11 Oct Daphne Alexander on ‘Hidden In the Sand’
Hidden In the Sand, now playing at Trafalgar Studios 2, is a story of denial, hurt, love and hope.
Starring Sally Dexter, Daphne Alexander, Scott Handy and Yolanda Vazquez, the play follows Alexandra (Dexter), a Greek-Cypriot refugee, as she mends the wounds war has given both her and her family.
Daphne Alexander plays Alexandra’s outspoken, tough-as-nails war journalist niece. A captivating presence on stage, Alexander holds her own against her three veteran costars.
I spoke with her the Monday after opening night to find out a little more about how Hidden In the Sand came together and what the story means to her, a Greek-Cypriot herself.
So how did you get involved with Hidden In the Sand?
James Phillips came to me about the play in 2010. Being originally from Cyprus – I’m a Greek-Cypriot originally – I was obviously very interested in getting involved in a project that has to do with Cyprus. So [the play’s] been in the works for a while. James wrote it in 2010 and it’s been looking for a home since then. Thankfully, it all suddenly came together. I was very, very excited to take part, not only because I’m a Greek-Cypriot actress in London but because the cast is so phenomenal and it’s such a gift for me to be working with such an amazing group of experienced actors. The whole crew and [cast] is really talented and experienced.
You’re the youngest actor in the cast by quite a bit. What was it like working with Scott [Handy] and Sally [Dexter] and Yolanda [Vazquez]?
Well, it certainly was nerve-wracking in the beginning. But they’ve been so generous and it’s been inspiring to work with them and watch them work. I’ve learnt a lot from them and they’ve kept me on my toes. I’m doing my best to live up to this enormous challenge. I’ve enjoyed it tremendously.
You and Sally have the most scenes together. What was the process like working with her and working through those scenes and that relationship?
Well, first of all, she’s a hugely talented actress. I admire her work enormously. Nevertheless, she’s such a lovely, generous, modest woman, so it’s been an absolute joy to work with her on this and to play with her.
She has a ferocious energy throughout the entire play…
She has incredible energy. Incredible energy. And she’s guided by her instincts completely. It’s very, very inspiring to watch.
You mentioned that you’re a Greek-Cypriot yourself. Are those troubles, which the play so deeply deals with, is that something that you worked through with the play?
The invasion happened in 1974, so obviously that was before I was born. But of course, my parents and their generation have lived through it. Being involved in a project that has to do with that story is very, very close to my heart. As the situation is still not resolved and the country is still divided, it is still – even though it happened almost 40 years ago now – it’s still ongoing and still hasn’t had a satisfactory resolution, politically.
Having said that, though, the play – even though it touches on the political issues – it’s very much about the human experience of that. It’s about how a family has been affected by the political problems. The way [Phillips] has dealt with that, touching on a political story from a family point of view, is very clever.
It’s almost two stories in one. On the one hand, you have the little love story between Sally and Scott and on the other hand, you have this very tense familial drama. Your character is very much involved in both of those.
What was it like being involved in both of those plotlines?
Well, my character is on a fascinating journey. She comes back from Kosovo, where she has experienced war firsthand. But she also comes back determined to find out what happened to her own family.
To her delight, she sees her aunt in love for the first time ever. Also, unintentionally, she finds out something she never knew to do with her family. And this causes a series of explosions – between her, to do with her relationship with Jonathan, her relationship with her mother, with everything. It all comes to a quite explosive climax. I don’t want to say more, really, because I don’t want to give away the twist! [Laughs] But you’re absolutely right: my character is – partly intentionally and partly unintentionally – involved in uncovering a lot of painful truths to do both with politics and her family secrets.
And without giving it away, when the second half opens, Sofia has discovered one of those secrets. Her entire mindset has changed. She quite bubbly and happy in the beginning and not so much in the second half.
[Laughs] Yeah, exactly. Well, this happens partly because of what she’s found out and partly to do with the after-affects of her being in Kosovo. She’s had the slightly belated realisation of being in a war zone and having photographed a man being shot. I did a lot of research to play a war photographer and it was very moving to find out about what it’s like to be in a war zone and to photograph the atrocities of war. It’s a very difficult thing to go through. You’ve got to be very brave and very determined to expose what happens in these places. These are very brave, very inspiring people. Having done the research, I played [Sofia] both upset with what she’s found out and struggling with what she has seen.
The play is very exhausting – in a good way.
It is, it is. It’s so intense. It’s a very short play but so much happens. It’s very full on and exhausting for all of us. At the same time, it’s such a wonderful story, so we all feel responsible to tell it. It’s satisfying to see the audience involved and listening. It’s a beautiful process.
In the final scenes – when you and your mother and your aunt go into the room – that could have been the ending scene, but it’s not. Instead, you go back to the love story between Jonathan and Alexandra. Do you think that’s important to end on that more hopeful note?
Yes, I think so. I think the playwright wanted to explore the love story between Alexandra and Jonathan. That was, I think, where he wanted to end the story.
by Emma Hudson, Stage and Screen Insider