Interview with Anna-Jane Casey

Actress Anna-Jane CaseyHaving worked in television, theatre and radio as a child, Anna-Jane Casey made her West End debut at the age of 16 as Rumpleteazer in CATS. She followed that by performing in the original West End casts of Children of Eden, Joseph and The Technicolor Dreamcoat and Grease. Her acting career has continued to blossom and as well as leading roles on stage she has also appeared on television in Holby City, EastEnders, The Royal and Heartbeat.

Anna-Jane has also performed nationally and internationally in cabaret, as well as recording for radio in the UK. Find out what Anna-Jane had to say when she recently took time out to answer some questions about herself and her career.

Who inspired you to take up a career in the performing arts?
I saw a performance of Swan Lake at Manchester Palace Theatre when I was aged 9 and knew I wanted to be on the stage. The next year I was! My first professional job was in Annie playing the orphan Tessie when I was 10 but I always loved watching the great musical films of the 40s, 50s and 60s.

Making your West End debut at the age of 16 you played the part of Rumpleteazer in Cats. What did you enjoy most about being in the show?
I loved getting into the audience and playing with people’s feet! But the best thing was being part of a company and performing with a live orchestra. I’d never seen a West End show before I got the part; and on my first day in London, the night before I started rehearsals I sat on the sound desk to watch the show, and wept all the way through, because I was so excited to be in such an amazing production.

You performed in Children of Eden, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Grease. What can you tell us about your most memorable moments in these shows?
Joseph was the first “mega-musical” and Jason Donovan was a big star so seeing the 100s of people at the stage door every day was amazing and the same goes for Grease, as Debbie Gibson, Craig McLachlan and Shane Richie were very high profile so we did great gigs like Royal Variety Shows and lots of TV performances. We all felt like we were in a show that was very special and the Palladium and the Dominion are such enormous theatres. They were full practically every performance which is unheard of now!

You had two enjoyable years in Starlight Express. What was it like being in a musical on roller-skates?
Starlight is the most physically demanding yet rewarding show I have ever done. Racing around the set at 25 mph with funking loud music was so exhilarating. You really had to trust your fellow performers because one slip and you could really injure yourself. The thrill of completing the show every night without killing yourself or anyone else was a real buzz and I still skate 17 years on from doing the show!

While on the national tour of West Side Story where you were playing the part of Anita, you met your husband Graham Macduff who was in the same production. What can you tell us about the show and how you managed to fit in a budding relationship at the same time as being on tour?
West Side Story always has been, and still is, my favourite musical of all time and it’s been in my life for as long as I can remember. I played Anita in a local youth theatre production when I was 13, I did the song America as my song and dance at dance festivals and I already knew all the choreography before we even started rehearsals! It was the first time I felt completely “in the character” when I played Anita and I fell head over heels in love with my “Bernardo” so much so that now we have two children and have been married for 14 years! The director had to try and calm down our snogging onstage (he never succeeded) and it was such a tight company as we toured for over a year then played the West End for another year after that. In two and a half years of playing the part, I never once got bored because I knew I was playing a part that is so special and iconic.

Having played the part of Frankie Frayne in On Your Toes at the Festival Hall you went on a Japanese tour with the show. What was it like touring in Japan?
I’d always wanted to travel to Japan and having Adam Cooper in the show, who is a big star over there, made sure that we were all treated like mega stars! The Japanese culture is so different to ours – you could leave an open bag of gold on the front seat of your unlocked car in central Tokyo and no one would steal it, it’s just not the done thing as you would dishonour your family by taking it! I wouldn’t try that in London!
We saw some fantastic sights, travelled by bullet train and ate the most incredible food and now I have lots of Japanese kanji tattoos on my body as I love the language and the people so much.

You played the title role in Sweet Charity, where you were nominated by the TMA for Best Actress. The musical has been on film and stage with several leading actresses playing Charity Hope Valentine, how did you make the role your own?
The production that Tim Sheader put together in Sheffield won lots of awards for its originality and innovation. The set and the lighting were incredible and the Crucible Theatre is my favourite place to perform. I tried to make my “Charity” really vulnerable and trusting so when Oscar leaves her at the end it would really break your heart as an audience member. Charity is one role I never had to force myself to cry as Neil Simon’s script is so heartbreaking and beautiful. I’d cry so hard I’d look like I’d been punched in the face on a two show day!

In 2005 you won the TMA award for best performance in a musical for Mabel in Mack and Mabel at the watermill theatre. How important is it to you to be recognised for your performances and what was so special about this role?
I never used to think it mattered to be awarded anything for your work… only the opinion of your family, partner and close friends should matter. But then winning the TMA changed that! Hahaha… To be nominated alongside performers you really respect is a great thrill and honour and as I’m getting older, I realise that for any organisation to recognise what you do is really special.

