‘Prevenge’ Is Proof You Can (and Should) Own Your ‘Perceived Weakness’

Photo Source: Sam Wunderl

The types of roles available to female actors over the age of 35 can tend to winnow down to the meek and matronly—and the outlook for pregnant women over 35 is even grimmer. So says Alice Lowe, who bucked stereotypes this year in the antenatal dark comedy “Prevenge,” which has racked up near unanimous critical praise, with its writer, director, and star, emerging as a promising artist.

Though she had aspirations to direct a feature, Lowe had resigned that becoming a mother would close the door, until she unexpectedly received an offer to direct a low-budget feature. “Prevenge” follows a grief-stricken pregnant woman, Ruth, played by a third-trimester Lowe, carrying out revenge murders at the insistence of the voice in her belly.

“People said to me, ‘If you’re an actress and you get pregnant, you’ll have to hide it or you won’t get any work,’ ” Lowe recalls over the phone with Backstage, her now post-partum co-star cooing in the background. “The roles you get offered say, ‘You’re over 35, so you’re a mum now, so you dress in floral and your life is miserable.’ And it doesn’t reflect reality for me. I think we often are scared of female power and shy away from it, so I wanted [Ruth] to have a certain power where [she’s] set free from society’s constraints.”

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Writing her own roles, which she also did for British comedy-horror “Sightseers,” affords Lowe a level of freedom not found in other parts. “I could put myself center of the frame and play the lead instead of the quirky sidekick. It gives you more power, because I feel like often as an actor you’re so powerless.” In working with her cast as the film’s director, she sought to strike a balance between easygoing looseness and fast-paced tension—the latter a necessity for a quick two-month shoot that was scheduled with a biological ticking clock in mind.

“I don’t like to talk much when the actors come [onset] or diffuse the tension; I like to maintain tension because I think getting a bit of nerves and adrenaline is quite good,” she explains, adding that she eschewed off-camera rehearsal. “I don’t want to have a long discussion about what the character’s about, I just want [actors] to follow [their] intuition and surprise me. Especially because I’m acting as well. To be able to raise the bar on my performance, I need them to surprise me.”

And Lowe has no time for pretension—literally. “The speed with which you shoot enforces a lack of vanity.... I think if I had too much time to think about a performance I might gotten too self-conscious or nervous. With this, it was just reacting all the time because it was like I never put the camera down.” Working as an actor for as long as she has, Lowe has developed a “sixth sense” for where the camera is, enabling her to achieve a naturalist performance “where you bring out what’s really within people, instead of people imposing something upon themselves.” That lack of self-reflectiveness enables what Lowe sought out from her cast above all. “To me it’s just about naturalism and truth, and a sense that human beings are weirder than you think they are. There’s no right or wrong about it.”

Though her path has been a singular and unexpected one, Lowe hopes “Prevenge” will inspire other freelancing actors and creatives to not stumble over obstacles they may set for themselves.

“I would say to people, turn your perceived weakness into your advantage. I was thinking, ‘I’m pregnant. I can’t hide that. I have to put it center of frame.’ I just had to go, ‘I’m out and proud about it, and this is my unique selling point—this is what no one else can do who isn’t pregnant!’ ”

“Prevenge” is now available on shudder.com.

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