Articles & Interviews
June, 22 2016        Posted By Veronique        Comments Off on Articles & Interviews

I made an Articles & Interviews section where you can read articles and interviews Anita has done, categorized by year. Here’s an interview she did in 2012:

Anita Hegh plays against type. Photo: Tamara Dean

In her new stage role, Anita Hegh must play a woman whose capacity for love has been destroyed, and who will walk over anyone to get what she wants. Talk about casting against type: her character Marlene in the play Top Girls is straight out of the Thatcherite ’80s, but Hegh is of introspective, postwar Scandinavian immigrant stock: for years she was painfully shy, perhaps still a little so.

The Sydney-born Hegh says she would ”lock up” whenever a teacher asked her a question in class. She went on to the University of Sydney to study English and modern history because her parents, despite their own artistic leanings, wanted her to plump for the job security of teaching. But after being mesmerised by a performance of Michael Gow’s Australian play Away as a teenager, Hegh remained quietly attuned to acting’s possibilities.

She found herself caught up with the crowd at the Sydney University Dramatic Society.

”I liked being an actor because I had full sentences written for me,” she says. ”I had the ideas [provided in a script] that I felt, but couldn’t say.” On her first audition, she was accepted into the National Institute of Dramatic Art. But what did she do when called upon to improvise a scene? ”I wagged every improvisation class that was there,” she says. ”I went across the road and hid.”

Hegh has an easy laugh and a kind face. It will be intriguing to see her play cruel. Top Girls director Jenny Kemp saw Hegh in Simon Stone’s adaptation of Ibsen’s The Wild Duck at the Malthouse earlier this year, a role for which Hegh won a Helpmann Award for best supporting actress. She cast the actor because, she says, she has an ”incredible sense of truth”.

”She works in a deep way, both with what is going on externally or socially,” Kemp says. ”But she is able to have a deep and solid connection with an inner world.”

The modest Hegh has to be asked twice what a Helpmann means for her. ”It’s a nice acknowledgment,” she finally ventures. ”But people do such good work … all the time; who’s to say who’s the best person – it’s nice for your mum.”

She says she works to understand her roles ”from the outside in”, with ”broad brush strokes”.

”My biggest fear is being a fraud, so I always know that if something is not connecting right, I have to work a bit harder to find the place of truth that it comes from. There are thousands of different Marlenes, and you have to bring yourself to it as much as possible so the audience believes the journey of that character.

”But at the same time it is a transforming role for me publicly – I’m practising walking around in heels again because for the last six months I’ve been walking around in sneakers and a trakkie top.”

Working among an all-female cast provides a different energy, she says. ”You have the kind of conversations about things … that in a room with a male director are just taken for granted.”

Kemp says Top Girls, by British playwright Caryl Phillips, is as relevant today as when it was first performed in 1982. Can women have it all? What is the personal price of clawing your way to the top?

”When Top Girls was first suggested to me as a play, I thought, ‘Is that dated?”’ Hegh says. ”But it’s proven to me that it’s not at all: the struggle that women are still having, and men are probably still having, as well.”

Hegh points to academic and former US State Department director of policy planning Anne-Marie Slaughter’s April cover story in The Atlantic magazine, which argued women can’t have it all, and the public debate that has followed.

Growing up, Hegh’s family was ”very quiet”: her Norwegian father is a former deep-sea diver and a photographer who in retirement makes jewellery; her Swedish-Estonian mother is an artist. ”I don’t really come from an argumentative, robust, say-what-you-think-and-feel kind of family.” The family appreciated the artistry, but didn’t talk about the arts.

And yet there is an enigmatic family history: her maternal Estonian grandfather was an army bureaucrat who had to travel regularly to Russia to meet Stalin. The family has a photograph of Hegh’s grandfather with the murderous Russian dictator.

”When he went back to Estonia and war broke out, he had to go underground and disappear,” Hegh says. ”He was one of the first people they were after. His brother was tortured and killed. My mother, who was three months old, and his wife had to go to a refugee camp in the British sector of Germany. They didn’t know where he was, but he found them years later.”

Her grandfather brought the family to Australia, where he began work in a chocolate factory.

Hegh, who was for the best part of a decade married to Australian theatre director Peter Evans, has been back to Europe a few times, and takes historical walking tours wherever she can.

She can imagine herself living and acting in Berlin, and laughs when I suggest her father, who had lived in German-occupied Norway, might not be so keen on the idea.

But for Hegh there’s a deeper engagement. ”It’s such an extraordinary place, and everyone goes: ‘Oh, the Germans, all the terrible things that happened.’ But culturally they own what happened, not like a lot of countries.”