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Not Talking's Kika Markham: a week in the life

Mike Bartlett's first play was only ever heard on the radio – but now making its debut at the Arcola Theatre

Kika Markham in Not Talking
© Lidia Crisafulli

Mike Bartlett has produced some lauded work over the last few years – King Charles III, Albion and Doctor Foster all gaining acclaim and recognition. But the stage premiere of his play Not Talking is something a bit different – first performed on the radio in 2007, the show now appears live in front of audiences with a cast composed of David Horovitch, Gemma Lawrence, Kika Markham and Lawrence Walker.

We asked Markham, who plays Lucy, to give us a look at the show backstage as it gears up for opening night on 1 May.

The Man in Charge

KM: "Lucy is rather a challenging part but James Hillier (director) created an atmosphere in the rehearsal room where we began to feel able to experiment and dare to try things out without feeling too foolish. It was an encouraging ambience and affectionate. We needed affection because in the play no one can touch each other, so smiles and the odd hug in a tea break didn't go amiss. It was challenging for all of us, as it had only been on radio before, so we literally had to start from square one, and perhaps the physicality of it was most difficult.

Partner in Crime – David Horovitch

KM: Main themes of the play are about memory, and what can be said/remembered and what can't. For instance, painful events which can only be healed, perhaps much later on by being shared.

In this picture David and I are talking about our parents and their reticence to discuss what happened to them in the war. For instance, my father was a conscientious objector which is an important issue in the play, but my uncle was an RAF pilot who got shot down and wounded. These two things were rarely spoken of, though my father was considered a hero in our family.

It's time for tech

KM: "Coming into technical rehearsal was daunting for me as I have to wear glasses now and I have a continuous battle between them and contact lenses. The lights try to define the places of memory and the characters, however, I am still flinching like a frightened badger in the headlights. I take a lot of my inspiration and courage from Gemma, Lawrence and David while watching them onstage and their confidence seeps into me."

Having a little tinkle on the ivories

KM: I worried terribly about playing this lovely Chopin prelude on the piano because as Dina (our piano teacher) told us, when you're nervous your fingers have an independent life of their own. But the play finishes with the final section of the prelude, which is both beautiful and peaceful theme like the ending of a conversation, which makes it a joy to play.

My home away from home

KM: My dressing room is a home away from home, with photographs of my family everywhere. Luckily, I share it with Gemma, who is like a younger sister, and who I'm very fond of her and admire her terribly.