You have performed as Velma Kelly in the musical Chicago at both the Adelphi and Cambridge Theatres. Why do you think that Chicago continues to be a success on Broadway but not in the West End?
America is the birthplace and spiritual home of musical theatre… it’s held in so much higher esteem over the pond than it is here… so I’m not surprised Chicago is still playing on Broadway. Also, Broadway producers and directors don’t necessarily cast their leading actors and actresses by the level of fame they have, they cast by who is best for the job, which means a show can play for a long time without having a “star name” carrying it.

You have performed in Heartbeat, EastEnders and Holby City. How does working on TV compare with the stage? Do you have a preference?
Stage work is quite regimented in the fact that you have a warm-up at the same time every night, a half hour call then the show comes down around 10.15pm and you can go home. TV calls are very different – you can be in make-up at 7.00am then you may not be used for 3 hours, your scenes are dictated by how much work the lighting/camera/sound/continuity departments need to do and you can be at the studio all day to be used for 20 minutes! It’s a very different discipline than theatre and I’m terrible at waiting around, as I’m a complete control freak, so although it’s great to be involved in television productions, getting an immediate reaction from a live audience then getting home at a regular time, suits me better!

You are a successful cabaret artist. How important is it for you to perform cabaret, away from the regular commitment of an 8-shows-a-week musical?
I played a lot of cabaret at the Savoy Hotel during 2010/11 and it really made me learn how to work an audience who aren’t necessarily coming to listen to “Anna-Jane Casey”, they were just listening to a “performer.” It’s a great skill to be able to make people invest their time and attention on you and once you have them on your side, it feels great! I now play my ukulele in my cabarets and having that skill really makes people respect you as a musician and listen so much more. Also, I always say, unless you are Liza Minnelli or Chita Rivera, no one wants to hear stories about when you were in this show or played that part, it’s just not interesting so I try to make my cabaret audiences laugh and feel like a friend so I choose songs that are fun, easy or exciting to listen to.

The Lady of The LakeYou are playing the part of the Lady of the Lake in Spamalot at the Playhouse Theatre. What can you tell us about the character and how she fits into the storyline?
The Lady is an amalgam of all the divas you have ever known like Minnelli/Streisand/Bassey and is a mystical figure who gave King Arthur his sword “Excalibur” (the only sword with its own name!!) she helps the knights and especially King Arthur, on his quest to find the Holy Grail.

What attracted you most to the role of the Lady of the Lake?
I’ve always wanted to sing the role and first auditioned for it in the West End in 2007 but wasn’t lucky that time. I enjoy opening my trap and singing those great songs like “Find Your Grail” and “Song That Goes Like This”. Also my gorgeous hubby is in the show too and although we don’t really have much interaction in the production (he marries Prince Herbert and not me), there’s lots of snogging backstage!!

How do you both feel about this reunion on stage some fifteen years after your first encounter?
Most people say they couldn’t bear to work alongside their partner but we are thrilled as it means we can get to be “Gray and AJ” again for a few hours every day and not just “Daddy and Mummy”, hahaha.

Why should everyone come along to see Spamalot and not some other West End show?
It’s absolutely hilarious for a start and everyone loves a good laugh and the cast are phenomenally talented. Stephen Tompkinson is a great King Arthur and Jon Robyns, Adam Ellis, Robin Armstrong and Rob Delaney are all fantastic comic actors. Oh and Graham Macduff looks great in his sequined jockstrap!

Your sister Natalie has previously played several comedy roles. Following Spamalot will we see you challenging her for this type of role in the future?
Ha! Natalie is the funniest woman I know but she says I’m the second funniest so maybe we can do a Channel 4 sitcom together!

What do you like most about the humour of Monty Python?
It’s intrinsically British and it’s been part of my life forever as my parents are big Python fans so the Flying Circus was always on in our house when I was a kid. It’s the silliness and surrealism that I love.

What else have you planned for 2012 and beyond?
I’m doing some fantastic concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in December and as well as 8 shows a week of Spamalot, having a 6-year-old and a 6-month-old daughter keeps me busy!

Away from the stage what do you like to do to chill out?
I love to run (doesn’t sound very chilled I know) and I’m running the Berlin Marathon in September 2013 so I’ll be training for that when I can. I also love making an “AJ shaped” dent in my sofa while drinking Earl Grey tea and eating homemade choc chip cookies!

You have two young daughters. How do you make sure that you have enough time for your family as well as being on stage?
Once you have children, your life becomes a military operation and every woman should be told that there’s never a lie-in for the rest of your life at their first antenatal appointment! You just have to learn to exist on about 5 hours sleep and plan everything to the absolute minute!

Any message to your followers?
Keep smiling because if you don’t, the wrinkles on your face will just make you look dreadful… they may as well be laughter lines rather than worry ones!

