Meet: Deaf actress Genevieve Barr, currently starring in The Solid Life of Sugar Water at the National Theatre

Posted on March 8, 2016

Actress Genevieve Barr was nominated for a BAFTA for her debut role in the BBCs drama The Silence. Since then she’s continued performing and can now be seen at the National Theatre in The Solid Life of Sugar Water. We found out what performing on stage is like, compared to the screen…

You made your breakthrough in the BBC drama The Silence. How has your career progressed since?

Given that The Silence was almost the first acting job I ever had, it was always going to be difficult to top as a career high.

I had big hopes that other work would immediately follow but that was perhaps a little naive – I had a very limited understanding of the acting industry back then.

There’s been some great jobs over the years – the Fades and Shameless for example, but being deaf, the parts aren’t always quick to come by.

It’s been extraordinary working on ‘The Solid Life of Sugar Water,’ it’s beautifully written and it has been incredibly challenging to perform – an amazing opportunity to get to grips with a character and storyline that has real tangibility and complexity to it.

Photos credit: Richard Matthews

This is your first performance in theatre. What’s the difference between acting on stage and on screen?

It’s my second actually (oops, sorry! Ed) my first was a play written by Brian Friel, called ‘Translations’ directed by Adrian Dunbar a few years ago.

Though I was playing a silent character in the early 19th century so it was intrinsically a very different show!

Theatre’s a completely different ballgame, compared to television, having not been dramatically trained left me feeling a little insecure about the demands of performing on stage.

The basic essence of telling a story with truthfulness and honest is still there, but how you articulate yourself physically and vocally in theatre is very different.

On screen, you look at the eyes for truth, on stage, you have to look at everything. It’s not exaggeration, so much as the nuances become so much more pronounced.

Solid Life of Sugar Water Promo – National Theatre Dates from Defeye Films on Vimeo.

What was it like getting rave reviews in Edinburgh?

Incredible. I had never done the Edinburgh Festival before and having studied at the University as a student it was a real treat to be there.

Though funnily enough, the theatre space was in my student union so I had to ignore the flashbacks to being a fresher in my first year there.

We had been warned that because of the explicit nature of ‘The Solid Life of Sugar Water’, people might be quite strongly resistant to it, so it was a beautiful thing to be so warmly received by the audiences – that they understood the pain and truth of the story that is trying to be told.

What are your hopes for the future, after this run has ended?

As a deaf actor, it’s quite an exciting space right now. There are a lot of conversations going on about diversity and representation on our screens and stages.

So my hope is that there are going to be more opportunities to follow after this – not just because people want to see more disabled talent or because it’s the right thing to do, but also simply because this is what I love doing and I work hard to try and be good at it!

Genevieve Barr is appearing in The Solid Life of Sugar Water at the National Theatre until 19 March

Interview by Charlie Swinbourne, Editor.

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