Interview with Meena Rayann

Exchange Theatre’s tenth anniversary revival of Jean-Paul Sartre’s political play The Flies opens at Bunker Theatre next week. I caught up with Meena Rayann, who stars as Electra, to find out more about the upcoming production.

How did you get into acting?
When I was about ten years old I was extremely shy and through the advice of a school counsellor, my parents decided to sign me up for theatre classes after school. I discovered this new world and just fell in love with acting. I haven’t let go since!

Can you tell me a little bit about The Flies?
The Flies is an adaptation of the Oresteia by Jean Paul Sartre, seen through the lens of his existentialist philosophy. Our version is set in a post-apocalyptic world, where the dictator Aegisthus and his wife, Queen Clytemnestra, are ruling over the people of Argos. Their way of holding on to power is through disinformation, basically fake news, forcing their people into constant fear and atonement. One day, a stranger arrives into town…

Tell me more about your character.
I play Electra, daughter of Clytemnestra and step-daughter of Aegisthus. She’s been reduced to servitude and nurses a dream of vengeance against her mother and step-father, and is eagerly waiting for the return of her outcast brother Orestes, to help her satisfy this revenge.

What prompted you to get involved with the production?
Firstly, having mainly done TV and film work recently, I terribly missed being on stage! But more than anything, political and social issues are very important to me, so The Flies being produced not only in two of my languages, with a very diverse, European cast, but also at the Bunker Theatre, a very engaged venue, by Exchange Theatre, a brilliant up-and-coming company… it was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss!

How would you say The Flies is relevant to today’s society?
Sartre wrote this play in the middle of France’s Nazi Occupation. It’s a play with a massive amount of critical subtext. Not only about occupation and dictatorship, the way a thriving society can slowly slip into a fascist regime, but also and especially about the human reaction to the rise of extremes: most of us do nothing. There are very valid reasons for that, but as valid as they are, doing nothing is a very dangerous game to play. “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.” Not Sartre, but John Stuart Mill. Still, unfortunately very relevant to this play and to today.

What are you most looking forward to about performing on stage?
The communication of energy and ideas!

Exchange Theatre’s The Flies will run at The Bunker from Saturday 11 June – Saturday 6 July 2019.

Photo credit: Chloe Nelkin Consulting

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