Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Sondra Lee: Go See

By | Published on Wednesday 19 November 2014

The late Norris Church Mailer, despite being better known as the wife of Norman Mailer, was in her own right a talented writer, and ‘Go See’, her only full length play, premieres this month at London’s King’s Head theatre. A play about two strangers meeting and getting to know each other in New York, it explores personal, sexual and cultural identity against the backdrop of the big city.


The director who has brought the play to London is Sondra Lee, renowned Broadway star of the fifties and sixties, active member of the Actors Studio in New York, and writer of truly memorable memoirs. I sent some questions, to find out more about the playwright, the play, and why Sondra decided to bring it to the UK.

CM: What’s the premise of the play? Can you tell us something about its structure?
SL: As with most plays, the process of discovery is never-ending, as one finds out more and more about its subtext. It becomes clearer that it speaks on many levels (or did to me).

CM: What themes does the play explore?
SL: Sexuality is complex. How it affects our behaviour, choices, our compulsions and curiosities is an ever-mind boggling subject.

CM: What attracted you to this piece? What made you want to direct it?
SL: What attracted me was Norman’s enthusiasm and Norris’ effort – the subject matter: two people exhausted from the life they have led – a woman in a sex booth on 42nd Street and an anthropologist who comes to interview her for his book. Quite a surprise what takes place.

I wanted to direct it because the play intrigued me, challenged me to find ways to present these characters in the situation they find themselves.

CM: The playwright Norris Church Mailer was probably better known for being Norman Mailer’s other half. Was she a prolific writer herself, or was this play a one off?
SL: Norris was a great beauty, painter, writer (she wrote three books), actor, great cook, my friend, and a great human being.

She wrote many short plays with fun and adult themes. This was her only full-length play.

CM: Why has the play premiered in London and not New York?
SL: The play was done in London because Peter Tate (a wonderful actor and friend) was visiting New York city. Instinctively, I asked Peter if he would read with the American actress at my apartment and, for me, it was right. Peter felt the same response. One month later, he called and told me the King’s Head Theatre had responded and the miracle happened. The elements were right. Klara Zeigerolva (sets) and Mike Robertson (lighting) responded. The challenge and privilege was mine – break some rules and tell it like it is.

CM: You are well known for your work on some big Broadway shows. How different is it to work on a smaller production destined for a Fringe venue?
SL: What a wonderful time I have had. What a place is this respected King’s Head Theatre, and what a great history it has. What an honour to present such large themes in an intimate environment.

CM: What happens next for this production? Are there any plans for further runs or touring?
SL: I’d like it to tour here and bring it home to the US. It is easier these days to go that route.

CM: What’s next for you? Any more projects planned?
SL: At present, I am working on my second book, another memoir (‘As I Was Saying’) and I will return as an actress (if I can remember the lines) in a play I was working on with Jim Piazza about Louise Brooks.

‘Go See’ is on at King’s Head Theatre until 29 Nov. See this page here for more info and to book tickets.