Haring about to play it real slow

Luissa Guerreiro as Tortoise in tutti fruitt's Hare and Tortoise at the Crucible Studio
Luissa Guerreiro as Tortoise in tutti fruitt's Hare and Tortoise at the Crucible Studio

SHE may be playing the Tortoise but Luisa Guerreiro can show some of the qualities of the hare when she needs to. Owing to a misunderstanding she was in the gym at the scheduled time for the interview but once alerted she legged it down from the Mercure Hotel to the Crucible Theatre in the blink of an eye.

And yet, she says, people have remarked that she and fellow actor Barnaby Southgate demonstrate traits of their respective characters in Hare and Tortoise which is playing at the Crucible Studio.

“I am methodical and organised and like things to be neat whereas Barnaby can be, shall we say, a bit messy, leaving all his musical instruments around the place, though he will get round to sorting it out in the end.”

The pair have been touring in the tutti frutti production of Brendan Murray’s adaptation of the Aesop’s fable since it opened at the York Theatre Royal in September.

It is intriguing to think how you get cast as a tortoise. “You do an audition in the same way as anything else,” explains Guerreiro. “It was more of a fun interactive audition unlike anything I have done before. We worked in groups and then in pairs and it so happened I was paired with Barnaby.

“At that stage you didn’t know whether you were being considered for the hare or the tortoise and I had gone along having researched the characteristics of both animals. But with Barnaby we subconsciously gravitated to me being Tortoise and him Hare. But when they rang up to say they wanted me, I didn’t know for sure which part it was.”

One of the characteristics of this Tortoise is a Mediterranean accent, although Guerreiro herself speaks with a London accent. “My parents are Portuguese,” she explains, “and I am often impersonating my mum and during rehearsals Wendy (Harris, the director) suggested I do Tortoise with an accent to make it more exotic. And one of the places tortoises originate is the Mediterranean.

“I did warn my mother before she came to see the show but she said afterwards she sounded nothing like that.”

Luisa Guerreiro is experienced in physical theatre and performing in family shows which has involved playing creatures from time to time. I was a pigeon in Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! which we did at the Edinburgh Festival and then toured North America and I was in Dr Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat at the National Theatre with my twin sister playing Thing 1 and Thing 2.”

Twins in the business sounds a recipe for fierce rivalry but the sister works more as a jive dance instructor and has been in New Zealand for the past couple of years so that’s not the case.

When not acting Guerreiro works as a professional stage combatant for Impact and ID – Independent Drama Fight Unit, performing at corporate functions and stage fight presentations and role play assignments, as well as in films and commercials.

All this physical theatre, and yet when Hare and Tortoise opens Guerreiro is required to be absolutely still for quite some time. Tortoise is in hibernation and she is bent double behind some scenic shrubbery so that most of the audience don’t realise she is there as they take their seats. “We try to open it after about 10 minutes, but it might be 15 and once it was 20 minutes. My hand did slip once and I worried I had given the game away. Children are very vocal about what they see, which is one of the great things, but no one seemed to notice.”

Hare and Tortoise continues in the Crucible Studio until January 7.