Follow Anna-Jane Casey on Twitter @AnnaJaneCasey

Interviewed by Neil Cheesman who you can follow on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

Updated 11th October 2014

Interview with Ashleigh Gray: Miranda in Betwixt!

Actress Ashleigh Gray

“Having the freedom to put your own stamp and mark on a character is thrilling, which is one of the reasons I’m a real champion for getting new writing out there. Also, there are so many great writers/composers out there, I love meeting new creatives and look forward to working with them and getting their work out there in the future!” 

Ashleigh Gray from Midlothian, Edinburgh has loved musical theatre from a very young age. She trained at Guildford School of Acting where she received the Principal’s Award for Musical Theatre and the Margaret Veale Award for Singing.

Ashleigh is a very versatile young actress who has appeared in a variety of musicals, including Taboo, Grease and Wicked. Ashleigh also supports new writing (such as NHS The Musical where she played a variety of roles).

The popular green witch who impressed a huge audience at the Apollo Victoria has now turned into a disembodied German head who wins the hearts of audience members in the tiny space that is Trafalgar Studios 2. Ashleigh also did a solo cabaret earlier this year and is planning another soon (we’ll keep you posted!).

You can catch Ashleigh in Betwixt!  until 10th September so if you want a fab-fab-fabulous night out, go and see her as Miranda and of course the rest of the brilliant cast!

Ashleigh has kindly answered some questions about herself and her career despite her very busy schedule. Enjoy this great interview!

When did you first realise that you wanted to be a singer/actress?
From a very young age! I was always singing and dancing around the house and apparently being a right little Drama Queen, so I guess it was inevitable!

Did anyone in particular inspire you?
I used to love watching all the old Rodgers and Hammerstein Musicals, I completely wore my ‘Sound of Music‘ video out! So I guess I was inspired by people like Julie Andrews, Doris Day, Gene Kelly all of the classic Musical performers. I’d sit in awe watching them and thinking I’d love to be able to do that!

You trained at the Guildford School of Acting where you received the Principal’s Award for Musical Theatre and the Margaret Veale Award for Singing. Please tell us about your time there.
I loved my time at GSA, even though I cried in the car all the way down from Edinburgh to Guildford! I was so sad to be leaving all my family behind but at the same time desperate to get down there to be amongst like-minded people who had the same passion and drive I did. It was a great three years, I learnt so much and by the time my third year came, I was so ready to get out there and follow my dream of performing professionally.

In April 2011, you did your first solo cabaret (“Easter with Ashleigh Gray”).  How did you like performing on your own and will there be more solo performances?
That was definitely the most terrifying thing I’ve done to date! I’m so used to performing in a theatre, hiding behind a character and a costume, so when I had to be onstage as myself, that really scared me! It was a great night though and I’m so glad I got over that fear. I will be doing another solo cabaret later on in the year which I’ll be announcing in the next few weeks!

You have appeared in numerous musicals, including Taboo and Grease as part of a UK tour. Please tell us about your time ‘on tour’.
I loved touring. It suited me as I’m quite an organised person, so booking digs and organising travel wasn’t a problem for me. It gave me the chance to buy new stationery – any excuse for that and I’m in! The lovely thing about touring is that you’re all away from home so as a company you really develop a ‘family’ atmosphere. It’s great to see different parts of the country too, I used to love doing the ‘big red bus city tour’ wherever we went! With Grease, we went to Monte Carlo too which was amazing! Touring’s a lot of fun, although I couldn’t do the ‘living out of a suitcase’ thing year on year. It’s nice to be working at home now.

You joined the London company of Wicked in 2007 and stayed for almost three years – first in the ensemble and as understudy Elphaba, then as standby Elphaba. What was it like to be part of such a massive production?

Incredible, Wicked was my first West End show and what a way to start. Everyone on the Wicked team, be it cast, crew, creative; all care so much about getting the best show out there, which is a lovely environment to work in. I was a huge fan of the show before I did it, so landing myself in the company was like a dream come true. The thing I love about Wicked, is the way it touches its audience. For all the big showy effects, epic songs and staging, there’s a really great story at the heart of it which seems to reach out and touch people. I personally, love to be affected by theatre so it’s lovely to be in something that really moves its audience too!

Elphaba is a dream role for many West End actresses. Would you like to return to Wicked?
Absolutely! The thing about being a standby is because you’re not playing the role every night, you don’t get tired of it. There was never a time when I thought ‘I just can’t be bothered’. I adore the character and I’m definitely not done with her yet, I would love to go back to it someday.

