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An Interview with Actress Billie Whitelaw: From Samuel Beckett to Jim Henson and Beyond

Billie Whitelaw, the British actress, is well known for her work with Samuel Beckett, but has always wanted to highlight her other accomplishments.

“My work with Beckett is a very small but very important part of my career.”

A brief summary of his career testifies to his diversity. During her stint at Sir Laurence Olivier’s National Theater between 1964 and 1966, her roles included Maggie in “Hobson’s Choice,” Avonia Bunn in “Trelawny of the Wells, as well as her most famous Desdemona in” Othello, “which she originally turned down. .

“I said no. He walked me back and forth out of the Old Vic, put his arm around me and said,” See you in my dressing room just before five. “By the time I got to his dressing room, he had laid all the designs on. Jocelyn Herbert for Desdemona’s wardrobe and said, “Look at those. When you know you will look like this, you are at 75%. Now don’t be a silly girl; Go home and learn your lines. “And I did … I went home and learned the lines.”

Desdemona proved to be a great milestone in Whitelaw’s stage career. He then went on to work with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Aldwych. There she was in “The Greeks,” a 12-hour epic, adapted by John Barton, which narrates the house of Aetrius. It included a dozen works, including “The Trojan Wars” and “The Agamemnon,” which traverse the path through the incredible saga.

“We worked on it for months and months. During the week we played the first part on Monday, the second on Tuesday, the third on Wednesday … but every Saturday at 10 in the morning the curtain rose and we went through the whole lot and the curtain didn’t come down until 11pm. It was the most exciting thing to do. You’d see a group of actors crawling out the door of the Aldwych stage at 8:30 in the morning it looked like nothing in the morning. land of God – ashen faces and black rings under our eyes – and around 11 o’clock we were all flying high on our own adrenaline. “

This incredible tour de force lasted 18 months in London and is seen as one of the company’s most innovative productions.

Billie Whitelaw’s career was smooth sailing. His final work with Samuel Beckett was “Rockaby”, presented in the United States as part of a triple bill with two of his other works “Enough” and “Footfalls”. In seemingly complete contrast, he also created the voice of Aubra, one of the central characters in the film “The Dark Crystal.” This was produced by the creators of the Muppets, Jim Henson and Frank Oz. She will reprise that role in “The Power of the Dark Crystal,” which will be released in 2008.

In the mid-1980s, Billie worked on three television movies. One of them, “Camille”, also stars Sir John Gielgud, Denholm Elliott and Rachel Kempson, and was shown on American television. The others, made by English companies, were “The Chain” by Jack Rosenthal (best known here for his work on the script “Yentl”) and a comedy, “Shady”, about which she was a bit reluctant.

“… kind of a weird lunatic comedy, which is either going to be a total disaster or a great cult movie. I don’t know, I play a doctor who is also a psychiatrist, who is also a member of The Secret Service, who is also lesbian. Now how about that for a role? “

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