Sarah Chalcroft (also known as “Dame Chalcroft” to her friends and fans!) is an actor and director currently living in Chicago where she recently performed to rave reviews in A Christmas Carol at the venerable Goodman Theatre. Sarah and her partner have recently launched their own remarkable theatrical enterprise, Runcible Theatre, where Sarah is the Artistic Director. In her “spare” time, Sarah is also one of Bag&Baggage Artistic Director Scott Palmer’s oldest and dearest friends.
Sarah and Scott met in Scotland when Scott cast her in his first outdoor Shakespeare production for Glasgow Repertory Company. Sarah was cast in a teeny-tiny role in As You Like It and then as Miranda in The Tempest. After just a few short weeks of rehearsal, Sarah became one of the most compelling, popular and successful actors in the company’s history and also featured prominently in most of Scott’s subsequent works for Glasgow Rep, including roles in Scott’s Henry and as the only actress to perform the role of Cordelia in both Scotland productions of Lear.
Sarah is the first of a number of the original cast to offer up memories and thoughts about her work in Lear in Scotland.
REMEMBERING CORDELIA – THOUGHTS FROM SARAH CHALCROFT
In 2002 I had happy experience of working on Scott Palmer’s adaptation of Lear. One of the things that was most at the forefront of my mind when working on this production of Lear was ‘family’. Having just spent Christmas with my own dear family in the UK I am reminded of the complexities of familial relationships.
Like Cordelia, I have a sister. Our relationship is unique to us. We share the same heritage; we had the same upbringing and we have the most intimate insight (out with them) into our mother and fathers relationship. We have seen my mother throw food at my father, and my mother and father sneaking off for ‘naps’ together after long blissful Sunday lunches. We revel in the laughs, and can predict the storm coming. My sister and I share the same familial shorthand – and it is unique to us. In Lear, when the sisters reject that bond, it is so shocking to me. Remembering that everything in this play starts with family, and the bond that exist between the sisters and their father, for me was key in both rehearsal and performance.
In Shakespeare’s original play, I sometimes think the notion of ‘family’ can get lost amongst the epic battles and tempestuous tom foolery (William is turning in his grave right now) What I so loved about working on this play, was the way Scott really homed in the on the domestic. I think my favourite moment in the whole play was when Cordelia feeds the deteriorating Lear a boiled egg for dinner. It was just the two us on stage; me kneeling next to his wheelchair, humming a song, feeding my dad. I think the connection between father and daughter, Cordelia and Lear, was never stronger than in that moment.
As can often happen during a run, life can begin to imitate art. The family of the play, did really become the family in my life at the time. You spend all day together, you eat all your meals together, you drink all night in the pub together, then you moan about your hangovers the next morning together. Of course it is not always a perfect fit – but I remember that in both of the productions of Lear, I loved the cast like family. It always helps when you are working with ridiculously talented and awesome people. I miss those guys.
Plus I got to wear some really fantastic coats!
I hope you enjoy this remarkable work as much as I enjoyed originating the role of Cordelia.
Runcible Theatre Company
For more information on Runcible, and their current show Sweet Phoebe now in rehearsals in Chicago, click here!