Working as a ‘standby’ must be a very demanding job?
It is very tricky. I used to get a lot of “Oh, It’s a hard life” if people used to ring me during a show and I was just sitting in the dressing room watching Eastenders! But actually, the nature of the standby job means that you can go from watching TV one minute to ‘Defying Gravity’ the next and that was really hard. Mid-show throw-ons were always difficult, you’d have to remind yourself where you are in the story and not going on the full journey of the character was always weird. Even going on after two or three weeks off was hard too – you’d have to get your show stamina back up to speed and it always took a show or two to get back into it. It was a very strange feeling but it taught me a lot and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

What’s your favourite role so far and why?
Well, as you’ve already said, Elphaba is that dream role for most actresses and there’s a reason for it! She’s just such an amazing character to portray. She has such an incredible journey throughout the piece, so many different sides to her character that emerge throughout the play, it really is a pleasure to play her. Exhausting – but a pleasure. Plus you get to sing those amazing songs, kiss pretty boys and fly! What more could anyone ask for!

You are currently playing “Miranda” in Betwixt! at the Trafalgar Studios. Miranda is a disembodied head from Bavaria – a slightly unusual role… What’s it like to play a head with a German accent?
Bonkers!! That’s the only word for it really! There’s so many odd things going on there – not only am I sitting in a box for half the show, I have a ridiculous accent as well! It really is great fun playing Miranda. This is a whole new genre for me, I’ve never tackled comedy before but I am absolutely loving it. I especially love not having to remember any stage blocking as I’m mainly just pushed around the stage by fellow cast members – Result!!

What kind of person is Miranda and can you identify with her?
Miranda is a girl after my own heart. I love that we get to see both her feisty fiery side as Garbo’s prisoner and then that gentle loving side when she’s with Bailey! Couple those with the ridiculous jealous competitive relationship she has with Cooper, it makes for a really fun character to play! She has what our director Ian described to me as ‘Tinkerbell Syndrome’ – as her body is so small, or head in Miranda’s case, she can’t retain emotions for any length of time, which is why in one line she can be all love and light and then almost immediately she flips into a crazy mad outburst. She can be almost schizophrenic at points which is really fun to play. I do prefer roles that have a bit of grit about them and she certainly has that!

Trafalgar Studios is a very intimate venue. What’s it like performing in front of such a small audience?
It’s very different, having spent the past three years playing out into the abyss that is the Apollo Victoria. I have played smaller venues before. I remember doing Myths and Hymns at the Finborough Theatre, coming out for my first number, looking down and there was my mother’s shoe – very strange!! It’s great though, especially with a show like Betwixt! as the audience feel like they’re part of this magical world we’re creating. Plus it’s nice to see the reactions as and when they happen. I do worry about running over people’s feet in my box though!!

Why should people go and see Betwixt! ?
It’s just a great, fun, entertaining show! As it says in our programme, the story is so off the wall that all you can do is just accept it, go along for the ride and hopefully leave with splits in your sides and lines on your face from laughing so hard. The audiences seem to love it and I know we all have such a great time doing it. We’ve also just had two new additions to the cast which has really given the show a new energy so even if you’ve seen it before, come along again!!

How do you prepare before you go on stage?
Well because I chose to give Miranda the most ridiculous hairstyle, I spend most of my time doing that really!! I also try and converse a bit in the accent to get it going again! It’s starting to come easier now but I very nearly didn’t go to the audition for the show because I was so worried about making a fool of myself with the accent! Then when I got the role, Ian, the Writer/Director and I sat down and came up with this crazy version of an accent which really works for the character.

What is something embarrassing or unexpected that happened to you on stage?
There’s been many a thing happened to me in other shows! Nothing in Betwixt so far – although I do have nightmares about being wheeled on in the box, the whole thing collapsing and me ending up in a semi naked (it does get very hot in that box!) crumpled heap on the middle of the stage. Fingers crossed it never happens!

What other parts would you love to play (in any musical/play) and why?
There’s a few, I’d love to play parts in all those show’s I’d listen to and watched  growing up, Les Mis, Evita, Miss Saigon and Oliver. 

If you could go and see any West End musical or play tonight, which one would it be and why?
Betwixt!, of course!! I actually would like to have an out of body experience and see it as a whole from the audience’s perspective! Obviously, the likeliness of that happening isn’t that high so alternatively, I guess I’d go for something like London Road at the National, or Parade at the Southwark Playhouse. There’s a lot of things I’d like to see but that’s the thing when you’re working in Theatre, with the same matinee days as other productions it can get very tricky to see stuff!

What are your long-term ambitions – on the stage or off it?
To just keep doing what I love to do! I count my blessings everyday that I get to go to work doing a job that I absolutely adore! There’s nothing worse than sitting on the tube when I’m doing some between job temping or something and seeing everyone’s miserable faces as they go to a job that they don’t particularly enjoy or want to do. I love my job and I especially love working on new pieces of Theatre. Although Betwixt! has been done before, it’s been such fun working and re-working the show to get it to the stage we’re at now. Having the freedom to put your own stamp and mark on a character is thrilling, which is one of the reasons I’m a real champion for getting new writing out there. Also there are so many great writers/composers out there, I love meeting new creatives and look forward to working with them and getting their work out there in the future!

