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Christine takes on play for the ages

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Lead role: Christine Whitestone plays Emily in Back Words, which opens on Thursday (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Christine Whitestone’s biggest thrill about being cast in Back Words, was that she was playing an actual human.

She played a parrot in last year’s pantomime, Treasure Island. Although she moved around a lot, her time on stage was brief and she didn’t say a word.

“All I did in that play was squawk and flap my arms around,” the 32-year-old said. “It was fun, but Back Words will be my first human role at BMDS. I wanted to play the lead of Emily because the character is different ages — 80, 50 and then 20. It was a real challenge.”

Back Words moves backwards through time, chronicling the ups and downs of Emily’s long marriage to Bill.

Playing a 20-year-old wasn’t difficult, Ms Whitestone had a harder time with the older Emily.

“I wasn’t sure how an elderly person would walk and my own grandparents are too sprightly to imitate,” she said. “Getting the age right was the hardest thing. The director, Nicola Flood, would complain I was either talking ‘too old’ or ‘too young’.”

Then one day she spotted an older lady in Washington Mall using a cane.

“I stalked her all around the mall,” laughed Ms Whitestone. “God, I hope she didn’t notice, but I just wanted to see how she used the cane.”

The play taught her a lot about relationships.

“It’s interesting how Bill and Emily start out thinking they’re going to have a great love affair,” she said. “But when they’re in their 80s things look quite different.”

This will be Ms Whitestone’s first lead role in a BMDS play.

“I’m a corporate administrator from London and arrived about a year ago,” she said. “I’d heard about BMDS from some friends. Two weeks after I got here I went looking for the Daylesford Theatre. I walked in and they signed me up for membership on the spot. I hadn’t even found a place to live at the time. I was still living in a guesthouse.”

She was just in time to audition for the pantomime, ultimately cast as the parrot Cap’n Haddoc.

“Unfortunately, there were no parrots to stalk,” she laughed.

She took part in small productions before moving to Bermuda.

“I’ve loved acting since I was a child,” she said. “My first role was in a school production of Mother Goose. I was five and played a fairy.”

Max King plays Emily’s husband Bill and Donna Nicholson plays The Floozy.

“Still, we have been rehearsing every night and the faces at the BMDS bar are getting more and more familiar,” Ms Whitestone laughed.

Back Words was written by David Schubach, a frequent visitor to Bermuda with family on the island. “He came in one day with a script,” said Ms Flood. “He said he’d brought the script to BMDS seven years ago but nothing had been done. It had been shown only once before, years ago in Ohio.”

As it happened, she was looking for a play after plans for a reading fell through.

“I thought this would be something fairly easy to put on,” the director said. “One of the problems I faced was that a lot of Bermuda’s actors are currently tied up with a Gilbert & Sullivan production.

“When Max King turned up the first night of auditions to try for Bill I thought he was perfect.

“But I didn’t find anyone who fit the role of Emily. I thought I’d have to cancel it but during the second night, Christine tried out. I knew she had been in the pantomime but didn’t know if she could really act.”

The chemistry between Ms Whitestone and Mr King was obvious the moment she got on the stage.

“They had never met before but they worked really well together,” said Ms Flood. “Christine is fabulous. I think even if I’d had 50 actors at auditions I still would have picked the same three.”

•Back Words runs Thursday and Friday and October 1, 6, 7 and 8 at 8pm. Tickets, $25, are available at the door an hour before showtime or at www.ptix.bm. For more information call 292-0845.

Backwards through time: Christine Whitestone in character as Emily (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Christine Whitestone (Photograph by Akil Simmons)