5 minutes with…. Sophie Khan Levy, the solo star of Papatango’s Hanna

Sophie Khan Levy in Hanna, Credit: Robert Workman

How did you first get involved in the process and how much input did you have in the development of the final product?

We did a day of workshopping with me involved but outside of that my involvement started with an audition and the script was pretty much in place before I was on board.

Is this the first time you’ve been involved in a one-woman show? How does it compare to being in a larger cast?

This is my first one woman show and I guess the main difference is that there feels like there is a lot more pressure on me but the nature of the piece means that I’m connecting with the audience every night so I don’t feel alone out there

What was the rehearsal process like? How did the dynamic between you and the director work when there was no-one else in the room?

We realised quite quickly that we’d have to do shorter rehearsal days because the process of working through bits, taking notes and learning lines isvery intense when it’s just one person so there’s no rest while someone else is working. I was lucky because I felt like George and I spoke the same language so it felt like we were both pushing in the same direction.

This is also obviously a piece of new-writing. Does that change the experience of putting on a show? Is it harder to get into character without the wealth of history that a Chekhov has for example?

The exciting thing about new writing is the opportunity to originate a part so it feels like putting on a new outfit rather a well-worn hand-me-down, that said, if anyone’s casting The Seagull I wouldn’t say no!

This play touches on a lot of important issues like race, class, and gender. How important do you think Theatre is as a tool for social change?

I’ve always believed that 99% of the time when people are confronted with another human being and their story they cannot help but empathise regardless of any prejudices they may hold. Theatre is a way to tell different stories and show people who might otherwise remain unaware how differently life can feel for someone else.

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Do you think that enough stories about women and specifically about Mothers are told on stage? How do we encourage theatres to do more?

I do think there is a massive void of female stories and I think it is important to encourage women to be a part of every element of the creative process in order to readdress this imbalance. There is an argument for moving away from telling domestic female stories but I think it is important to tell all female stories. I also think that we might need to question the form we use as women to tell stories. For example the beginning middle end structure might not fit, possibly we need to have more fluid structures through which to examine the female story. I think that is something Sam Potter has done beautifully with Hanna, almost changing the form in order to tell this specific story.

What do you make of the responses you’ve encountered on the tour so far? And does the city you’re in effect the way that the piece is received?

I think this piece tells such a human story that the responses have been and will probably be quite similar for the whole of the tour.

In the play, the lead character talks about the surge of positive emotion and feeling mothers sometimes experience after having a child. Do you think if more mothers were in positions of power, we wouldn’t be in this mess?

I look at other mammals and more often than not they place females at the centre of their society with the males usually residing outside the pack and briefly making an appearance when they need to fight for territory or have sex… so that’s my working theory on the matter.

What’s the most inspiring piece of theatre you’ve seen in the last year?

I saw a homeless man in soho square reciting Rudyard Kiplings ‘If’. It was extraordinary.

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Lastly, as a student publication, we’d love to know if you have any advice about getting into acting?

Remember it’s not personal and meditate.

Hanna is playing at the Northwall on the 25th January before continuing on a national tour.