And anything else you might like to add, maybe a message to your fans?
Just a huge ‘Thank You’ really! My fans are amazing and again, I count my blessings all the time that I have such a loyal, supportive group of people who make doing what I do all the more special with their kind words and encouragement. It means a lot!!

And a”huge Thank You” to you Ashleigh for this fantastic interview! I wish you all the best for your future projects!

Follow Ashleigh on Twitter: @Ashleigh_Gray
Ashleigh’s Official Website
Interview by Sandra Palme (Twitter: @LondonTheatre2)

Updated 11th October 2014

Interview with Benedict Salter: Bailey Howard in Betwixt!

Actor Benedict Salter

“I think acting is about helping an audience to experience exactly what you as an actor are feeling in that moment.”

Benedict, who holds a degree in psychology and neuroscience, started acting in earnest when he was in his late teens as a member of Durham Student Theatre, the union for drama at Durham University. He appeared in numerous productions, including Shakespeare plays.

Together with a few friends, Benedict wrote and produced a new show for the Edinburgh Fringe 2009 that won the Sell-Out Show Award.

Read our brilliant interview with Benedict, who at the time of the interview, was making his West End debut playing ‘Howard Bailey’ in the fantastic musical fairy tale Betwixt! at Trafalgar Studios.

When did you first realise that you wanted to be on the stage?
When I was about 8 or 9 I made the decision that I wanted to be an actor, but then I joined a drama group and suddenly became incredibly shy and got stage fright during one of my first performances. I became even more nervous about performing when I was at school, so it wasn’t until about the age of 18 that I started acting again. But the seed had begun growing early – I just didn’t pay attention to it until I was older!

Did anyone in particular inspire you?
Over recent years I’ve been really inspired by Sheridan Smith. She seems so down to earth, and she has a great deal of honesty in her acting. But throughout my life my parents and my siblings have been pretty inspirational. They’ve always been supportive of everything I’ve done.

What does acting mean to you?
Sharing experiences and being honest. I love the following quotation from Frank Capra: “I made mistakes in drama. I thought drama was when actors cried. But drama is when the audience cries.” I think acting is about helping an audience to experience exactly what you as an actor are feeling in that moment. It’s difficult, but so rewarding.

Do you have any role models?
My parents. If I turn out to be half as amazing as they are then I’ll be happy.

Where did you train?
I actually didn’t train. I wanted to go to university and study something other than drama before training as an actor, so I went to Durham and studied psychology and neuroscience! I applied to drama school after university and was accepted into the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, but I couldn’t afford the fees so I didn’t go. However, I did a lot of student drama when I was at Durham, and it gave me most of the experience and training that I needed. It was like working in repertory theatre – you’d find yourself working with the same actors in different scenarios, and we learnt so much from each other. Durham doesn’t have an academic drama department so all theatre is extra-curricular, and the standard is excellent. A lot of my peers did go to drama school, and I predict over the next few years a big influx of Durham graduates on the theatre scene!

You are currently playing “Bailey” – a young writer suffering from writer’s block – in Betwixt! at Trafalgar Studios.  Please tell us about Bailey and his role in this musical fairy tale.
Bailey is forever the optimist; always seeing the magic and the goodness in everything. Even the fact that he was supposed to produce a novel and still hasn’t done due to his block doesn’t phase him too much – he sums up his life views in the first scene by saying “If I’m meant to write the book, then I’m meant to write the book.” He goes on an incredible journey of self-discovery though, and I think the conclusion he comes to at the end of the show is actually very important. Also he’s so endearing as a character – he falls in love with a disembodied head but he doesn’t care what she looks like, he just knows that he loves her. He’s also pretty good at tangoing with a head on a box, and that’s pretty impressive.

Betwixt! marks your West End debut so this must be a very special time for you?
It certainly is! I feel so privileged to have this opportunity and I hate to sound clichéd but it’s like a dream come true. Working with such incredible actors as well, such as Steven Webb, Ashleigh Gray, Ellen Greene, and Peter Duncan, has been inspirational. I have learnt so much in a short space of time and if you’d told me at the beginning of 2011 that this is what I’d be doing, I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s certainly very special to me, and will remain so!

Trafalgar Studios is a very intimate venue. What’s it like performing in front of such a small audience?
It’s actually incredibly exciting. I love performing in small venues where you can literally reach out and touch the audience if you want to (and I apologise to all those audience members whose feet I’ve stepped on during Betwixt!). It does mean that you can see how every individual audience member is reacting but it makes the atmosphere so much more electric and means we can share such intimate moments with the whole audience. I love it.

Why should people go and see Betwixt! ?
Because it will leave you with a smile on your face. There’s a lot of misery in the world at the moment and theatre often reflects this – don’t get me wrong, I love a good tragedy on stage, but sometimes it’s nice to go and see something that will distract you from your worries and just have you laughing. The energy and humour will carry you away for a few hours – it’s so much fun.

