Su Pollard keeps her Horsham promise - despite "coitus interruptus"

Back in March last year, Su Pollard, looking forward to playing Horsham as the crisis loomed, declared herself to be ultimate optimist.

Su Pollard, Harpy UK Tour (credit Andrew Searle)
Su Pollard, Harpy UK Tour (credit Andrew Searle)

If the worst came to the worst, she insisted, and the virus forced her one-woman show off the calendar at the Capitol, she promised she would be back.

That day has finally come.

Harpy, first scheduled to be at the Capitol in April last year, is now at the Capitol on Wednesday, October 6 – a play which has arguably gained all the more relevance in the meantime with its message that we just shouldn’t judge people and that we should all “flippin’ well be a bit kinder.”

The piece, a one-woman tour de force, tells the tale of Birdie.

Birdie’s a hoarder. The neighbours call her a harridan and a harpy although most have never even met her.

“They see her hoard as a hazard for house prices. But it isn’t rubbish. It’s her life’s work and it exists because years ago something deeply cherished was stolen from her. Birdie’s not been able to give up anything since.

“We were able to do two performances at Southsea and I loved it so much,” Su says.

“The disappointment was palpable because all of us knew that it was not going to get a run.

“We just couldn’t believe that it was coitus interruptus! I just said let’s make sure that we get the chance to do it again. It turned out that it took 18 months.

“But the play has stayed in my psyche. I have always been going back to it. I knew that I would get the chance to do it eventually.

“The producer loved the writing and she loved the play and she was insistent that we would, and if I couldn’t sleep, I would just go through my lines.

“And I would wake up in the morning and they would be there.”

And now things are rather different: “We know what the play is about. You have got to bring the same truth to it, but now it has really got under my skin. I still think it is a great piece and I have still got great faith in it.

“And the key thing in it is that we just can’t judge people.

“People will always show you what they want. There is a line in it that people will always show you what they want apart from the shreds that they are unable to disguise.

“The point is that you just don’t know what lives people have had. I just think it is a lovely piece that says ‘Come on, just be a little bit kinder.’

“And at the end, there is more hope for Birdie. She has found more hope in her life than she has ever done before.”

It is Su’s first one-woman play: “You have got to be really, really disciplined. You have to have a routine and you have to try to stick to it.

“I always do two hours study after rehearsals. I have always done that from when I was younger, and it seems to help.”

And the advantage of the one-person format is that you have more control: “If you happen to miss something out, you just go with it.

“I remember talking to Dame Judi once.

“She said it had happened to her. There is no point trying to fumble your way back to where you were. You will just get lost.

“You have just to go move forward. You have got to learn not to… well, I don’t like the word panic.

“You have got to learn to slow down and to breathe so that you can enjoy telling the story.”

Su is confident going back into the theatre. She’s double jabbed and will be testing three times a week.

“I am not going to be nervous and I just don’t want the public to be nervous either.

“I understand some people have not been out for ages, but I would urge people to come out, that we need an audience, that we need to have that shared experience together again.”