Camilla Aiko on Scarlet Sunday

Scarlet Sunday, the debut play by James Alston, delves into the struggle to reconcile great works of art with the actions of their creators. Playing at Omnibus Theatre, Imy Wyatt Corner directs the two-hander, starring Camilla Aiko and Sorcha Kennedy, with set and costume design by 2021’s Linbury Prize Winner, Cat Fuller.

We caught up with Aiko who plays Ava. Her previous theatre credits include News Plays: Japan at the Royal Court Theatre as well as productions on television and film.

Q&A with Camilla Aiko

What is it like to be part of the UK premiere of Scarlet Sunday?

It’s lovely to be part of a team that are bringing a piece of new writing to the stage. Every single one of the creative team has been so vital to bringing this play to life, from the design, set, lighting, sound, costume, directing, producing etc. It’s amazing to be at the Omnibus too because they champion new writing.

What can you tell us about the play?

It’s a play that starts with a conversation between two women in a cafe, and we see them meeting for the first time in this weird standoff with each other. They’re very different people, but they both very much need each other at that moment in time. Without giving too much away, it’s a play that explores what the right way to handle controversial art is. Both women get a chance to really speak and say some very valid points about what “truth” really is, what “art” should be.

Photo: Alex Brenner

How have you approached playing Ava as a character?

I always try to dig into the text first as much as possible, which usually means getting off book before rehearsals if I can. I find this helps me get into the headspace of the character a lot quicker as you’re made to really engage with the text before rehearsals even start. We talked a lot about their lives outside of the play, as we do only see these women for a brief snapshot of their lives, albeit an important one. Having the writer, James, in the room was so useful as he was able to provide insight but also allowed us to interpret the characters in a way that felt very real to us – that was so important as there are definitely some surreal moments during the play!

What has the rehearsal process been like so far?

It’s been unusually very smooth for a theatre production! I think part of that is due to the great team, but the show itself is limited to two locations and is mostly made up of a very twisty conversation between two very complicated women. We started off with a lot of discussion and breaking down the text, and then went onto trying to get into the bodies of the characters. It’s changed a lot over the rehearsal process and has changed some more during previews, simply due to the change in space which brought to light a different way of playing the text. Imy has been a wonderful director and it’s been amazing to learn from Sorcha who plays Yasmin with so much humour.

Photo: Alex Brenner

As well as theatre, you’ve worked in television and film – do you have a preference and how much does your approach change depending on the medium?

I love both the screen and the stage! I do find that theatre demands more of me in terms of energy, but it is also more exhilarating for that reason. With film and television, I suppose the character you offer on set is almost complete before you get there, as there isn’t much rehearsal or spare time on set at all. In theatre both your character and the story get redrafted over and over and you find a way to tell the story that suits the space you’ll be performing in. Although, in both settings, the bottom line is that I try to stay present and listen to whatever the other actor is giving me. I think always considering the audience/the camera is important too.

Scarlet Sunday is at Omnibus Theatre until 17 March