How do you prepare before you go on stage?
Nothing too exciting. Generally, I have a quick steam and brush my teeth (I’m very obsessive about doing that before a performance), and do as much of a vocal warm-up as I can. I also remind myself to keep everything fresh and new, and remind myself that this is a brand new audience who don’t know the story yet – that’s an exciting feeling. Specifically for Betwixt!, I generally have a bit of a dance with Lizzie, our stage manager!

What is something embarrassing or unexpected that happened to you on stage?
I’ve ripped the seat of my trousers TWICE during Betwixt! now! It’s all that rolling around on the floor… The second time was particularly embarrassing as I went offstage, changed my trousers, and then went back on having forgotten to put my shoes back on as well, so I had to do an entire scene with no shoes on..! It sounds ridiculous but I start the show with no shoes on anyway, so it didn’t feel strange to be walking from the dressing room to the stage while shoeless. I don’t think I’ve ever sweated so much!

You have appeared in several Shakespeare plays. What is it about Shakespeare that you like as an actor?
The naturalism. I know Shakespeare can be a bit daunting sometimes but the rhythm and metre of the text is so clever that if you just go with it and listen to what you’re saying, it really carries you along. Also Shakespeare gives you the chance to explore such depth of character, it’s impossible not to enjoy it as an actor. He wrote some of the funniest plays we’ll ever know, and yet also some of the most tragic. There is no greater exploration of humankind than his collection of plays and I think that’s remarkable.

What other parts would you love to play (in any musical/play) and why?
Oh gosh, so many. Iago in Othello, Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Emmett in Legally Blonde, Katurian in The Pillowman, Henrik in A Little Night Music, Dan in Night Must Fall. There are some parts I played as a student that I’d love to recreate professionally – Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, Mephistopheles in Doctor Faustus, and Prince Von Berg in Incident at Vichy. I don’t think these parts all fit into one ‘type’ but I love to push myself and experiment with characters.

If you could go and see any West End musical or play tonight, which one would it be and why?
I really want to see London Road! I’ve heard such amazing things, but I’m not sure I’m going to be able to make it. Otherwise, I’d love to see Top Girls, which is happening at the same time as us in the other theatre in Trafalgar Studios. We keep bumping into the cast members backstage and they’re lovely!

Is there anyone you would really like to work with?
There are so many! David Tennant, Sheridan Smith, Julie Walters, Imogen Stubbs, and Benedict Cumberbatch have really inspired me over the years. I would also have LOVED to act with Pete Postlethwaite; he will be missed a lot.

Betwixt! is not the first fairy tale you have been involved with. You wrote and produced Who’s Afraid of the Brothers Grimm? for the Edinburgh Fringe in 2009 and won the ‘Sell-Out Show’Award. Please tell us about this experience!
It was crazy! I did it while I was finishing my Masters at university and it nearly killed me, but we had so much fun. A few friends and I decided that we wanted to take a new show to the Fringe, so we did just that. We tried to aim it at a family audience so we could attract as many people as possible, which we discovered was quite a niche. There were a lot of families in Edinburgh searching for a show that could entertain children and adults of all ages, and I think we managed it quite well. It involved a lot of fairy tale characters, the Brothers Grimm, a talking tree, and a Britain’s Got Talent-style send-up (the three little pigs were the judges). Actually just thinking about it now makes me wonder how we made it work!

Would you like to write more plays (or musicals) in the future?
I love working collaboratively – I love devised theatre and improvisation, but I don’t think I’m good enough to ever sit down and write another play. I’ve got a few ideas buzzing around in my head but I’ve never been brave enough to make them reality. Who knows? Maybe in the future I’ll put pen to paper… but right now I’m happy working with writers who know what they’re doing!

What are your long-term ambitions – on the stage or off it?
I want to try out so many different things in theatre and elsewhere. I never thought I’d be starting my career in musical theatre, so it’s given me a taste for trying styles of theatre I never thought I would. Whatever my ambitions are, I just want to be happy and be sure that I seized every opportunity that came my way. I’d just regret it if I didn’t. I also want a dog. But I don’t think you can really call that an ambition.

What do you usually do when you’re not working?
Sleep! And basically anything that relaxes me. I play the cello so I’ve been doing a lot of that recently, as it takes me out of the Betwixt! world completely and gives me something else to focus on for a while. It’s also very stimulating and enjoyable. I also tend to spend a lot of time eating Chinese takeaway with my housemates and watching Arrested Development repeatedly. Sorry. I’m a bit dull!

And anything else you might like to add, maybe a message to your fans?
Just – thank you! The support for Betwixt! has been overwhelming and it’s been such an enjoyable experience, and it wouldn’t have been the same without our loyal fans. Thank you also to my family and friends for just having faith.

