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Zoe Wanamaker interviewed about His Girl Friday

Richard and Judy (Channel 4), 2003-10-01


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During His Girl Friday's run, ZoŽ was interviewed about the National Theatre's production by presenters Judy Finnigan and Richard Madeley for their tea-time chat show.  Below is a partial transcript of that interview.

Richard Madeley: And does the play have the very fast delivery, the fast slapstick?

ZoŽ Wanamaker: Extremely fast.  Normally - apparently - a script on film [has] a hundred and fifty words a minute, and [in] this show we do two-hundred-and-fifty words a minute!

Judy Finnigan: Good grief!

ZW: Yes!

RM: Wow.

JF: That must be hard to learn.

ZW: It was, it was very hard to learn.

Richard Madeley: And the timing -

ZW: And the timing.

[RM introduces a clip from the 1940 film, His Girl Friday, starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell.]

RM: Wow.

JF: Exhausting!

RM: The machine-gun delivery...  Must be a nightmare to get right live every night.

ZW: It's fast, it's very fast.

RM: You must be knackered at the end of every performance!

ZW: We are, we are.  It is a marathon.

JF: And it's still set - your play is still set - back in 1939.

ZW: We're setting it in 1939.  We're setting it as a monochrome [production], so it's an homage to the film, really.  But it's also a mixture of the play The Front Page.  So John Guare, who wrote it - adapted it - put the two plays - the two shows - together and has come up with this.

RM: Well, I can't wait to see it.  I'm going to come along and see it.

ZW: It's great fun, I have to say.  It's great.  We have a ball every night.

RM: Well, I must say, the film, as a young boy, was one of the many influences that inspired me to go into newspapers, to be a newspaper journalist, because it was just so romanticised.

ZW: Romanticised, but it was also vicious in those days...

JF: It still is!

ZW: Yes.

RM: It's still as cutthroat as ever.

ZW: Yes, yes.

RM: We quite like sort of strange stuff on this show - in fact, we're looking for 'road ghosts' on Monday.  And I read something in the paper about your late father, Sam Wanamaker, who, of course, was single-handedly responsible for the re-building of the Globe Theatre.  And it said - and I understand this might be a traveller's tale - it said that ancient records, or medieval records, had been recently discovered for the very area in which the Globe's been re-built, where it shows that a man called Sam Wanamaker used to live there in Shakespeare's time.  [For more information about this discovery, see Andrew Marr's 'Notebook' column (Telegraph, 10 September 2003; scroll down webpage to find the relevant passage).]

ZW: Samuel Wanamaker.

RM: Is it true?

ZW: It is true.

RM: Is it really?

JF: Is that true?

ZW: Yes, it is true.

RM: Isn't that strange!

ZW: I know, I know.  It's very extraordinary.

JF: Did your father know about that, before he got so involved?

ZW: No, no, he didn't.  What is interesting, though, is that 'Wanamaker' is a Dutch name and it wasn't my father's real name.  So it was given to him - or he took it on - when he was in Chicago and decided to...  I mean, when they came over on the boats from Russia - the Jewish immigrants, fleeing from Russia...  And I think that their - I don't know what their Russian name was, I've forgotten it...

RM: Pretty spooky, though!

ZW: Yes, it's wonderful, it's wonderful.

RM: Yeah, it is.

JF: ZoŽ, it's always lovely to talk to you.  Where's the play on at?  What's the theatre?

ZW: It's the National Theatre - the Olivier.  And it stars Alex Jennings and various other people, and it's a wonderfully fun evening.

RM: Oh, it looks great!  [To ZoŽ] And the other spooky thing is, you and I were born on the same day, we've just discovered.  And you go to the same school as our children [his and Judy's].  Well, you don't go to the...  You used to go to the same school!  [They all laugh.]

ZW: I know, it's great.  It's a good school.

RM: Great school.

ZW: Yeah.

RM: OK.  Nice to see you again.

ZW: Thank you.


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