Being Ruth Negga

Flat spread of Ruth Negga article in ALHAUS magazine

To be or not to be is the dilemma that’s haunted many an actor for centuries. Alison O’Byrne talks to Ruth Negga about playing the Prince of Denmark from a female point of view and her belief in the benefit of simply being.

How does she feel about playing Hamlet, described by Artistic Director Selina Cartmell as ‘the ultimate outsider’? She pauses for some moments before agreeing: “I think she’s right in saying that he’s the ultimate outsider. He feels outside the pale of his own family, but also in his role as prince. It’s very much an exploration of what it is to be alive when you feel you don’t really fit in anywhere or know what your purpose is.” This is intriguing to Ruth, who has freely admitted to feeling like an outsider herself. She hopes that her background will help inform her performance as she channels her own experiences from being a black child in a predominantly white Ireland; to later being Irish and black in London.

“I think a lot of artists feel like outsiders. Maybe because they have this place of being outside looking in, a particular kind of observation of human nature, it gives them an insight into the way people work and the psyche: physically, cerebrally and emotionally.”

I think a lot of artists feel like outsiders.

Historically, only a handful of women have taken on the role of Hamlet—in doing so now, in an industry still dominated by men and with the spotlight firmly on gender disparity one can’t help but think about how such a performance could assist in further breaking down barriers for women in the theatre.

She’s quick to respond: “There is momentum but the trick is to keep that momentum going; to keep the agitation and continue agitating. I’m looking forward to playing Hamlet. I’m looking forward to playing her as a woman and as a person. All of those lovely soliloquies are about a person, not just a man. Women have those queries about life too!”

Read the full interview with Ruth Negga in Issue No. 3 of ALHAUS magazine, available now.

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