Thank you so much for this brilliant interview, Benedict and all the best for the future!

Follow Benedict on Twitter: @bensalter87
Interview by Sandra Palme (Twitter: @LondonTheatre2)

Updated 11th October 2014

Interview with Caissie Levy

Actress Caissie Levy in 2013Having started out playing Maureen Johnson in the musical Rent, Caissie Levy’s career continues to go from strength to strength. With major roles in Wicked, Hair, Hairspray and of course originating the part of Molly Jensen in Ghost The Musical, Caissie is a West End and Broadway star shining brightly.

Ghost The Musical: “It was an insane amount of work, and hugely rewarding.  Working with our talented cast and creative team was amazing, specifically working with our songwriters, Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard – both absolute legends in the music industry – and also with our brilliant book writer, Bruce Joel Rubin.

To celebrate the release of her debut album ‘With You’, Caissie performed in New York on 14th January and is following this with two concerts at the Hippodrome in Leicester Square on 26th and 27th January 2013.

Enjoy our interview with Caissie Levy, who earlier this week answered some questions about herself and her career.

Having graduated from Westdale Secondary School, you were due to study Shakespeare in Canada but were offered a place at New York’s American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA). How difficult was this career choice?
Not a tough choice at all.  I always loved New York and when I was accepted to drama school there, I knew I had to go.  Studying musical theatre was very attractive to me as up to that point, I mostly did plays and sang in bands, but I loved musicals.  I knew it was the opportunity of a lifetime to move to the centre of the theatre world and give my dream a shot.

Within a week of graduating from AMDA, you were playing the role of Maureen Johnson in the U.S. national tour of Rent. What was it like performing in your first major role?
It was surreal.  I was so young and confident that I didn’t realize how insane the opportunity was. I just jumped right in and was overjoyed to be part of the RENT legacy.  I am still close with my cast mates from that time.  I learned so much about acting by playing different cities each night, and living the life of a gypsy on the road.

You played the part of Penny Pingleton, and understudying Amber Von Tussle, on Broadway and in the national tour of Hairspray. What was it like being a part of this fun musical?
Hairspray is one of the greatest modern musicals written, and I loved it when I saw it on Broadway. I actually started out in the ensemble in the original Toronto cast, understudying Penny and Amber, and then played Penny full-time on the US national tour and Broadway.  It was incredibly meaningful to have been part of three companies and to have made my Broadway debut as Penny.

You starred as Elphaba in the Los Angeles production of Wicked, having previously understudied the role on Broadway. What are some of your favourite memories of your time in the show?
Elphaba is such an iconic role and I loved the challenge of playing this strong, but sensitive and also at times funny, character.  I loved being part of Wicked, not just because of the fantastic score, but also because the story has touched so many people’s lives.

You performed the role of Sheila in the Broadway revival of Hair, and also in the West End. What did you enjoy most about the show?
HAIR marks the most fulfilling chapter of my career to date.  It was my first time originating a role (although it was a revival, it hadn’t been done in 40 years), it was a truly brilliant cast of actors, we were the hit of the season and won the Tony for best revival, and the show meant the world to all of us.  We did a lot of social action outside the show, specifically for equal rights with the LGBT community both in New York and throughout the country, and the whole cast took the show’s message to heart offstage.  Sheila is an incredible role, and I got to sing some of the most iconic songs from HAIR – Easy To Be Hard, The Flesh Failures, and Good Morning Starshine.  Bringing it to the West End was a huge honor and dream come true.

You originated the role of Molly Jensen in Ghost the Musical, which opened at the Manchester Opera House before transferring to London’s West End and then on to Broadway. What was it like originating the role and then being a major part of a hugely successful musical?
It was an insane amount of work, and hugely rewarding.  Working with our talented cast and creative team was amazing, specifically working with our songwriters, Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard – both absolute legends in the music industry – and also with our brilliant book writer, Bruce Joel Rubin.  All three of these men are such generous, kind and inspiring artists.  The show was embraced by Manchester and West End audiences and we all really believed in the show.  Bringing it to Broadway was the icing on top of an already super-delicious cake.

Your debut album (January 2013) is titled “With You”. What were your inspirations for the songs on the album?
I love recording and have been fortunate to do two cast albums (HAIR and GHOST) as well as a bunch of work with emerging songwriters.  I wanted my debut album to reflect my personal musical style, what I like to listen to.  And that is mostly indie-rock/pop.  I wanted to cover songs from my Broadway shows but in a style that would appeal to those not familiar with Broadway, as well as those who already are.  I’ve loved working on it, and I’m very proud of it.

You are promoting the release of your album with concerts alongside your husband, David, in New York on the January 14th, followed by two dates at the London Hippodrome Casino on 26th/27th January. How was the New York concert?
The NYC CD release was amazing!  So many friends and fans came out to support, and the artists we had singing in David’s set were incredible.  The whole night was a huge success and we are so looking forward to coming back to London to re-connect with friends and fans there and share our music.

