Sophie Ward stars in Ruth Rendell’s A Judgement in Stone which is coming to the Assembly Hall in Tunbridge Wells. It also stars Shirley Ann Field, Andrew Lancel and Antony Costa. Here Sophie tells Eileen Leahy why she loves performing in this timeless tale of family feuds and dark secrets
So Sophie, can you tell us a little bit about the plot of A Judgement in Stone?
It’s an adaptation of a Ruth Rendell book that was very close to her heart but I can’t really give away why that is! What I can say is that at the start of the play you know there is a family who have all been murdered. The rest of the play sees the policemen trying to figure out what happened. In between that you also go back in time and see the ghosts of the family come back and you see all the events leading up to their murders. It’s quite poignant as you know what’s going to happen to them…
Would you describe it as a Whodunnit?
Not really it’s more of a why did they do it and what were the circumstances surrounding the deaths. It’s very vivid as you’re watching everybody all the time and seeing who they are interacting with and why and wondering whether this led to the murders.
Tell us a little bit about your character?
I play a woman called Eunice Parchman, a lady who comes from London to work for the soon to be deceased family. She’s quite out of her depth in that she’s never come across a family like this before. They’re quite grand and they live in a big house, whereas she’s from a humble background and hasn’t travelled much and is in no way worldly, yet here she is in this grand house with people living lives that are very alien to her.
What do you enjoy most about playing Eunice?
She’s a wonderful character. Although her background is humble it’s rich in other ways. You see the family through her eyes. You get to see the huge class divide and even though they’re a lovely family you see the difference between her world and theirs. It’s really interesting to be interacting as the outsider to everything else that’s going on. She only has one friend who’s also a bit of an outsider and they form a bond and this is when you see Eunice light up a bit because she’s being paid a little attention but it would be a shame to give too much away about that too!
How long have you been touring?
We’ve done four months so far and we’re touring the play for the rest of the year. We’ve done quite a few dates – Richmond, Cardiff, Edinburgh. I do enjoy touring as you go to all these lovely theatres and it’s much easier for me now my children are grown up. It can often be a bit like a holiday as you rent a nice house near the theatre and usually have a great time. Quite often we rent a house all together and it’s nice as you go back after a show and cook dinner together.
It sounds like post-show has the potential to be a drama in itself?
It can be but as long as you’re all getting along it’s fine. The company becomes a bit like family really; you see each other every day, you’re working and eating together so there are all the ups and downs that go with that set up.
Are there any downsides to touring?
It depends very much on the play you’re in and the people you’re working with. If you’re not enjoying the play you’re in then it can be really hard work. This is a delightful one however and has so many different things in it – not just one dramatic note. There are laughs but there’s also the elements of tragedy and politics too so it’s not tiring to do in any way.
Are there any particular plays you’d like to do?
I’d love to do some more Shakespeare with gender blind and diverse casts for example. I’d love to work with the Royal Shakespeare Company and its artistic director Gregory Doran – he would be amazing to work with.
What do you enjoy most about live theatre?
When the curtain goes up and you get to tell the whole story from beginning to end with all those emotional feelings that are going to happen. I hate to use the word ‘journey’ but I guess it is and the audience is part of that. How they interact is very much part of the telling of that story. When you are filming something it’s so different: It’s out of sequence and you don’t get to see it put together until a year later and by then you’re quite distant from it.
Have you done a good mixture of both live and filmed acting throughout your career?
Yes I have been lucky to have that balance and I think most actors like to do lots of different things and to mix it up a bit. That’s what gets most people interested in the job – to do something different.
What do you do with down time?
I’m a student and I write so that’s what I do when not working. I’m currently studying literature and philosophy at Goldsmiths in London. I went back to school in my 30s and did my first degree then an MA and now I am currently doing a PhD which I’m hoping to finish in around 18 months.
Have you visited Tunbridge Wells before?
No I have not although I do have family who live there so they will be coming along to see the play at some point.
A Judgement In Stone is on at the Assembly Hall theatre from May 15 until May 20. To book tickets which are priced from £15 and to find out performance times visit www.assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk