Interview: Danielle Bird, ‘If one person reaches out for help, we have served a brilliant purpose’

by Jim Keaveney

Inspired by true events of a woman buried alive by her abusive partner that shook Wales and reverberated around the world, Francesca Goodridge directs Danielle Bird as Hayley and Daniel Hawksford as Carl. In this dynamic new play, Hayley and Carl journey through complexities of love and life, dreaming of love, living in fear and finding the strength to pull yourself out.

The production opens in Theatr Mix in The Village at Theatr Clwyd on 12 July, with previews from 8 July, and runs until 23 July, ahead of performances at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff from 27-29 July. As the cast and crew geared up for opening night, Bird spoke to us about the production, working to do the story justice and serving a purpose through the show.

The Understudy Q&A with Danielle Bird

Hi Danielle, thanks for taking time out from preparations for A Pretty Sh*tty Love to talk to us about the play. How have rehearsals been so far?

Everyone has been super supportive on this team and the creatives have such a strong vision for the piece. Doing a two hander is quite a different process and I find I have to work in quite a different way. Especially as the character relationships are those of abuser and victim. I feel you need a lot of trust to work safely and in order to do the story justice.

Tell us a little bit about your background – how did you get into acting?

My sister and I would always put on plays for our parents when we were growing up and I took part in school productions. I auditioned for National Youth Theatre and from there I knew I wanted to try and make a career out of being an actor. I feel so lucky to have had nurturing and supportive teachers at school who encouraged me to join the choir, take part in extracurricular performances and audition for drama school.

What can you tell us about the play and your role?

Our director Fran has been so creative in the way we tell this story using various conventions to symbolise the narrative or how the characters are feeling. It’s a clever production. It’s also hard hitting and emotive.

What was it that attracted you to Hayley as a character?

This story is so vital. I was so moved by the real-life story and loved Katherine’s script. Being part of a show that influences an audience, has an impact and the possibility to make a change is such a powerful thing. I feel that this part and this production has that capability which really attracted me to the project.

How do you think audiences will react to the production?

I hope audiences will be moved by the story and hopefully engage in conversations about the theme in their own lives. If the ripple effect of this show means that even one person reaches out for help, we have served a brilliant purpose.

Finally, how would you describe A Pretty Sh*tty Love to someone considering buying a ticket for the show?

The show is clever, hard hitting, moving, poignant, vital, theatrical and believe it or not, funny as well as emotional.

A Pretty Sh*tty Love is at Theatr Clwyd from 8 July to 23 July and at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff from 27 July to 29 July

Jim Keaveney is the lead critic at The Understudy. He tweets occasionally from @understudyjim