Sarah Seggari knows London’s world-famous Shakespeare’s Globe like the back of her hand. She’s performed Shakespeare there many times but her latest show is slightly different. Sarah plays Lady Cordelia in ‘Emilia‘ a play commissioned specifically for the theatre. With an all-female cast, the piece reveals the life of Emilia Bassano: poet, mother and feminist.
How do you deal with the intensity of the audience and history of performing at the Globe?
I feel so privileged to be back at the Globe. It’s such a phenomenal, unique place to work that I hope every actor gets to experience it. You go back to the origins of storytelling in the most intimate way. Actor and audience. I’ve heard many directors say it’s an ‘actor’s theatre’ and I totally believe that – every show is completely different to the last. You must listen to the audience and respond accordingly, shift your acting style to how they want it played. It means that on top of it all you can be so alive as a company and constantly moulding the play. Also knowing that before me there have been thousands of actors stamping on the same boards including The Lord Chamberlain’s Men! Where it all began! It’s sickening in the best way! I’m literally acting on a history cauldron of goodness and I believe you can absolutely feel it the moment you step on stage. Magic. That’s why I want all actors to have the honour of working on there.
Do you feel like Shakespeare himself is watching your every move?
1000000000000000% do I feel like that. Last year on Much Ado About Nothing I’d constantly be backstage waiting to go on and feel someone behind me. Thinking it was the stage managers, I’d look behind and there’d be nobody there…. This year as we perform Emilia, a story SO close to Shakespeare I feel the presence on stage. I often do a little prayer to all the past actors and to Will himself thanking them for letting me be here. Maybe it’s because I’m Italian and we are very spiritual, but you can’t deny strange things happen on that stage. It’s the whole reason the Jig was invented…. I often think about the real Emilia Bassano and Lord Henry Carey and Will himself watching our show and laughing their heads off at how we’ve portrayed them! I like that idea, a lot.
Can you tell us a bit about Emilia – the play and the woman?
Emilia Bassano. An incredible activist of Shakespeare’s day. A darker skinned girl from Italy, of North African descent. Her family was made up of travelling musicians trying to get the best out of life. And Emilia did. She managed to charm her way into the right crowd, but her passion was writing and so she surrounded herself with some amazing humans as we all do with our own individual passions. She knew Mary Sydney, Henry Carey, and William Shakespeare, but she was having trouble getting published – as many will sympathise with – and then we find that Will Shakespeare himself wrote a lot of poems about a dark lady who writes and plays instruments… who was having trouble putting things on… did you know the name Emilia is the most used name in his plays? Coincidence? You’ll have to watch the play to find out what happens with her…
So, is she the mysterious ‘Dark Lady’ of Shakespeare’s Sonnets?
You know what… I’m still not sure.
And how does your character, Lady Cordelia, cross paths with Emilia?
Lady Cordelia represents the woman who actually WAS happy in that era, upper class and happy to play the rules. Climb her way up until she was a wife, a mother and a friend of the Queens. Was she happy? Or did she just follow the rules because she knew no better? She became a childhood friend to Emilia when learning the ropes of court but once married, we sadly lose sight of her. She is silenced.
‘Emilia’ runs until 1st September. More info right here.