Rogues & Vagabonds

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…

Archive Interview • SAMANTHA SPIRO • Twelfth Night • 2008

“Maria is one of those parts that can be played by any actress, whether a sixty year old in a hair net or a saucy young minx. I guess I’m something in between.” So says Samantha Spiro during a break in rehearsals for the latest Donmar West End offering shortly to open at the Wyndham’s Theatre, Twelfth Night. No way should this dark and vibrant actor ever be forced to don a hair net. So, saucy young minx it is.

Spiro and I sit in the rehearsal room at the Jerwood Space. The floor is taped out with the barest schematic representing the Wyndham’s stage, a straggling black line indicating the forestage and the position of the proscenium arch. Eagerly, Spiro points to the colour photographs of the set which cluster on the wall behind the director’s chair. A cut-out figure of an actor is all that hints at the minuscule scale of the original model. A portion of brightly ‘distressed’ louvred panel rests beneath the photographs, a solid three-dimensional reminder of the dominant theme of the final set.

“There’s only one major piece of furniture,” Spiro explains, pointing to a chaise longue in the corner. “The play is very much set in a world of its own – a sort of period feel – but somewhere free from being too definite.” The louvres evoke a very Mediterranean Illyria, residing “in an indefinite period somewhere around the thirties.” The director, Michael Grandage, and his designer, Christopher Oram, have created this very fluid time and place for one of Shakespeare’s best-loved comedies.

To my comment that the set seems very sparse, Spiro announces that “it frightened the hell out of me when I first saw it – as an actor you feel so exposed – but now, four weeks into rehearsals and I feel liberated by it.” Spiro has already had experience of working with Grandage, playing Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Celia in As You Like It.

What is different for her about this experience, however, is that Twelfth Night is playing not in the intimate space of the Donmar, but on the Wyndham’s stage. “Oh, but it’s lovely to play comedy with a pros arch,” Spiro explains, discussing the unusual benefits of performing in a less intimate space: “It so adds to the comedy – it focuses the audience’s attention on the specifics of the comedy – on the glances between two people.”

“As for Maria,” Spiro adds, “its very obvious that she’s one of the household staff. Chris didn’t go for an archetypal English or French maid, but her status is recognizable all the same.” There is a glint of risqué charm as Spiro describes her character’s association with the less-than-sober Sir Toby Belch. “It’s a fairly full-blooded version of their relationship which shows the pair falling in love and getting married. In fact, the couple seem to be getting off on gulling Malvolio and Aguecheek – it sort of gets their blood going.”

The ‘Maria love-interest’, or should it be ‘lust-interest’, is played by Ron Cooke. “Ron is certainly not the typical choice for Sir Toby,” Spiro explains, “but there’s nothing in the play to say that he’s a ‘big fat old bloke’ – he’s just a ‘drunk’.” Spiro expresses her obvious delight in working with Cooke when she adds that “Ron can really rock-and-roll with [Sir Toby].”

So, a Toby who is more lush than lard, a Maria whose sexuality is sparked by the misfortune of the pompous and the ludicrous, and a Mediterranean world which seems slowly to be rotting into the setting sun of 1930s Europe. Fascinating. What seems even more fascinating, however, is the timing of the Donmar venture into the West End. Spiro remarks that the company are very aware of the lessons learned by the Ivanov experience. Wyndham’s has been playing to capacity audiences, all eager to enjoy great theatre at a bargain price. The £10 ticket scheme has been an absolute success.

Even so, West End venue does not mean West End budget. Indeed, the cost of these productions is little more than a standard Donmar offering. “We can’t have a lavish West End budget when the seat prices are so subsidized.” Still, as Spiro points out, “the timing is brilliant. No-one thought that we’d be heading into a recession when the season was first conceived. But now, two people can come and see a great West End play for £20 – surely most people can at least afford that over the Christmas period?”

Twelfth Night, Christmas cheer, and a price which isn’t going to break an Icelander’s bank. You know what? It’s worth it just to glimpse Samantha Spiro’s Maria in action.

Kevin Quarmby © 2008

Originally published on R&V on 22-11-08


One comment on “Archive Interview • SAMANTHA SPIRO • Twelfth Night • 2008

  1. Pingback: Archive Interview • SAMANTHA SPIRO • Twelfth Night • 2008 | Rogues & Vagabonds | Rogues & Vagabonds

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Food & Wine

Coffee fuels my photography!

~ my everyday life through the lens of my camera ~

Polly's Paper Studio

Vintage Inspired Paper Crafts & Digital Design

Life on La Lune

A journey through life in Southwest France

Vanessa Couchman

Historical Fiction with a French Flavour

Disability & Determination

It isn't being John Malkovich, but it is being me

Nicholas Andriani Rankin

Writer. Poet. ELearning Instructor & Narrative Designer: Researching Fandom Through Literature, Folklore, Game Studies, Pop Culture & Visual Media.

Joe Ruggiero at Home

Daily Reflections from My Home and Garden

Mitch Teemley

The Power of Story

Genealogy Jude

Unlocking the Door to Your Past


by Jack Monroe, bestselling author of 'A Girl Called Jack'

Stevie Turner

Realist, writer, reader, reviewer and rocker.

The Stuff They Won't Include in Any Tourist Guide: The Real England

The Real England is a concise, direct, and not-so-gentle window into the depths of the leftovers of the world’s once greatest empire. It is told from the perspective of one lone (or not so lone) long term visitor. It informs one of the dregs of the country and helps to explain quaint British oddities such as the crack addicted chav.

S.O.U.L. S-P-A-C-E

Artists, Writers and Visionaries Blog on the Unique and Ordinary

The Lady Sews

Collected works and other excuses from a textile obssessive


Defending Scientism


has random thoughts

Criminal Historian

Working with dead people


Writing - Loving What I Do and Doing What I Love!


the darker side to sedge808

Off Center & Not Even

Photographs, music and writing about daily life. Contact:

Reina Cottier Art

Creative Intuitive from New Zealand

Tenafly Road

Family Saga Fiction by Adrienne Morris


Burgers, Books, Music, Movies, Offbeat Adventures & Pop Culture!

Etan Smallman

Freelance journalist

Assemblage Art

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013...

Candia Comes Clean

Candid cultural comments from the Isles of Wonder


Horror, Science Fiction, Comic Books and More

The Wandering Empath

Traveling the World Through Others

I didn't have my glasses on....

A trip through life with fingers crossed and eternal optimism.


Art, Literature, Poetry, Politics and a little History

Jet Eliot

Travel and Wildlife Adventures

Judith Barrow

Writer & Author

Sophia Riley Kobacker

it's all about the story, possums...

Tropical Affair

Observations of the illusion through the eyes of wonder...


Adventures in Watercolor Painting and Sketching, Watercolour Magazine, with Charlie O'Shields

Life in Russia

The Bridge between two countries

London Life With Liz

A lifestyle blog with a little bit of everything.

Brotherly Love

A personal exploration of autism from a brother’s perspective, including family relationships, philosophy, neuroscience, mental health history and ethics

Alex Raphael

Entertainment, travel and lifestyle blog

Teagan's Books

Founder of the Three Things Method of Storytelling

%d bloggers like this: