facebook play-alt chevron-thin-right chevron-thin-left cancel location info chevron-thin-down star-full help-with-circle calendar images mail whatsapp directions_car directions_bike train directions_walk directions_bus close spinner11
# I MISS THEATRE
Are you missing theatre as much as we are? Support us now with Theatre Tokens and see your favourite shows when they reopen.

Exclusive: Lia Williams on The Match Box

First Published 10 May 2013, Last Updated 20 August 2013

Lia Williams tells us about the transition from actress to director as her stage directorial debut, Frank McGuinness’ one woman play The Match Box, plays at the Tricycle theatre.

This woman comes into the room. “Hiya”, she says, flinging her bag down and choosing a seat. She looks up and fixes me with a glare so direct that I am momentarily flattened. Her hooded blue-changing-to-green eyes are potent. ‘Cast me but don’t come near me’, they say. She smiles quietly and fiercely sizes me up.

Speak Lia, a loud voice in my head told me, you are the flippin’ director now. “Hello – great – good”, I said. Total flair! “So … um …”

She was Sal. She was the wolf. No doubt really, but we worked on the script for over an hour and I asked her to come back the next day and we did another two hours.

You see I quickly understood that the success of this solo performance depended not only on a rich and varied acting talent, supreme timing and a good deal of craft but, more importantly, our minds had to cohere. We had to have at least a recognition of each other’s instinct and intuition, spirit, heart, wit and a sense of the universe; a kind of spirituality. Most of all – and toughest for our breed – could we trust each other?

Trust. That, to my surprise, was my hardest judgement in my new role as director.

Watching her audition, looking at it from the other side of the camera so to speak (from myself as actor to myself as director) I saw how, as actors, we have to put our fists up much of the time because we just don’t know what is going to come at us and yet we have to remain open. Trust is hard. Certainly directors can be friend or foe to actors, sometimes strangely blocking an actor’s performance.

I reckoned that I wanted to work with someone who would travel with me so that I could springboard them into their greatest flight yet. There is Writers’ Theatre and Directors’ Theatre and I want Actors’ Theatre; that is, I want someone who transmits the writer’s story in pure and uncluttered form. I shall be an actors’ director. That means the actor has to trust me with her life. Heck.

I cast Leanne Best in The Match Box, the woman with the blue-green eyes, and we have been on a tremendously uplifting journey together.

Our research was comprehensive: speaking with therapists, grief counsellors, gathering hundreds of photos, paintings, illustrations, poems, music, looking at related cases of gang crime, scouring news footage. Gradually we began to piece together a scaffolding for Sal’s world and Frank McGuinness took a wondrous role in this piece of the journey, filling our heads with history, context and psychology, all from his brilliant poet’s mind. And we were like-minded, Leanne and I, and so we began to trust. Her epic imagination and wealth of colourful life experience – matched with my vision – enabled us to edge slowly towards Sal. It wasn’t easy; we had to make the language active and spontaneous. We had to be visceral in our story-telling. And we had to make the audience complicit in her journey. There was a crushing of scripts and gnashing of teeth, tears, struggle and laughter that hurt, confusion and fear, but one day her face changed, her heartbeat quickened and the middle of her shifted. The lift went down. She became Sal.

Go and see her. She is marvellous.

Share

Sign up

Related articles

If you click through to seat selection (where you'll see either best available or a seating plan), you will be seeing the most up-to-date prices. If this differs from what we've written on the calendar, please bear with us, as those prices will update soon.

We now sell our famous TKTS Booth discounts online here at Official London Theatre.

We are now cancelling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen.

We are so sorry that in these testing and difficult times you are not able to enjoy the show you have booked for and hope the following helps clarify next steps in respect of your tickets .

There is nothing that you need to do if your performance has been cancelled, but we do ask for your patience.

If you have booked directly with the theatre or show website for an affected performance, please be assured that they will contact you directly to arrange an exchange for a later date, a credit note/voucher or a refund. If you have booked via a ticket agent they will also be in contact with you directly.

We are processing in strict date order of performance, so you are likely to be contacted after the date you were due to go to the theatre. However, we want to reassure you that you will be contacted, and your order will be processed, but please do bear with us.

We’d like to thank everyone who has been patient and kind in dealing with their ticket providers so far and we are sorry that we cannot process your order as quickly as we would like.

Please do not contact your credit card company as that will slow the process down and put an additional burden on our box office and ticket agent teams.

In order for us to serve our audiences the best we can, please do not get in touch with your point of sale if you have booked for performances after 31 May. Please be reassured that if we have to cancel future performances you will be directly contacted by your theatre or ticket provider. Our producers continue to plan for all eventualities dependent on the individual needs of their shows and we will provide further updates on specific shows as and when they become available.

We look forward to welcoming you back into our theatres as soon as we are allowed to resume performances. In the meantime stay safe and healthy.

While theatres are currently closed, various venues and productions are making announcements for their individual shows, including cancellations and rescheduled performances. Please check with the individual shows for details.