Five Burning Questions with A Delicate Balance Olivier Winner Clare Higgins
December 18th, 2014
by Josh Ferri
Without exaggeration or hyperbole, Clare Higgins is one of the U.K.’s finest and most revered actresses. She’s a six-time Olivier nominee and three-time winner, as well as a Tony nominee for her sole Broadway credit, Vincent in Brixton. Now she’s back on Broadway, giving one of the best performances of the fall season as Edna in Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance. BroadwayBox caught up with Higgins to chat about the terror her character experiences, the New York cocktail she loves most and the artist she spent a whole year exclusively listening to.
1. As a trained psychotherapist, how did your psychology background inform your approach to Edna (who appears so deeply troubled when the audience first meets her)?
The reason why I studied psychology in the first place is because it seemed not to be that much different to me than acting: both are studies of human behavior. When I was looking at Edna, I smiled widely because I thought, ‘There are so many people— if you have a conversation with them of any depth whatsoever—that will at some point say to you I’m frightened of dying or going bankrupt or losing my home or my job.’ Everybody is walking around with a cornel of real terror inside him or her because these are the times we live in. It's a modern terror, an existential dread; it’s a fear of not having lived. That's what I felt Edna was suffering from. She’s looking over at her husband one night realizing, 'I'm 60 years old. ‘I’m going to die soon and this isn’t life; I haven’t lived.’
2. Tobias’ bar is like the seventh star of this production, what’s your go-to drink or cocktail?
Here in New York, the Holy Grail is a martini, which we don't get in England. We get warm beer and bad wine; we have pubs, we don't really have bars, and that's the difference. To walk into a bar in New York is like fairyland, and to order a martini still makes me feel like it’s my first drink. It’s the absolute epitome of glamour still.
3. You’re a staple of the British theatre but this is only your second Broadway show; is there any production of yours you wished New York audiences had seen you in?
I suppose if I looked back probably Sweet Bird of Youth [1995 Olivier Award for Best Actress]. I did it 20 years ago and I long to do again, simply because it’s not seen enough and it’s probably one of the best parts ever written in American drama; and I was a very lucky English actress to do it at The National. Of course, in dreamland, I would have loved to have done it on Broadway.
4. What’s the last book that rocked your world?
I read about three books a week, and I actually just finished reading it last night—I stayed up until 2 in the morning—it’s Carl Jung Psychology and Religion. Carl Jung is one of those writers that every time I read him I think, ‘Oh my god, I found a friend,’ because he’s just such a remarkable mind. He’s the guy who got me studying psychology in the first place.
5. What album do you listen to when you want to relax or escape?
I listen to anything by a wonderful Canadian singer-songwriter Loreena McKennitt. She sings Celtic songs that are also influenced by lots of other ancient cultures from around the world. And because I have mostly Irish blood in me, my blood is attuned to that rhythm. And her voice is so soaring and evocative. I once listened to nothing but Loreena McKennitt for a whole year because everything else just sounded like heavy metal. I’ve got all of her albums with me; I highly recommend an album called The Mask and Mirror. It’s my favorite album of all-time.
Take advantage of BroadwayBox’s exclusive discount offer to see Clare Higgins (and the rest of this amazing company) in A Delicate Balance at the Golde Theatre. $95 for Select Orchestra and Mezzanine seats for matinee performances December 26 - 27, 2014 and January 2 - 3, 2015 .