A year on from leading the Citizens’ Theatre through Mother Courage, GLENDA JACKSON is back in Philip Prowse’s production of Mourning Becomes Electra. Mark Fisher asked the would-be MP about stardom, stage fright and the Welfare State.
lenda Jackson lollops into the Citizens" Theatre foyer singing unselfconsciously to herself. No grand gestures. no big entrance. just another actor beginning another day‘s work. What‘s it like to be a star then. Glenda? ‘It don‘t help me act any better.‘ she retorts with a dry. self-depreciating north-west English wit. ‘1 can‘t stand there and say. “I‘m sorry folks. I can‘t act very well. but you do know I‘m a star“ — whatever that means. It doesn‘t make the part any easier.‘
Settling in for her daily pre-rehearsal press
8 ’l he list 5 18 April l‘)‘)l
interview, Jackson puts up her feet on the publicity office desk. lights a cigarette and explains that two Oscars or not. this acting lark doesn‘t get any easier. ‘Yes. it‘s very curious.‘ she says. her accent a distinctive combination of rounded RP politesse and muddy Mersey vowel sounds. ‘It used to be that you‘d be very frightened on the first night — I‘m talking about weekly rep now—
and would be quite sanguine come Saturday.
But that has not been the experience over the years. The fear grows. and now there isn‘t a performance that I don‘t find the prospect of frightening.‘
as. W ‘ -
Is that because you‘re more committed? ‘No. I think it‘s because ignorance is bliss.‘
The prospective Labour Party parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Highgate is back in the Gorbals to play Christine in Mourning Becomes Electra. Eugene O‘Neill‘s back-stabbing family drama based on Aeschylus‘s ()resteiun Trilogy. It‘s a high-pitched. gut-wrenching tragedy of a play set against a backdrop ofa bloody American Civil War. and exposing forbidden desires. incestuous impulses and destructive obsessions. ‘You don‘t see anybody in this play who wakes up. rubs their eyes and says. “Hey! Another Day!“ .‘ says Jackson. ‘They‘re all up there either contesting or feeling that they‘re being contested.‘
So what about the personal experience an actor necessarily brings to a play about family relationships? She pauses. thinks hard and responds with precision. careful not to reveal too much ofJackson the private individual and mother ofone. ‘l‘m not conscious of using my experience.‘ she says. “but I suppose there must be an element of that there — except I sincerely hope my son would not recognise me in this! I don‘t recognise the daughter in this play in relationship to myself as a daughter. but the family can be the most overwhelmingly powerful force for bad as it can be the most supporting area for good. Those two elements are there and you have to thank your lucky stars that you were born to be with a good one.‘
From her Birkenhead origins. Jackson graduated from RADA to begin the hard
to Worthing in the early 60s. Relieved from a stint ofwaitressing by a lucky break with the RSC, she made her mark in plays including Peter Brook's ground-breaking Marat/Sade before gaining international recognition in Ken Russell‘s 1970 movie Women In Love. dubbed by one critic as Women In Heat and earning the unfair quip
“‘ ws “
slog of weekly rep everywhere from Dundee