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The Wasp at Trafalgar Studios: Interview with MyAnna Buring

2 December 2015 | Ryan Ormonde

Well known for her television roles in Ripper Street and the final series of Downton Abbey, MyAnna Buring is also an established stage actor with credits at the Donmar Warehouse and the Gielgud Theatre. London Calling catches up with Buring as she reprises her role as Carla in the West End transfer of Hampstead Theatre’s psychological drama The Wasp by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm.

London Calling: How much of your acting is instinctive and how much of it is LAMDA?

MyAnna Buring: I think a fair bit is instinctive. LAMDA training is a kind of toolkit that you can dip into, if for some reason your instincts don’t work. Every now and again you come up against a job or a character where you’re just struggling. That kind of training - and it doesn’t have to come from training, it can come from you working with people who give you tips and advice - I suppose for three years you get the opportunity to really test out that toolkit in classes. But I think instinct is something that just stays with you. It’s the main thing that you tap into for any job, or at least I find that.

LC: In a recent interview, the actor Toby Jones was asked what it was like to play an unlikeable character and he said the character is always bigger than he is. Is that something you relate to?

MB: That’s the most interesting way to approach anything, to realise that there’s so much more going on than just what’s on the page.  There’s always a sense of a character being heightened and yet you’re trying to give the illusion of it feeling very real and naturalistic and believable. Also, something I’ve been confronted with in this play: every character is bigger than you as an actor [in the sense that] it will never just be you who could have played it. It has a life way beyond you.

LC: And you originated the role?

MB: I did, at the Hampstead.

LC: Does that make it different in terms of what you just said?

MB: I did it with Sinead Matthews playing Heather - Sinead is at the National now and we’ve cast Laura Donnelly. They’re two brilliant actresses and they’re very different. I suppose the challenge for me has been to be able to come back to it with a really open mind and ensuring that the muscle memory habits of the past are wiped off the slate so that it can be a clean run. With a two hander you have to remain very much in the moment because you’re constantly relying on each other. What the other person says and how they say it completely affects your response to it. If you’re not really paying attention, you know it’s wrong. You lose the energy of the scene very quickly.

LC: Will audiences relate to both characters equally?

MB: I hope so. I think we’d be doing a bad job if they didn’t. Morgan [Lloyd Malcolm] has written such a brilliant play. When I first auditioned, I auditioned for Heather so I put my mind very much into that of Heather’s. When I got called back to audition for Carla it was quite a difficult shift for me, because in my head I had demonised Carla. I was purely seeing her from Heather’s perspective, whereas an audience is going to get an opportunity to see both these women play out at the same time in front of them. Hopefully there are moments where more of the audience will be in Heather’s court and other moments where more of them will be in Carla’s. And I think it shifts throughout the play, which is what makes it such a compelling piece of writing really.

LC: You’re being directed by an Attenborough. What’s Tom like to work with?

MB: Phenomenal. I can’t believe he’s so young. He directs everyone very differently: he’s able to read you very quickly and realise what will work and what won’t work for you. I think that’s the sign of a brilliant director. It’s a real treat. I feel like I’ve learned a lot working with him.

LC: What was the most surprising thing about working on Downton Abbey?

MB: How very familiar it felt, because Downton has been in my living room for so long. All of a sudden walking onto the set - it’s a really intricate set, both downstairs and upstairs. To recognise all the detail, it was like stepping into a world you knew really well despite it being a new job.

LC: Did it feel as you would have expected? Did it smell different?

MB: No, it smelt and felt exactly as you would have expected. The only bizarre thing was that there were cameras around. And you realise there are rooms that aren’t actually linked - surprise, surprise! It was such a huge machine in a way but it still managed to retain a sense of a family feeling, which was lovely - a lovely place to work.

LC: And now it’s gone.

MB: And now it’s gone, yes. I never get too sad about things ending because I think it’s just wonderful that we had it in the first place. Everything has to come to an end and it’s a great thing to end on a high.

LC: What do you love about London?

MB: Everything. I am such a London girl. The first time I came to London I was probably about ten or 11. Then I remember coming back at 14 and going ‘this is where I want to be’. I didn’t move here until I went to drama school when I was 21 and I love it all. It makes me so happy. Even when I come into an airport in London and it’s rainy and miserable and grey I don’t care because I’m in London and I’m ecstatic. Big fan basically. I can’t really envision myself - I can imagine myself moving for work - but to leave London as my home, I can’t really see that happening ever.

LC: You have a Swedish heritage, is that correct?

MB: I was born there but I grew up in the Middle East, in Oman mainly, which is very different to here, in a sense. It was always warm - a cold Christmas was unheard of. It was a wonderful place to grow up in. It was very outdoorsy and nature played a part. But what we didn’t have I suppose is the kind of culture that exists in London. The ability to at any point decide to go and see a play or a show or a cabaret or an opera or a street performance - we didn’t have that and I think that’s what was always so exciting to me about London, that it was a place where all of that was always available on your doorstep.

The Wasp opens at Trafalgar Studios on Tuesday 8th December. For more information and to book tickets, see website.

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