After a decade-and-a-half of international board treading, London-based actress and Fringe favourite Hannah Norris returns to Adelaide to play perhaps her most challenging role: Herself.
In the autobiographical ‘After You’, Hannah welcomes her mother back to the stage after an almost 60 year absence.
In the early 1990s, the Norris family migrated from the UK to Australia. For Norris matriarch, Angela, this was a return to a cherished place. In her early teens, Angela starred as Brigitta in the original Australian production of Rogers and Hammerstein’s 'The Sound Of Music'. She was sadly denied the opportunity to further her theatrical career.
For daughter Hannah, though, the stage has been home since she appeared in her primary school production of Shakespeare’s 'Twelfth Night'. The multi-award-winning actress returns to the Fringe this year for the first time since starring in the Duncan Graham’s acclaimed psychological thriller, 'Cut', in 2013.
‘After You’ is an exploration of the paths chosen by a mother and a daughter and the regrets, and a contemplation of the consequences of those choices.
Hannah explains how her perspective of her mother’s road through life shifted as she aged.
“With my mum, I thought (performing) was something in her past, whereas then growing up and seeing her as a human being outside of just being mum, I thought 'aw, she didn’t to do those things that she wanted to do'.”
There were always signs that the dream still resided within her mother’s heart, though, Hannah says.
“Definitely as she got older, she started singing more and she’s done tap classes since I was five years old and they do little concerts and she sings.”
‘After You’, then, will be a bursting out from the chrysalis after more than half a century of waiting. Hannah says that she is doing all she can to ensure that her mother’s metamorphosis is as resplendent as it can be.
“Part of what I wanted to do was teach her more about acting and go 'well if you want to do it, you can do it now'. So as well as devising the show, I’ve been teaching her about acting, we’ve been doing little exercises and she’s amazingly willing, she seems to trust me quite a lot.”
In addition to acting tuition, Hannah has also provided guidance in a skill essential to all modern performers: Social media.
“I spoke to her the other day and she said 'I don’t know what to do, it’s very difficult this social media' and I said 'it’s ok, just keep doing and if you’re ever in doubt, put a picture of a dog; people love that'.”
‘After You’ is not simply a vessel to allow the fulfilment of a dream; it serves an important artistic and social purpose, Hannah says.
“To me, hearing those older voices on stage is very rare in the Fringe. When I was in Edinburgh last year, I saw a couple of shows there that I found really powerful that had an older face, older story, older cast.”
While all the world’s a stage, ‘After You’ is reminder that we don’t always get to choose the role in which we are cast.
‘After You’ plays The Third Space at Live from Tandanya from 6-17 March.