the relationship between audience and performer as a communion, Raymond says there will be an ebb and flow of energy that changes with each performance based on audience response.
“I knew it was a one-person show and I was ready for it, but the sheer amount of work on the lines and the language is something that I don’t think you can prepare for—it’s a lot,” Raymond says. “Once you’re in it, you realize this really is an hour and a half of pure monologue. Shirley doesn’t rest in her speaking; it’s non-stop.”
When it comes to memorizing lines, Raymond’s usual process is to record her lines and listen back to them. In this case, she’s listening to her recording repeatedly, allowing the text to settle in.
“Then (it’s) working with other people in rehearsal, and outside of rehearsal working with other people who are holding the book and making sure the lines are coming out in the correct order,” she says. “I’m usually able to do a lot of independent work, which is ironic because actually the rehearsal process for a one-woman show has been trickier than it would be for a cast of people, which is something that I wasn’t anticipating either.”
With this double-cast show, Raymond and Prescott have rehearsed blocking together. Blocking is the process of learning the physical use of the stage such as where to enter and stand, how to move around, and working with the lighting. That joint effort gave each actor a sense of how the other person was approaching the role.
“We’ve not been rehearsing together as a deliberate thing because we’re each going to have different versions of Shirley,” says Raymond. “It’s so important that we each have our own process as we’re going through, and don’t want each other to feel that the other person is ahead of us, or behind us, or is doing something different. The beauty of theatre is that each actor is going to play the role in a different way.”
Director Alison Schamberger describes the play as a coming-of-age story for adults.
“Shirley finds herself, as so many of us do, stuck in a pattern of life and not realizing quite how she arrived there, realizing that she’s lost herself within the day-to-day mundane tasks that she has to do, and she’s forgotten who she really is,” says Raymond.
Through fulfilling her lifelong goal of travelling, Shirley rediscovers herself as well as gaining confidence, Raymond adds.
“It’s a really wonderful reminder that ordinary lives can be extraordinary and that we’re always in control of things that we can change, and to constantly be looking and reminding ourselves that we have that power.”
Raymond was also recently named Best Performer in a Play in the 2022 BroadwayWorld Vancouver Awards for her work in verisimilitude, which she also wrote.
Shirley Valentine is on at Metro Theatre from Jan. 13 to 29. For more information or to buy tickets, visit metrotheatre.com/.