Happiness interview: Marlisa Doubell is basking in the happy vibes after the staging of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, Cape Town 2022- to rave reviews and full houses

Marlisa Doubell is basking in the afterglow of happy vibes, after the recent staging in Cape Town at Artscape [October 2022], of Harold Pinter’s play, Betrayal, which Doubell performed in and co-produced. Betrayal was presented by 2Sugars, the South African theatre production company which Doubell heads up with Lizanne Peters. Doubell is a South African, currently living in London, but she remains fiercely passionate about producing and creating a sustainable platform for independent theatre in South Africa. The Betrayal season was enthusiastically received with rave reviews and full houses. Annie Lennox and film producer Damien Brown were amongst the attendees. It was a welcome return to ‘normal’ for live performance, after the industry was throttled by the pandemic and lockdowns.

What makes you happy right now in your work? 

Marlisa Doubell: I feel so happy that theatre is back- happy to be part of 2Sugars, our newly rebranded theatre production company [formerly Sugardaddy]. I never imagined I’d see a time when theatres were all shut down, the world over. Of course most industries had that, but it seemed to really drag on for theatre makers. In a funny way it actually made me realise how much I really missed it. I truly appreciate it all on a deeper level now. It was also incredible for us that Artscape’s CEO, Dr Marlene le Roux attending our opening night. After the performance, she came on stage and welcomed us and said how happy she was to have us in the theatre and that she hoped to see full houses. It was very moving – to hear her speak – and to have her support. That filled my happiness cup.

Our production of Betrayal has filled me in terms of happiness – not only in terms of filling houses but also in the way that we presented this iconic relationship play. Chris Weare and I both agreed that we wanted to move away from a common interpretation of Emma being a victim, trapped between two men she loved deeply, which of course to some extent she was. We aimed for an independent, considered, strength in Emma, for her time and culture, and an expansion toward her own growth and empowerment. In order to do that I had to avoid judgment of the characters and their situation. Ultimately, she had to decide that she valued and loved herself more than both men and that in the end the experience would grow her, so to speak. Hopefully, it came across that although she lost both of them and the marriage, through her actions, she would have the strength to pick up the pieces. Possibly, she’d go on to lead an independent life and career.

What is the funniest thing/joke that you have heard lately – which made you laugh? 

Marlisa Doubell: Well, I’ve spent a lot of time in rehearsals recently having a blast with my Betrayal cast and director, Chris Weare who does the impression of a sound wave bouncing around the stage and back walls of the theatre which he demonstrates physically to explain the importance of voice projection. It is very funny. 

If someone said you can have a day of happiness, what would you want to do on that day? 

Marlisa Doubell: Doing anything fun with my son and family and friends takes me to my happy place- simple things like a lovely walk or grabbing coffee together or just goofing around the house. Mostly making time for small talk or being silly and joking around or making time for long deep theoretical conversations about the meaning of life.

Where is your happy place in your city? 

Marlisa Doubell: In Cape Town – my home town – quiet time on the beach, watching the waves and the ocean or a gentle walk near Lions Head or Table Mountain. This is a naturally beautiful city, we are blessed in Cape Town. 

Your happy place in another city/country? 

Marlisa Doubell: London: The West End. The vibe. The people- all of it.

Who /what inspires you in terms of happiness and positivity? 

Marlisa Doubell: I am a hopeless romantic and I am a bit obsessed with re watching old films like Breakfast at Tiffany’s or When Harry met Sally or The English Patient or The Notebook or absolutely any 80s film that has Goldie Hawn in it. Any silly love story- I’m hooked. I don’t know if it’s because I secretly hope to make a feature film myself one day – it will be a romantic comedy for sure- and I think I’m kind of preparing or teaching myself what works and what doesn’t, writing wise.

Which book, film, TV show or arts experience made you crack up with laughter? 

Marlisa Doubell: My son got me into watching this TV series on Netflix that’s had me in stitches. It’s called Schitt’s creek. It is so well written and characterised. 

Your concept of pure happiness? 

Marlisa Doubell: A physical hug from a loved one is the most healing and happiest little love bubble for me. We forget how important physical touch is. It’s listed as a human need. I try to give hugs to people who are willing to receive them- it releases happy chemicals in our brains instantly- so why not. 

Who made you laugh or smile in the last week, month and why? 

Marlisa Doubell: My hubby, Dino. He always says the right thing. He uses humour to calm any situation and puts stuff into perspective. He is British, so he’s got that wit. But his mother is Greek so he also has that warmth and laid back manner of laughing stuff off, with regards to trusting that everything works itself out.

Celebration theatre: Opening night of Betrayal in Cape Town, at the Artscape Arena, October 21, 2022. From left to right – Matt Newman (cast member), Chris Weare (director), Dr Marlene le Roux (CEO of Artscape), Marlisa Doubell (cast member and co-producer, 2Sugars) and Pierre Malherbe (cast member). Pic: Lunga Qankqalala.

Happy family: Marlisa Doubell with her son Jagger Cooper-Doubell, opening night of Betrayal in Cape Town, October 21, Artscape Arena. The season was from October 21-29, 2022.

✳ This interview has been marginally edited for length and clarity. Featured image of Marlisa Doubell- by Ant Smyth- supplied. Related coverage of Betrayal 2022, Cape Town, on TheCapeRobyn:

Review https://thecaperobyn.co.za/review-betrayal-finely-calibrated-stylish-and-elegant-production/

Interview: https://thecaperobyn.co.za/interview-harold-pinters-betrayal-a-tale-of-illicit-liaisons-on-stage-cape-town-2022/