Rejoining the tribe [by Sharu Delilkan]
Although it has been almost four years since her Silo debut, Fern Sutherland still remembers the experience as if it were yesterday.
“It was my first gig out of [UNITEC] drama school and I was extremely nervous when I met Shane [Bosher]. I felt very insecure and was desperate to make a good impression,” she admits.
That’s when she played an old woman in Life is a Dream working with Bosher, who’s directing Silo’s latest show Tribes.
However in Tribes, playing Ruth the middle child of a bohemian, intellectual upper-middle-class British family, the 24-year-old Sutherland says she feels slightly more at ease and able to enjoy the process.
Written by acclaimed playwright Nina Raine (Rabbit), Tribes is about a dysfunctional family that spends its time in verbal warfare, defending opinions, hurling criticism, firing insults and protecting intellectual positions and individual life choices. This family tribe is challenged by a second tribe, the Deaf community, and their incapacity to manage the ripple effects create both comic and poignant moments.
Tribes received earned Raine a nomination in the 2011 Lawrence Olivier Awards and comes to Auckland following critically acclaimed, sold-out productions in New York, Melbourne and Budapest.
Tribes brings together a stellar cast which includes NZ icon Michael Hurst, Catherine Wilkin (The Importance of Being Earnest, McLeod’s Daughters) and newcomer Jodie Hillock.
Sutherland describes Ruth, the middle child, as “beige.
“She is trying on a lot of hats to see which one fits. At the moment opera singing is her thing,” she says.
As a wanna-be opera singer, I couldn’t help asking Fern what it is like having to sing opera on stage. But to my disappointment was told that she doesn’t get the chance to sing in this role.
“To be honest I’m quite happy that I’m not having to sing opera on stage, it’s just one less thing to have to think about,” says The Almighty Johnsons core cast member.
Another reunion in Tribes is with Hurst, who directed her in Life is a Dream and who is now playing her father Christopher.
“I am really excited about sharing the stage with Michael. I feel very lucky to have a fair amount of stage time with him, since our characters have quite a few arguments.”
When asked to describe her working relationship with Hurst, Sutherland says: “He is very insightful and it is great to be able to pick his brains. Often he ends up telling something I had not thought of before, which is great,” she reveals.
The admiration is obviously reciprocal as Hurst referred to Sutherland as “the lovely Fern”.
He says: “It’s great the way Fern approaches everything with great gusto. Having watched her grow over the past four years, I’m enjoying playing her father this time. We have a bond that we’ve formed over the years and have become friends. So it’s great to be working on another Silo production together. Fern has a strong sense of herself and has no qualms about making human decisions. That’s one of her strengths, which distinguishes her.”
Silo’s Tribes plays at the Maidment Theatre from June 8 – 30. More details see Silo