Age of a legend ; A city theatre is taking its play on the life of Hollywood star Katharine Hepburn to this year's Edinburgh Festival. ROZ LAWS reports
AT first glance, actress Meg Lloyd looks nothing like Hollywood film star Katharine Hepburn. For a start, she's only 5ft 3ins and Hepburn was over 6ft tall.
And in the play Tea At Five, 26-year-old Meg ages 50 years to play the elderly star.
Yet somehow it works, and Meg becomes Hepburn while she's on stage.
Tea At Five is a one-woman play by Matthew Lombardo which debuted in America in 2002 with Star Trek actress Kate Mulgrew.
Midland director Chris Lee saw it and decided to put it on last year starring Meg. It was first performed in the UK at the Stratford- upon-Avon Fringe, where Meg took home the Best Actress award. It was then staged at the Old Joint Stock Theatre in Birmingham, which has revived Tea At Five this summer. It will be previewed there at the end of this month before transferring to the Edinburgh Festival, the first time the Old Joint Stock - the 100-seat theatre above the Temple Row West pub, which opened in 2006 - has ventured north of the border.
Meg, from Hampton Magna, near Warwick, explains: "It was 90 minutes last year but we've cut it down to 50 for Edinburgh, mainly by taking out the interval.
"That means there is no time for a costume or make-up change, so I have to age just by using my voice and physicality. The first half is set when Katharine is 36 and the second when she is 76, looking back on her life, so it does span quite some time.
"The hardest challenge for me is becoming Katharine when I look nothing like her. I have, however, tried to nail her distinctive voice. I've done a lot of research, watching her films and interviews and reading her books. My favourite of her films is Bringing Up Baby. Her comic timing was phenomenal.
"She said she wasn't interested in being an actress, she just wanted to be famous and a star, but the funny thing is she was so brilliant at acting.
"I hope I have managed to capture the essence of her and some of her wit and spirit.
"I think she was incredible, like a fireball. She was so quick- witted and didn't suffer fools. The play is full of her sarcasm and quips.
"She was a go-getter and I really admire her strength.
"The play also gives us an insight into her vulnerability and more tender side. She talks about the death of her beloved older brother Tom, who hanged himself at 15. She had to cut him down. She never got over that, especially as her family refused to talk about it or believe that he'd meant to kill himself.
"She also changes completely when she talks about Spencer Tracey, the love of her life.
"The play starts with her waiting by the phone to hear whether she has got the role of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind. She was convinced that the part was hers and couldn't believe it when Vivien Leigh took it from her.
"It's called Tea At Five because her father always insisted that all the Hepburns get together every day at five to sit down and have tea."
Hepburn, who died in 2003 aged 96, still holds the record for the most Best Actress Oscars at four. Meg has also trained as a hypnotherapist and is taking a Masters degree in psychotherapy and counselling. "Starring in a onewoman show can be intimidating. "There is more pressure - I didn't quite realise how much there was to learn. And when there are a few of you on stage, you get a feeling of support.
"But at the same time I know I'm in control and I don't have to worry about anyone else."
Tea At Five plays the Old Joint Stock Theatre for four performances on July 26-27 before playing at Surgeons Hall in Edinburgh. For tickets, ring 0121 200 0946 or go to www.teaatfive.co.uk.
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