We chat to SBAM’s Melissa Haiden about her role in the original workshopped theatre piece, John, which explores the real life experiences of sex workers in South Africa. You may remember Melissa as the mesmerising Desdemona in Maynardville’s Othello, or as the female lead in Cock. Melissa takes up the challenge of playing all the female roles in John, a challenge she is more than happy to accept.
How have you prepared for the role?
I play three very different female characters. One has built an empire out of sex, another has been derailed by it and the third woman is driven by a voracious curiosity to explore it. I have done a lot of reading, documentary watching, street field trips and I have also sat in conversations with escorts with university degrees.
How did you approach a female character in a play titled with a male name about sex workers?
I feel that it is important in this play to present the complexities of the female approach to sex and not just the often patronizing male viewpoint that women who sell sex are all broken and need to be fixed. It is as much a play about a man with a desire for intimacy as it is about three women who exist in their own right and cannot be painted with the same brush
What do you enjoy most about your role?
Playing three women and doing their stories all justice is a challenge. I am enjoying stretching myself. It was wonderful workshopping and writing their stories together with Jerry and Andre through research and improvisation.
What have enjoyed most about the rehearsal time?
The lesson I learn every day is that I have to learn lessons that day so that the next day I can be truer.