Natalie Gavin on playing Mary Warren in The Crucible (Digital Theatre Plus interview)

Natalie Gavin

Natalie Gavin talks about how she decided to pursue the career of acting.

Some bullet points. I still owe you a comprehensive review, Ms. Gavin.

  • Gavin is, I think, the only one of the actors in this production who’s speaking her native accent in the play — she speaks what sounds to me like real Yorkshire!
  • She has a performing arts education (school, college, university), but not a classical one. Describes herself as “not educated in Shakespeare” and says she had never read The Crucible before the casting process for this production.
  • Gavin was very conscious that Mary Warren was a real person. She did individual research on her; the group also brought their separate researches into the collective. The rehearsal room was filled with images intended to provoke particular feelings and reactions.
  • One of her more interesting observations: that she had to learn what it was like “not to be loved” and that she felt in rehearsal and at times in reality that she had to separate herself from the other actors in the way that Mary Warren was apart from the girls in particular. She was also new to London when she worked on the play and she felt like Mary’s outsider status was affecting her own behavior, for instance, on the street.
  • Gavin believes that Mary really does care for Elizabeth — both out of her own loneliness and her sympathy toward her. The poppet is an honest gift. At the same time, she adores Abigail because Abigail is her complete opposite, someone she would like to be.
  • Mary is frightened by Proctor’s violence, but also by his tears. She feels bullied and “picked at” but also frightened bye interaction of the men and determined to say the right thing, give the right answer. She feels small and defenseless, very consciousness that what she says could lead to someone’s death. Mary feels that it gets hard to breathe.
  • Most interesting observation — what Mary experiences when “possessed” is akin to what an actor experiences in a state of flow. The reason that she can’t reproduce her seizures when the court ask her is that she is not experiencing Abigail’s leadership toward that state. [Servetus interjects: the scene where Mary tries to fail and can’t is one of the two most memorable moments of Gavin’s performance for me.]
  • Perceptively, Gavin points out that Mary’s admiration of Proctor’s power is conditioned by the way he treats her: “he chokes her and whips her and destroys her ability to become a strong and decent women. […] he just constantly kicks her down […] and manipulates her to do what he wants.” She thinks that Mary would have felt guilty about his death but also “slightly empowered.”
  • Gavin has to be “tired” to play Mary, she had various rituals to tire herself out (pressing wall, crawling, pretending to sew the poppet) if she felt too energized or fresh before she went on state. She did listen to the beginning of Act Two before going on stage, in order to recreate for herself the feeling of “what it was like to live in that house.”
  • In the end, she stressed the significance of ritual and inhabiting the character as ways of “entering the bubble.” She is actually very frightened of the pressure created by the live audience but as long as she is “in the bubble,” then whatever she does on stage is part of the character (even mistakes, or slips) and then it’s all right.

~ by Servetus on April 20, 2015.

12 Responses to “Natalie Gavin on playing Mary Warren in The Crucible (Digital Theatre Plus interview)”

  1. I loved her performance…saw her a while back in a drama series on the TV and thought she was excellent in that too. Interesting to hear her perspective on the play. Thanks for sharing.


  2. very interesting what she says about the way she felt being in London and how that connected to the role and vice versa .. i do hope the role has empowered her in many ways 🙂
    It hurts to remember the way Proctor treats her, those were some of the darkest moments for me in the play, he treats her like and object, like one of his possessions, one of his animals… and it doesn’t read as if he does it only when under pressure to save Elizabeth… you wonder how much of his own guilt and loathing of the way he treated Abigail goes into being excessively harsh and unyielding with Mary… Proctor is probably at his human worst in his relationship to Mary 😦 And i agree, he not only fails to protect but unsettles and frightenes her further. In that respect he is not much different from Parris and how he treats Tichiba.


    • I think on some level his relationship with each of those women is objectifying, it’s just that he seems meaner with her, probably because she has nothing to hold over his head.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Gavin was one of the stand-out performers for me. She completely became Mary Warren, I thought, and I was quite disturbed by the laughter that accompanied her failure to reproduce the trance for the court.
    Thanks for summarizing this for us.


  4. Thank you for retelling the DT interviews for us. I really appreciate it though have no time for comments. Are there more to come? (Look how demanding I’ve become). Now when I have The Crucible on my disposal I’m quite addicted to it.


  5. L ‘ évolution de son personnage dans la pièce , vers une indépendance vis à vis de Proctor en accédant au tribunal, est gravement contrebalancée par sa manière de suivre aveuglement les consignes de son maître , par sa rechute sous la coupe d’ Abigael . Cette faiblesse apparaît également dans ses hésitations face aux juges , dans son incapacité à feindre la possession .
    Tous ces errements , ces revirements montrent la difficulté à s’affranchir d’habitudes comportementales , d’années de soumission et définitivement enfin penser pour soi , par soi même .
    Là elle est captivante . Son jeu est impressionnant de naturel . C’est un très bon casting .


    • casting — I thought so, too, as this apparently isn’t her usual type of role. Very original but excellent choice.


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