Past/Present/Future for ... Park Avenue Cat's Josefina GabrielleDate: 11 July 2011
Two-time Olivier Award nominee Josefina Gabrielle currently stars as Lily in Frank Strausser’s Park Avenue Cat which opened at the Arts Theatre on 7 July (previews from 1 July) for a limited run to 20 August 2011.
Gabrielle’s career spans plays and musicals in the West End and on Broadway, coming to prominence playing Laurey in the 1998 National Theatre production of Oklahoma!. Trevor Nunn’s production, which earned her her first Olivier nomination, transferred to the West End's Lyceum Theatre.
Her other musical credits include playing Roxie Hart in Chicago, Cassie in A Chorus Line at the Sheffield Crucible, as well as West End outings in The Witches of Eastwick, Carousel, Fame and The Woman in White. Gabrielle has also been seen on stage in The Murder Game, The 39 Steps, Hands Across the Sea and A Midsummer Night's Dream.
She appears in Park Avenue Cat alongside Tessa Peake-Jones (Only Fools and Horses), Gray O'Brien (Coronation Street) and Daniel Weyman (Comedy of Errors, Regent's Park). The production, a tale of mistaken identity and the heady world of LA dating from the perspective of a therapist's couch, is directed by Glen Walford.
Oklahoma! at the National Theatre will always be one of the most special memories of my life. It changed my career, it opened new doors and the whole experience was wonderful. It was the perfect job: the exploration of the story, the team, the company. Trevor Nunn is the most wonderful person to work with. He’s a genius and put so much detail, time and precision into every single area of that piece. It was the easiest job because it made sense and the hardest job because it demanded everything of you.
Sweet Charity is the most recent fond memory. I’m madly in love with Bob Fosse. What he created and what came about from his vision is just extraordinary. You wear the shoes of the original company and they have so much mileage to go forward with your own take on things. Stephen Mear knew the piece so intimately that he was able to pay homage to the original but still make it his own, and because we were his playthings it became our own too.
From a straight theatre perspective Tonight at 8.30 was definitely a highlight. We did six of Noël Cowards’ one-act plays. It’s what every actor wants, to stretch themselves and to flex as many muscles as possible. We had very limited time. We had six weeks to rehearse six plays, but they’re so brilliantly written they just fall in. It’s material you could do forever. You’d never get bored of doing those plays.
Park Avenue Cat is fascinating because it’s all set in the world of psychotherapy and three characters in a psychotherapist’s office. The amount of information and emotion that pours out of the three of them is quite a minefield to unpick. There’s a lot of untangling to do throughout the play to make sense of our crossing needs, defences and insecurities. It all gets rather chaotic, especially as my character Lily tends to fly off to another man every time she feels insecure. She has got herself into a situation where she is torn between two men whom she shares this therapy session with.
The process of psychotherapy is very revealing. It’s a bottomless pit of discovery and endless discussions. Of course it makes you look at yourself and what you bring to the table. Lily certainly shows a dysfunctional side, whereas other characters have these dysfunctions but are more controlled, because they are not forced to spew them out.
It certainly feels like there is that American style of psychotherapy, the opening up of what you feel. But there are universal issues at work. My character is a successful businesswoman. By all intents and purposes when you meet her she’s got it all. But she’s on the eleventh hour to commit and settle down. Where that comes in she’s pretty clueless. That vital piece of the puzzle is most definitely a puzzle for her.
The cast are fantastic. I’ve been a huge fan of Tessa Peake-Jones for years. She plays the psychotherapist and she has a wonderful gentle, but strong probing manner. There’s a connection between her and Lily. They meet as two strong, successful businesswomen and it makes her a good ally for Lily. Gray O'Brien is superb as Philip, one of my Mr Rights and so perfectly different from Daniel Weyman. Together they’d nearly make the perfect man.
Right now there are some possibilities in the pipelines that would be nice. That’s the lovely thing about freelancing, anything can happen. Anything that tells a good story is what I’d like to do. Team and quality are all ideals. There are shows and plays you’d love to explore, but it’s who you work with and how it comes together that makes it special.
Park Avenue Cat opened at the Arts Theatre on 7 July (previews from 1 July) where it continues for a limited season until 20 August 2011.