Caroline Langrishe plays Caroline Mortimer in Torben Betts’ new play Caroline’s Kitchen.
The challenge is that she has got to play it at 90 miles an hour (Connaught Theatre, Worthing, April 3-6).
In the piece, Caroline Mortimer, the nation’s favourite TV cook, has it all: a sparkling career, a big house in fashionable north London, a (golf) loving husband, smart kids and the best kitchen money can buy. But beneath the immaculate furnishings and studio lighting and away from the glare of the ever-present cameras, Caroline must face the looming collision of living a private life in the public eye. The piece looks at what happens when the cameras turn off and the truth comes out…
“It went out under the title Monogamy and now the title has changed and the play has been changed a little bit. They asked me in the autumn whether I was interested in doing a new version of it and going Off Broadway with it at the end of the tour. That was the carrot! New York clinched it. I have never performed in the States at all. They have a season called Brits Off Broadway and we will be headlining the main theatre.”
As for the chef she is portraying, Caroline reckons there are elements of both Nigella and Delia in there: “Nigella’s programme is transmitted from her own kitchen, which is supposed to be the case in this play.
“Caroline is on the surface this very successful, very middle-class, very-home-counties Doris Day-like housewife superstar, but you go backstage into her private life where everything kicks off during the course of one evening in her kitchen. I am supposed to be cooking. I am supposed to be making a meal which is roast beef… and I suppose I am half and half doing it. I am certainly doing a lot of chopping! I am not a chef by any stretch of the imagination, but as the mother of two grown-up daughters, I have been catering and cooking for decades. But I do like cooking. I like traditional cooking. I am quite old-fashioned when it comes to cooking!”
But back to Caroline on stage: “She is very, very capable on the surface and very upbeat and very charming and very positive. She is what you would call a blue stocking, the old keep the home fires burning and everything will be fine. But her private life is a mess, and that mess pretty quickly descends into total bedlam.”
There is definitely an art to playing farce. You have got to keep control as a performer as everything appears to spiral out of control.
“I do think there is a real skill. You have got to keep your brain alive. You have definitely got to stay one step ahead of it all, all the time. You have got to commit to the panic you are creating, but you have always got to keep ahead of the panic!”
As for the thought of touring, Caroline is enjoying the idea, particularly as she toured an Alan Ayckbourn last year: “That was the first time I had toured in five or six years, and it felt like another part of the business, but I am back into it now with this. And it is lovely. It keeps it fresh. All the theatres are different. Some are new, some old, some big, some small.”