Brief Encounter with… 4000 Miles star Sara Kestelman

Sara Kestelman is starring in Amy Herzog‘s 4000 Miles, which opens at the Print Room in Notting Hill tonight (14 May 2013).

Transferring from the Ustinov Studio at Bath Theatre Royal, the play follows 21 year-old Leo who goes to stay with his 91 year-old grandmother Vera, with the characters discovering the narrow line between growing up and growing old.

Kestelman is an Olivier Award-winning actress, whose stage credits include Making Noise Quietly, Nine and Cabaret (Donmar Warehouse), Hamlet, Love for Love and As You Like It (National Theatre) and Fiddler on the Roof (London Palladium). 4000 Miles runs until 1 June 2013.

Can you tell us a bit about 4000 Miles?

Amy Herzog has based the character of Vera very much on her own
grandmother and the play, set in Greenwich Village in New York, follows
the unexpected and unplanned reunion between Vera and Leo, her grandson.
From their extreme polar positions, he very young, she very old, they
uncover a trust and honesty that defines them, enabling them to learn
from each other about each other and in so-doing shrink the many years
that separate them making them absolute and surprising equals. Added
into this delightful and surprising mix are two other people – one a
very special, tender and significant part of Leo’s present and past –
the other the excitement of a stranger.

What initially drew you to play the role?

The brilliance, wit, humour, tenderness and perception of the writing and the originality of the four characters.

Has the show changed much since transferring to the Print Room?

The spacial dimensions of the Print Room and the Ustinov Studio are very
different and the set has had to be slightly extended at either end so
we have to adjust and absorb these changes. The auditorium in the
Ustinov has two levels whereas The Print Room is on a single level with a
lower ceiling which impacts on the dynamics and energy of the
performing of the play and vocal projection.

Do you think that you and Vera have any similarities?

I share Vera’s passion and energy and we are both good listeners. On the
flip side I definitely recognise her irritation and impatience! And the

Daniel Boyd & Sara Kestelman. Photo: Jane Hobson

What do you think the central message of the play is?

There is no single message. The depth and integrity fundamental to all
Amy Herzog‘s characters allow us to travel with them on a subtle and
often emotional and frequently very funny journey and the shared
observations and revelations echo a zillion experiences of our own. The
resonances are touching and illuminating and give Amy Herzog her
unique and original voice.

Your career has spanned theatre, TV and film – do you have a preference?

Over the 40 odd years of a blessedly varied career I seem to have done
more theatre than screen work. It wasn’t planned – it just fell out that

What made you want to be an actor?

My first professional job was as a dancer in The Tempest at Regent’s Park Open Air
Theatre and there I met Dame Sybil Thorndike’s remarkable
brother Russell Thorndike who became a mentor and he suggested I go to
Drama School. I trained at The Central School of Speech and Drama from

What have you got coming up next?

I work for the charity Interact Reading Service which uses actors to
read one to one to stroke patients in hospitals, hospices and stroke
groups. In this work I met a very remarkable woman, Nan Millard, who
suffered a massive stroke some years ago and with my colleague Amanda
Brennan, I am making a film about the special work we are doing together
– a documentary and hopefully also a teaching film to help enable
others enhance the lives of stroke victims with some of the strategies
we are exploring. We plan to complete the film this year.