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Theatre Collective Spotlight: Pearl Chanda

Empower Her Voice Theatre Collective introduces…

‘Spotlight: Female-Identifying and Non-Binary Voices in Theatre’

This is a new series of interviews, released monthly, to broadcast the emerging and established voices of female-identifying and non-binary creatives within theatre.

Introducing Pearl Chanda

Pearl graduated from RADA in 2013, following on from that she has truly cemented into the British Television and Theatre scene. Last seen in Rebecca Frecknell's Three Sisters at the Almeida, playing Masha other theatre credits include: Ink (Almeida West End), One For Sorrow (Royal Court), The Glass Menagerie (Nuffield Theatre); The Angry Brigade (Bush Theatre), Crave & 4.48 Psychosis (Sheffield Crucible), Two Gentlemen of Verona (RSC); Godchild (Hampstead) and The Seagull (Headlong). 2020 saw Pearl in the hugely successful I May Destroy you and in Mammoth Screens McDonald and Dobbs. She will next be seen opposite Gabriel Byrne in Howard Overmans second series of his critically acclaimed War of the Worlds. Other Film and Television credits includes: Marionette, The Final Haunting, Mr Turner, Holby City and Arthur and George.

What was your first experience watching theatre?

Growing up my family didn’t have a lot of money, but both my parents are really creative people and love the arts, so my Dad would wake up early and stand in line for ten pound tickets at the National Theatre. You could get front row tickets, and when I was 5 he took me to see Richard Eyre’s production of Guys and Dolls. I was transfixed; I felt like the actors were doing it just for me!

What was the first play to make you want to act?

Seeing Katie Mitchells production of Iphigenia at Aulis was definitely a turning point. The acting was so deep and raw. I remember watching Kate Duchene and thinking ‘I want to do what she’s doing’

Again, Another 10 pound ticket at the National. Without accessibility to those plays I may not have become an actress.

Why theatre for you? Why is it the right form for you?

That it’s alive in that moment and then it’s gone. Magic.

What do you look for when choosing plays to take on?

Character. I have to love the character I’m playing, I have to find them the most interesting person in my life whilst I do the Job.

Then it’s the writing. Then it’s the cast. Then it’s the director.

Which playwrights/ directors/ actors have had the biggest impact on you?

SO MANY. Playwrights - Tennessee Williams/ Sarah Kane/ debbie tucker green/Chekov/ Shakespeare/ Alice Birch/ Annie Baker/ Sarah Delappe/

I love working with Rebecca Frecknall and James Mcdonald. Katie Mitchell. I wish I could have worked with the late Howard Davis, his plays were always beautiful.

Actors: Gena Rowlands. Linda Bassett. Michaela Coel. Jodie Mcnee. Ruth Wilson. Patsy Ferran. Viola Davis. Giulietta Masina. Ria Zmitrowicz. Marianne Jean-Baptiste. Edie Falco. Merritt Weaver. Frances Mcdormand. Nadine Marshall. Maggie Smith. Charlotte Riley. Sinead Matthews. Isabelle Huppert. Hayley Squires. Rona Morison.

How has the theatre industry changed over your time working?

I think it has changed. Some things for the better- More female directors, more new plays with Actresses at the helm. However I think there’s still much much more room to be braver; in the commissioning of work, but also the supporting of artists from different backgrounds.

What's the hardest play/extract you've ever performed and why?

The hardest play I’ve ever done was CRAVE by Sarah Kane at the Crucible in Sheffield. Its so hard to learn! It’s so hard to perform. You have to give your whole body and soul to work like that. I was a nervous wreck before each show. It felt like I was about to go to war. Exhilarating though! And definitely made me a better actor- the tough ones always make you better.

Are there ideas and themes that you keep coming back to?

Great Question. Essentially I’m drawn to plays that explore the messiness of life. Plays that deal with the messiness of human relationships. Plays that are funny and heart wrenching simultaneously.

Are there characters that you keep coming back to?

I’m in awe of actors who go back to a character twice or three times in their careers. I can’t imagine doing that- I’d feel like I was cheating on the production that I originally played the part for! That being said, I did Hedda Gabler at Drama School and more and more I have an itch to play her- not for a while, maybe in a few years when I hit my thirties - not quite ready to play her yet!

What advice would you give to a woman wanting to work in theatre, but without obvious access streams?

A teacher of mine recently told me ‘ You can make Art at Any moment you want to make Art’ - This year has been really tricky, and Theatres have been devastated by the lack of support. But I constantly see people trying to get projects made, or read, or even just getting together to throw ideas around. I adored the instagram love story between Miranda July and Margaret Qualley- so simple and beautiful and filmed over FaceTime!! Im a believer that you can make anything happen, so I suppose my advice is just to keep on making, being creative, banging on doors and demanding to be heard.

What are your top tips for emerging female-identifying actors who have not had formal training?

Although I did go to Drama School, I genuinely don’t think it is the right route for everyone, and since fees have gone up, for many, it’s an unfeasible option. However I do think learning and testing your skills with a group of actors around your own age is really important and great fun. It’s where you find your tribe and your collaborators. This is why its imperative that we support Drama Clubs, Youth Theatres, Young companies- every young person, from any background should be able to have the opportunity to go to drama club if they so wish.

If you could go back to the beginning of your interest in theatre, what would you tell yourself?

Read as much as you can. Watch as much as you can. Be Open. Ask for help. Don’t be ashamed of being a nerd. Work hard.

What are you working on next?

Ive just finished filming a murder mystery comedy produced by Searchlight, set in the 1950’s theatre world alongside Sam Rockwell and Saorise Ronan which I’m very excited about. Im currently filming Season 3 of War of the Worlds for Fox/Canal+ but Im chomping at the bit to get on stage. I MISS IT. So Hopefully next year, and I’ll savour every moment.

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