Edging closer to an inner darkness | Alexandra Camilleri Warne

Taking on a role popularised by Julia Roberts in the 2004 film adaptation by Mike Nichols, actress Alexandra Camilleri Warne speaks to MaltaToday about playing Anna in an upcoming production of Closer – which will bring Patrick Marber’s landmark play to local audiences

Alexandra Camilleri playing Anna in the upcoming production of Closer
Alexandra Camilleri playing Anna in the upcoming production of Closer

Closer casts a large shadow over contemporary theatre worldwide, not least thanks to having a star-studded and Oscar-nominated film belted onto its legacy. Did this weigh on you in any way when you accepted the role of Anna for Masquerade’s upcoming production of the play, and how did you first set about making her your own?

I am just excited and enthusiastic to be part of such a great play, and having been entrusted with such a super role to take on! Having said that, with each rehearsal I am feeling the responsibility towards the audience more to portray her well and for her to be a good role in supporting my fellow actors in this play now that it’s getting closer to ‘curtain up’!

I think more than do a lot of research beforehand I discovered her (and still am) during talks with the director and the other three actors in the play or when asking for their opinions on Anna in each scene within rehearsals.

While I study my lines I keep discovering more nuances of her character and I try ask myself why she makes certain decisions and why she says things in a certain way. The rehearsals are a journey to discover her character and I hope to depict her as the author had in mind! I had watched the film ages ago when it had just come out in 2004. I remember instances of it: how can you forget Natalie Portman’s bright pink wig and how well she pulls it off? But I purposefully didn’t watch it again once I was cast so that it doesn’t leave too heavy an influence on how I choose to portray Anna, and so that I can truly make her my own not just be Julia Roberts in the film.

Where would you situate Anna within the spectrum of somewhat unpleasant characters that populate this often bleak play? How do you relate to her, if at all?

Unlike the other characters Anna comes from a privileged background and therefore has an easy start in life, but despite this she manages to make decisions that will leave a very negative impact on her life and the lives of others around her. This is possibly because she was spoilt as a child and therefore thinks the world revolves around her in a way, and that somehow it will all turn out right in the end… but will it?

The characters are all different but are all linked in such a clever way in this play. At points I pity her, and at others she makes my blood boil because she makes such immature, impulsive decisions that leave her and those around her to face the consequences, which makes her very selfish at times. These are all human traits I suppose, but not ones I admire, so I would like to think I don’t relate to Anna much! As my friends and family will tell you I enjoy taking pictures though, even though I am by no means a good photographer.

Anna’s job is that of a photographer so maybe there is a somewhat faint link between the two of us!   

What do you think makes the play such a powerful and enduring work, and what kind of reaction are you expecting from local audiences?

The play is incredibly well written and every time I read it I discover more links to the characters’ pasts or present lives, within its intricate storyline. I am sure that some of these very precise links will be missed by the audience because it feels like literally each and every word is chosen purposefully which makes it such a masterpiece for me!

I also like the way the scenes are set, in that it’s not sequential but it goes back and forth in time, and that will definitely keep the audience engaged. The storyline is relevant to our lives today and depicts events that occur daily.

It’s an honest play through and through; so much so that any audience would be able to relate to it. Even when Marber uses extreme language, I feel it makes sense within the context of the play, as this is how a warring couple would speak to each other behind closed doors.

What do you make of the Maltese theatrical scene? What would you change about it?

I have been involved on and off in the theatre scene since I was around 10 years old, so around 20 years or so. I can say that we have come a long way and that what was once thought of as experimental and risqué is now much more accepted and there is more much variety when it comes in different productions being put up. I also like the fact that it has become more accessible and that its importance is now also recognised within our education system. A change I would make is actually directly linked to that: involving all children, and not only children of parents who can afford to send them to performing arts lessons. Planting that creative seed early on, like what happened with me, surely helps!   

What’s next for you?

My profession is that of a paediatrician and I work full time within the private health sector. As any parent to a small child can tell you they are very frequently in touch with their paediatrician so my profession keeps me very busy! But I do try to keep up with my acting: juggling both is no easy feat but my aim this year is to keep on managing with both and hopefully do both very well! Acting helps me switch off and let out my creative side! I will also be getting married in August of this year and I am very excited about this next step in my life. Organising that is a big task in itself but a happy one at that!

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