'The Arbor' actor

Playing playwright Andrea Dunbar’s daughter Lorraine in Clio Barnard’s genre-warping documentary The Arbor provided Manjinder Virk with an unusual challenge. Not only would Manjinder’s performance have to convey the utterly harrowing situations that have occurred throughout Lorraine’s life, but she would also have to lip-synch to pre-recorded interviews given by the person she was portraying.

“I couldn’t quite believe some of the stuff that had happened to her,” says Manjinder, referring to Lorraine’s drug addiction, prostitution and many other interconnected problems. “The technical side was about learning every breath, every pause and the rhythm of her language - some...times she’s.... very... slow, and sometimes-she’s-very-fast. It’s like learning a piece of music. Once I learned it, I could let go and then work more traditionally as an actor, when you find intentions and reasons for what’s going on.”

While Manjinder prepared for the role by listening to the interviews on her iPod every day, she opted not meet the real Lorraine until the film had been completed. “I didn’t need to copy her mannerisms or look like her because she’s wasn’t in the public eye,” she asserts.

Subsequently BIFA nominated for Best Actress, Manjinder’s desire to take on challenging new roles has to date resulted in two additions to her schedule. She’ll soon be seen in ITV drama Monroe alongside James Nesbitt, and will feature in a production of The Vagina Monologues at the Royal Festival Hall on April 17th to benefit Southall Black Sisters and Newham Asian Women’s project.

Words by Samuel Ballard
Photo by Phil Sharp
Styling by Camilla Felici

'The Arbor' is available on DVD and Blu-ray from March 14th.


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