Grace Molony makes her professional theatre debut as Kate in Chichester Festival Theatre’s production of The Country Girls by Edna O’Brien (June 9-July 8, Minerva Theatre).
In fact, she left drama school early to take the role.
“I didn’t graduate,” Grace says. “I was supposed to be graduating in July from LAMDA, but the auditions for this came up and I read the script, and I just thought I had to go for it. And I got it somehow! It was a huge shock! I am really excited that it is happening. It was a question of whether I wanted to stay or to go for the part of a lifetime.
“They introduced LAMDA having a degree for the student finances, so I am not too fussed about getting the degree… but I might see if we can work something out or if maybe I can go back later. It was one module I missed out on doing. There may be some ways of catching up. It is a shame, I suppose. I was sad to leave, and it is a great school.
“But the first two years of the training are the bit that are really crucial. You need to learn the voice and the movement, and then in the third year you are showing yourself to the industry.”
And that’s exactly what she will be doing with the part of Kate in the Minerva.
In the 1950s in rural Ireland, Kate and Baba are best friends who long to escape their traditional families and convent school. When they finally rebel and make a break for it, their lives burst open. As they forge new identities in Dublin, the childhood friends must discover if it is possible to grow up without growing apart.
“With Kate, I just love the journey that she goes on throughout the play. She starts off as young and naïve, a 14-year-old girl excited by poetry and the hills and the fields and by Ireland. But she can’t fight her own battles… but by the end of the show, she has grown into a woman. She just flourishes in the four years from 14 to 18.
“And I love her relationship with Baba who is her best friend. It is a really interesting and hilarious relationship. Baba is a bully in lots of ways, but she loves Kate.”
Edna O’Brien’s novel The Country Girls was banned in Ireland in 1960.
“And I think you can still see why. The topics it covers are very risqué, especially for Ireland at that time. Now it wouldn’t be banned, obviously, but at the time you can see that it would have been quite shocking, the way that religion is approached. They are convent girls and really, really want to get out. The nuns are not portrayed in a way they would have wanted, but probably realistically, and there is alcoholism in Kate’s dad. He is an alcoholic and abusive father… and there is also a relationship with a married man, a much older married man.”
Contemplating her professional debut, Kate says: “It is terrifying but also exhilarating at the same time. I go through phases where I wake up and I am so excited on some days and then on other days I wake up absolutely terrified. Each scene we rehearse has quite a different feeling. Some go really well and you think you have got it, and then with others you think ‘How on earth am I ever going to get it!’ But in terms of a professional debut, I couldn’t think of a better play to start with.”
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