The collected interviews of Jim Mulligan

Natalie Morse on playing Irene in Edward Bond's "Tuesday"

But in a deep sense Irene made me see things in different ways. She really opened my eyes to a lot of things.

Natalie Morse was at a state school in her final year of A-level studies when she had to decide whether or not to take two months off to play the part of Irene in Tuesday. She had started acting for fun when she was six and had gradually built up a career alongside her ordinary school work, acting in adverts and films.

I was really excited when I was offered the part. I knew it would be a challenge but it was going to be a wonderful experience trying to come to terms with the problems of this sixteen-year-old. She was roughly my age and I believe what happened to her touches on the emotions of a lot of girls. Obviously it doesn’t happen to everyone in the same way on one day but we have similar feelings and thoughts about authority and conflict and about the way you are prevented from doing what you know you can do.

Irene had been silenced by her father and had never questioned his authority. I think all fathers have some of this authoritarian streak. I have arguments with my dad because he thinks his opinion is correct and he doesn’t listen, so I’ve had to assert myself. But Irene had been silenced for the whole of her life and suddenly this door opened for her. She knew what the right thing to do was. There was no compromise for her. I’ve never had to open such a difficult door in my life because my parents ultimately have let me make my own decisions but I had to imagine what it would be like to be totally oppressed.

The interesting thing about Tuesday is the relationships between Irene and her father and I had to relate to both Edward and Bob in a kind of father/daughter relationship. Edward was very supportive and would always discuss a problem without giving too much away. With Bob it was a much closer feeling. The characters were very hostile to each other but, off the set, he was nurturing and supportive.

It was a very demanding and emotional part. It was very hard to go away at the end of a day’s rehearsals. For two months I didn’t know whether I was coming or going. I was in an intensely dramatic situation and then I had to go home to my family and my A-level work. My parents will tell you I would come home emotionally drained and they had to take the brunt of it.

I didn’t find it hard to understand what Brian had been through. I understood that, when he talked about the boy in the desert walking away, Irene realised she could walk away herself. But the killing was another matter. I couldn’t understand how a girl could kill her father and then one day Edward just told a story. That was a revelation to me. It was so simple. The next day he had written the story down and from then on I had no problem with that critical scene. I understood that sometimes when you are in a critical situation you have to do something that is unthinkable.

It was hard going back to school and examinations. It’s not just coming to terms with the character, but the intensity of the experience. You have to know each other really well and rely on each other, so I miss Edward and Ben and Bob. But in a deep sense Irene made me see things in different ways. She really opened my eyes to a lot of things. She is Edward’s character but she will always be a part of me because of what I learned from her.

Edward Bond wrote Natalie Morse a story to help her understand some of the issues raised by the play:

The Plastic Water Bottle

A boat sank far out at sea. Six passengers survived in a lifeboat. Among them were a father and daughter. After drifting for three weeks the survivors had eaten their food. A plastic bottle of water was left.

They slept in shifts. Two survivors watched at all times. They kept watch in opposite directions. Between them they watched over the whole sea.

Each survivor took a sip of water at the beginning of each watch. Each drank six sips of water a day. They learnt that a sip may seem as large as an ocean measured in drops. Some of the survivors sipped longer than others. They sipped with a deep intake that sounded like an angry hiss. Surely they were sipping more than their share?

The survivors were exhausted – on the margin of death. It was difficult to keep away. They stood the plastic water bottle on the bench amidships. There it could be clearly seen.

Soon the plastic water bottle was half-empty. One morning the girl feverishly drifted between sleeping and waking. The boat rocked. To her it seemed to be falling through space. Her limbs ached as if they were crushing her. She felt her mouth was like a metal funnel pushed into her face.

Her eyes opened a little. Her father was standing upright on the gunnel at the for’ard end of the boat. Half-awake she wondered: why is father standing alone at the end of the boat? She saw the bench amidships was empty. The plastic water bottle was in her father’s hands. He had unscrewed the top and was raising the bottle to his lips. She realised he had gone to the end of the boat so that no one could stop him drinking. Had he been stealing the water – little by little – for days? Was this the first time? The bottle had almost reached his lips.

Her eyes met her father’s. She saw he was mad…she saw at once that he meant to gulp the water. His eyes glinted with dark spite. She knew if he saw her raise the gun to shoot him he would throw the water into the sea. They would all die. But if she did not shoot him he would drink it and the rest of them would die even if he lived.

At the same moment she realised that she must shoot before he could drink the water or throw it into the sea. Yes, now! She shot. The bullet went through the plastic water bottle. Two little jets shot out like a pair of horns. The wind was scattering the sparkling water. Her father was stunned. For a second he stared at the jets. Would he try to drink the water or throw it into the sea? She knew she must shoot him. The other survivors were waking up like shadows rising in the light.

She shot him three times. He fell into the boat. The bottle fell on top of him. Bouncing a little. She jumped forwards. Picked it up. Water sloshed from the end and tricked from the holes. It wetted her dead father’s jacket. She stopped the holes with her fingers. The other survivors stared at her – some staring even from their sleep.

A third of the bottle still held water. It lasted the survivors more than a week. Then one died. They decided to watch one at a time. The watches would be shorter.