Rebus star Claire Price , who appears in The Pride at The Crucible, tells Ian Soutar how much she feels at home in Sheffield
ACTRESS Claire Price admits she became a little emotional upon stepping back into the Crucible Studio when she arrived in Sheffield to start rehearsing The Pride.
She came here on tour in her very first professional job, in The Wrestling School’s Ursula, and then in 2002 appeared in Mean Tears in the Studio as part of the Peter Gill season, the first of what was to prove several memorable performances at the theatre she has developed a strong affection for over the years.
Main house appearances followed opposite Derek Jacobi in Don Carlos and The Tempest, in Richard III with Kenneth Branagh and Much Ado About Nothing with Samuel West.
This is her first performance at the Crucible since its revamp which she is pleased to note “has changed but at the same time hasn’t changed”.
The Pride by Alexi Kaye Campbell contrasts the experience of two gay men and a woman in 1959 and 2009. Price’s character (or characters) is called Sylvia and in the earlier scenario is the actress wife of an estate agent who falls in love with another man.
“The two stories are separate and the characters aren’t related,” she explains. “But Alexi, the playwright, said we should see the characters as made of the same clay. The two women I play have a lot of similarities. They are both actresses and are both imaginative and intuitive. While one is sort of about to come into her prime, the other is in a marriage and left her career behind.”
The latter is in the story set in 1959 and Price says she has been able to draw on the experience of her mother, Andree Evans, as an actress in the Fifties and how she struggled to feel valued in the professions.
“Her experience of not having enough money and getting ill because she didn’t eat properly was much more than any actress goes through if you don’t get the breaks,” she says.
In that way, rather than a gay play, she sees The Pride as being about how humans get defined by other people.
“Sylvia is married to a bit of a ghost and she tries all sorts of ways to bring him into the world,” she continues. “She introduces him to Oliver thinking he will be a good influence on him because he is sensitive and interesting.”
The pair end up as lovers and Price thinks that Sylvia probably knew what she was doing and was subconsciously aware that it could lead to something emotional and physical between them.
The Chesterfield-born actor’s CV is dominated by the classics, most recently Mary Stuart (Clwyd Theatr), Private Lives (Hampstead Theatre) and The White Devil (Menier Chocolate Factory) and productions at the RSC and the National down the years.
“I struggle with quite a lot of new writing,” she says. “I don’t like new plays that sound like television.” The Pride is different and she ventures that it could even be regarded as a modern classic in that “it sounds like something that has been around a lot longer than it actually has.”
Her preference does not entirely account for the fact that she has done so much classical theatre, however, it is partly how people in the business perceive her. “Appearing in The Power of Yes (David Hare’s play at the National about the financial meltdown) has changed that,” she says. “The strange thing about acting is that as soon as they see you do something, only then do they decide you can do it.”
And so earlier this year she was in Little Platoons, Steve Waters’ play about free schools, at the Bush in London.
On screen Claire Price is best known as DS Siobhan Clarke, sidekick to Edinburgh detective Rebus, in the ITV series based on the Ian Rankin novels. That finished when the author “retired” his famous creation.
“He has talked of writing stories about Siobhan and if so I might be tempted,” she says. “I can tell if they are repeating Rebus on ITV3 because I start to get recognised. In Sheffield I’m more aware of it because it’s a place where people talk to you – which is another reason for enjoying being back here.”
The Pride starts previews this weekend and continues in the Crucible Studio until July 16.
After the performance of The Pride on Thursday, June 30, Sheffield Theatres will host Has Anything Changed? - a discussion inspired by some of the issues in the play. The Pride playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell and actor Daniel Evans, who stars as Oliver in the production, will be joined by previous Artistic Director of Queer Up North festival Jonathan Best, critic and broadcaster David Benedict and Robert Anderson from the LGBT society at the University of Sheffield.