Emily Beecham on Sulphur and White: 'It's a story about how love and support can help someone out of a dark place'

Emily Beecham on Sulphur and White: 'It's a story about how love and support can help someone out of a dark place'

credit: Nick Wall

Playing Vanessa Tait alongside Mark Chapman as David Tait, Little Joe actress talks about the film's important discussions of mental health and trauma

NSPCC Trustee and mountaineer, David Tait suffered sexual abuse as a child and suffered in silence for many years. Director Julian Jarrold and writer Susie Farrell tell his life-story so far in the moving drama Sulphur and White. Covering his time working in the fast-paced banking world as a city trader, the film also explores the impact on his relationships and marriage. Emily Beecham plays Vanessa Tait alongside Mark Chapman as David.

We meet David Tait at the start of the film contemplating taking his life; do you hope the film will help open up more discussions about mental health and suicide?
Because the NSPCC are supporting us and backing the film, hopefully they are keen to have an open discussion about it. Hopefully it can help to lift the stigma a bit, for both men and women. So many people never actually tell anyone this has happened to them, and it can completely destroy someone's life to carry this secret. Children, when they experience something like this, they feel ashamed…a child would not know any better. They would not know that it wasn't their fault, they didn't provoke it and they're not responsible. They do not need to be ashamed. To carry that with you, like you're tainted, like David felt for most of his life is so sad. I hope that it can help encourage people to speak up if they are bottling up this kind of traumatic experience.

You play Vanessa Tait in the film, did you have much contact with her and David when you were preparing for the role?
I met Vanessa before we started shooting and even though this is David's project I think Vanessa preferred to stay more private. Which is completely understandable as it must be daunting to have a movie made about the hardest time in your life. What I got from that was I thought she had very uplifting and nurturing qualities that were really integral to help him through. He's said many times before that she's the reason why he's still here today. Their connection is really important. Even though it's a dark subject, David comes out of the tunnel in the end. It is also a love story. It is a story about how love and support can help someone out of a dark place. David was on set every day and that was very helpful because he's extremely honest and open in sharing the things that happened to him.

What kind of discussions did you have with your co-star Mark Chapman about Vanessa and David's relationship and how that would play out on screen?
We had a fair bit of rehearsal time so we had lots of discussions. The dynamics between Vanessa and David were super important because they have a spark and a chemistry. There is so much going on between them because David is an enigma quite a lot of the time, there is some part of him that she doesn't quite get, and she finds intriguing and a little intimidating. She's strangely drawn to this person, who seems out of nowhere to become intensely interested in her. It's an overwhelming experience, to have someone who is such a big presence, suddenly pay you so much attention. We discussed that a lot. We formed a friendship during the shoot which was helpful as we have a lot of intimate or aggressive scenes. I completely trusted Mark because he's extremely supportive and nice.

Screened on Fri 28 Feb as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2020. Selected release from Fri 6 Mar.

Sulphur and White

  • 3 stars
  • 2020
  • UK
  • Directed by: Julian Jarrold
  • Cast: Mark Stanley, Anna Friel, Dougray Scott, Emily Beecham

David Tait (Stanley) is a money trader and mountaineer who has a painful family secret. A true story of how the effects of horrendous abuse go on working well into adulthood, which unfolds into a quiet, unusual story about the redemptive power of love.