Elizabeth Barrett and Sarah Jane Hicks have been appearing onstage together for nearly a decade in the Nelson theatre scene, singing together in vocal ensemble Corazon, performing in Christmas pantomimes and summer productions at the Capitol Theatre. But their upcoming two-hander A Beautiful View is the first time the pair have tackled such challenging roles without a large cast for backup.
“You’re not adding anything, really,” said Hicks, who will play the lead role of Liz. “It’s just a real story. You’re not sending it up with music or adding extra dancing or drama where there isn’t any drama. It’s a real story and you have to use the real raw emotion rather than extra elements like a huge set, a soundtrack, lots of people on stage.”
“I’ve been very challenged by this play,” said Barrett, who stars as Mitch. “I wasn’t expecting how hard it is to memorize modern dialogue. It feels like you can improvise it, but you really do need to stick to what’s scripted.”
The pair were hand-selected by director Jane Sinclair for their roles in the TNT Playhouse production, which will run this Friday to Sunday and August 21-23 at the old Anglican church hall on the corner of Ward and Carbonate streets. The Governor General’s Award-winning script was written by Canadian actor, director and playwright Daniel McIvor.
“His play is extremely multi-layered and you just keep finding things out as it progresses,” said Barrett. “It took us about four read-throughs to even understand some of the huge concepts. I just think it’s really exciting because there’s so much subtlety and he really beautiful portrays this relationship.”
The show follows the intense friendship of Liz and Mitch from their early 20s into their mid-30s. The actresses said the roles spoke to them personally.
“My character is very flaky and unable to commit to anything in her life,” said Barrett. “She’s just a very believable character, and I haven’t played a lot of those in the past. It’s so nice to tackle a character I could picture existing in my own life.”
Hicks said her character has a complex backstory.
“I think she’s been hurt a lot in her past and she’s really practical. The way she defines that is by not giving labels to relationships. I think she’s quite vulnerable.
“Not a lot of things are explicitly laid out in the play. You learn things through the characters’ relationships and discover things they haven’t necessarily told you. I find it really interesting because of that,” she said.
For this reason, audience members should consider seeing the show multiple times, said Barrett.
“I think you’ll enjoy it after just once. But if you were to read it, then watch it you’ll realize ‘oh wow, there’s even more going on.’ You can’t just sit there as an audience member. You have to be engaged intellectually in his writing. It’s very cerebral,” said Barrett.
The pair said their similar career trajectories have made their collaboration easier, and by working on this play they’ve grown together as friends.
“I think because in the ways that matter we’re similar, with our background, work ethic, values, morals, but then at the same time we’re very different. Elizabeth can play her character in a way that’s entirely different than how I would do mine,” said Hicks. “It can cause that little bit of tension that makes for interesting theatre.”
Barrett echoed the sentiment.
“We both have an intellectual approach to how we address our characters, and that’s nice. We like to talk about them a lot,” she said.
Both actresses will be studying acting at post-secondary institutes in Vancouver come September — Hicks at UBC and Barrett at Studio 58. They’re even planning to live together.
“That way we can compare notes,” said Barrett.
Show time is 7:30. Tickets are available at Eddy’s Music on Baker Street.