Getting naked for art and charity | Sue Scantlebury

Actress Sue Scantlebury speaks to us about baring all for MADC’s upcoming production of Calendar Girls, which will be staged at the Manoel Theatre over two weekends this month, in collaboration with The Malta Hospice Movement.

Sue Scantlebury: “I have no shame about my body and therefore I am completely comfortable with it”.
Sue Scantlebury: “I have no shame about my body and therefore I am completely comfortable with it”.

Though it's light-hearted on the whole, this play comes with something of a risqué element. How comfortable are you performing during the more 'exposed' parts of the production?

To semi-plagiarise one of Jessie's lines from the play: 'I have never had a problem with my body, my dear!' Being exposed, emotionally or physically, is what an actor does when they step on stage and invite an audience to look into and through them and see the truth of the human condition. I have no shame about my body and therefore I am completely comfortable with it; indeed there is a curious freedom about being totally naked!

On a related note, would you say that Malta is still a bit 'touchy' about these things?

Hmm, difficult one. Without wishing to be judgemental, I do suppose that to be the case. My perception is that Malta is a nation deeply committed to its religion, its culture and its family. Nudity is essentially in direct opposition to some of Malta's cultural, religious and family ideals. I would expect that some members of the population would find nudity frankly shocking and shameful. Until recently all theatrical productions were subject to censorship. The judgement on the part of the authorities that the general populace should be protected from seeing or hearing certain things is a protective, paternalistic one. I am glad this is changing. Adults don't need a protective parent, they can make their own minds up.

Since local theatre companies have a tendency to adapt British and/or American productions - what kind of spin do you think Maltese actors and directors can bring to these shows?

Their unique humanity. Every actor and director brings with them their background, culture, attitudes, desires, feelings, upbringing. This is why every performance is unique. There is no definitive Hamlet - there is only Olivier's Hamlet or Jacobi's Hamlet; those actors created Hamlet 'from within' using their own emotional memories and the clues given in Shakespeare's text.  It is exactly the same for Maltese actors and directors tackling an American or British play.

What's the mood between your fellow cast-mates like on this production - considering what you have to get up to on stage once the curtains are finally raised?

Fabulous! We can't wait to get up there!  It is why we put in all the hard work. The publicity photo shoot was the most fun I have had in a year, with or without clothes on (and we didn't for a good part of the time!). Director Nanette Brimmer is keeping us on our toes and we are working hard and getting closer as a group all the time. It happens with every play one does - by the end of the run, we are like a family, whether we get our kit off or not!

Calendar Girls will be playing at the Manoel Theatre over October 19-21 and 26-28 at 20:00. Directed by Nanette Brimmer, the rest of the cast includes Polly March, Nicola Schembri, Izzy Warrington, Marta Vella, Nicola Abela, Marylu Coppini, Ninette Micallef, Francesca Briffa, Alan Paris, Paul Portelli, Chris Hudson, Annemijn Rutgers and Michael Mangion. Tickets at €20, €17, €12, €10 can be booked from: [email protected], 21 246389 or through Manoel Theatre's website.