chapter  6
14 Pages

Mariah Gale: Clare Smout

WithCLARE SMOUT

Mariah Gale is the most junior of the actors in this volume, but already an established presence on the Shakespearean stage: since graduating in 2003, she has performed in over a dozen Renaissance plays. It is unusual now for actors to devote so much of their early career to Shakespeare and especially unusual for a woman to have such an opportunity. This chapter explores Gale’s escalating engagement with Shakespeare and the development of her own distinctive voice and working process, focusing on the early stages of a professional life in a twenty-first-century context. Slight and slim with long fine brown hair, Gale has an unconventionally attractive

face with a strong jaw, and is capable of unusual intensity. She has yet to play any character as a passive victim or a traditionally innocent blonde maiden. Paradoxically, the very qualities which make her least suited for a string of ingénue roles are the qualities for which she was cast in them, by directors seeking an actor capable of redefining such parts. Early performances as Hero at the Globe and Viola at Regent’s Park were fol-

lowed by roles at the RSC which progressed from Octavia and Portia (in Julius Caesar) to Miranda, the Princess of France, Ophelia, Celia and Juliet. In between she played Annabella, the tragic incestuous co-protagonist of Ford’s ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore at Southwark Playhouse – a sidestep which will be discussed in more detail later. Gale’s approach to Shakespeare’s heroines leaves behind not only the idealised

purity of Victorian (male) criticism and its accompanying stage tradition but also the campaigning reinterpretations of late twentieth-century feminism. She seems determined not to sentimentalise or idealise her characters, but neither could they be patronised with the term ‘feisty’. Her acting is raw and vulnerable; she is willing to take risks and to explore darker options. She constantly juxtaposes contradictions, refusing to make obvious choices or pre-empt outcomes. She is as comfortable barefoot as displaying aristocratic assurance, playing an awkward teenager or corseted royalty. Her work is distinguished by intelligence and clarity of thought as much as by emotional intensity, and her early roles showed an earnestness and seriousness: comic parts such as Audrey and Jacquenetta are notably absent from her CV. However, in recent years a lightness and controlled humour have extended her range significantly, while she has had gradually increasing opportunities to explore the sensuality for which her Annabella was so highly praised.