Preview: Harpy at Durham Gala Theatre
National Treasure Su Pollard Comes to Durham
Durham Gala Theatre
Wednesday 15th April 2020
Following a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2018, personality and national treasure Su Pollard (Hi-De-Hi! and You Rang M’Lord?, BBC) returns to reprise her role in Harpy by award-winning playwright Philip Meeks (Kiss Me Honey, Honey!; Murder, Margaret and Me), as part of an extensive UK tour this Spring.
Best known for her star-turn as Peggy in the BAFTA award-winning sitcom Hi-de-Hi!, the much-loved Su Pollard has had a career in showbusiness spanning four decades. She returns to the stage as Birdie in Harpy, a play originally commissioned for her, now under new direction by Abigail Anderson (Pride and Prejudice, UK and South Korean tour; Macbeth and Much Ado About Nothing, Merely Theatre).
A tour-de-force performance from Pollard, Harpy is a heart wrenching exploration of one woman’s struggles with mental health and loneliness, manifesting itself through extreme hoarding. At heart it’s a bittersweet dramatic comedy, which showcases a grittier side to the Su Pollard of the eighties, and also asks us to look beyond our prejudices against those who appear to disrupt the norm.
The neighbours call Birdie a harridan and a harpy even though most of them have never even met her. They see her obsessive hoarding as detrimental to the value of their own homes. For Birdie, saving what others regard as the junk from her own life allows her to make sense of the world around her; her possessions are memories of a time past.
Shunned by conventional society, she regards it as her duty to salvage these tiny histories that without her would be entirely forgotten.
Harpy is inspired by the retro cinematic sub-genre of Grand Dame Guignol – or ‘hag horror’ - wherein fading stars battled to survive by playing mad, potentially dangerous women or bewildered creatures in peril. Beneath their acting veneer were brave and brilliant women and Meeks is fascinated by their survival instincts. This idea of struggling and fighting for what we believe in comes to the fore in Harpy which seeks to explore mental health, questioning what madness really is.
Su comments, I am thrilled to be able to bring Harpy to a wider audience across the UK, having first performed it at the Edinburgh Festival in 2018. I hope the new audiences enjoy themselves as much as I’m enjoying revisiting this complex character. Philip Meeks’ writing is both funny and poignant, and many people have remarked at how relatable the content is, openly tackling issues of mental health.
Cast and Creatives
Writer Philip Meeks
Director Abigail Anderson
Designer Alex Marker
Lighting Designer James Whiteside
Sound Designer Simon Slater
Performer Su Pollard
Producer Suzanna Rosenthal for Something for the Weekend and Kings Theatre Portsmouth
Photos: Karla Gowlett
Twitter @SFTWshows, #Harpy