You also have some special guests with you at the Hippodrome Casino this month. What can fans look forward to?
We’ve gotten so lucky to have some of the greats from the West End come join us.  Oliver Tompsett, Gavin Creel, Jodie Jacobs, Carley Stenson and my good friends from Ghost, Paul Ayers and Jenny Fitzpatrick.  You’ll hear them all sing original songs by David Are in the opening sets and then come back and duet with me in my sets.

We are only in January – what more can we expect from you this year?
Hopefully lots!  For now it’s all about ‘WITH YOU’ and playing lots of gigs, getting my music out there.  It’s also pilot season so I’ll be back and forth between New York and LA auditioning for film and television roles.  And of course, I’m always working on readings of new musicals and plays.  Hopefully 2013 will afford me some new challenges to work hard and grow more as an actor.

You have many supporters of your career – have you any message for your fans?
I’m always amazed at the generosity of theatre-goers at the stage door and over Twitter.  I love to hear from everyone and truly appreciate the fact that people care about what I’m up to as an artist and just as a person.  So… thank you from the bottom of my heart, for caring.  I hope to do you proud!

Many thanks Caissie and best wishes for the new album ‘With You’ and your future success!

You can follow Caissie Levy on Twitter @CaissieLevy and her official website at www.caissielevy.com

I hope you enjoyed our interview with Caissie Levy.

Interviewed by Neil who you can follow on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

Updated 11th October 2014

Interview with Carley Stenson Elle Woods in Legally Blonde

NEWS Today 9th June, 2011

From 11th July 2011 Carley Stenson will play college sweetheart Elle Woods. Carley, who is currently playing Margot, steps up to play the leading role. Lee Mead joins the cast later this month (20th June) to play Emmett Forrest and Natalie Casey as dizzy beautician Paulette Buonofonté. Peter Davison continues in the role of Professor Callahan as well as Nicola Brazil as Serena and Siobhan Dillon as Vivienne.

You can read about our previous interview article with Carley below.

The delightful Carley Stenson is currently starring as Margot (and understudy Elle) in Legally Blonde The Musical, following her previous decade of starring in Hollyoaks as Steph Cunningham. Her other television credits include: Faith Hill (winner) on Celebrity Stars In Their Eyes (Granada) and Abbamania (Granada).

Carley Stenson

Carley has certainly hit the boards running in Legally Blonde and is thoroughly enjoying her role in the type of fun musical that she has had her sights set on for some time.

The Savoy Theatre in the West End of London is some way from the village of Higher End, Billinge, set between the towns of St Helens and Wigan in Lancashire, where Carley was born on 22nd September 1982.

It was obvious from an early age that she was destined to be a performer. “From the age of three I attended ballet classes, leading into tap, modern, jazz, rock and roll you name it! I had singing lessons every week through high school and college where I trained in theatre studies and contemporary dance.”

Carley values the support that she has been given by her parents and grand-parents and their influence was apparent from an early age. “I grew up in watching films with my grandma and grandad, just concentrating on Gene Kelly as we loved him, still do! He was such a perfectionist and you could see that in every performance! There was nothing else I ever thought of doing – performing was me and in me from birth! Before I could speak I would hum to the Dallas theme tune.”

Carley joined the TV Soap Hollyoaks in 2000 at the age of 17, and very quickly became a fan’s favourite in her leading role as Steph Cunningham.  During her time in the role she faced some heartbreaking storylines, from which she has earned much credit and praise.

Hollyoaks is a long-running British television soap opera originally devised by Phil Redmond, first broadcast on Channel 4 on 23rd October 1995. The programme is set in a fictional suburb of Chester called Hollyoaks and is centred around a local higher education college called Hollyoaks Community College, with the characters generally being in their late teens or early twenties.

When asked in an interview in 2005 having been in the show five years, what is it like being in the show? Carley replied “It’s absolutely great. It’s like a family. I wake up in the morning and it’s like going from home to home. It’s such an honour. It’s really nice to go there and to be surrounded by lots of friends.”

For Carley, from the close-knit community of Billinge, through to Hollyoaks, it was time to head for the bright lights of London.

The decision to move on came in the summer of 2010. Carley said: “Leaving Hollyoaks is one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made. It has been my dream job for 10 years and I shall miss all of the fantastic friends I have made in the cast and crew. I am very sad to leave but I’m ready for new challenges and I’m looking forward to pursuing a career in musical theatre.”

Before joining Legally Blonde, Carley had been a member of a musical theatre group called Diamond (consisting of Carley, Emma Lori Thomas, Emma Schofield and Catherine Rouse) performing at venues all over Britain, with acts such as Lemar and Beverly Knight. Due to work commitments, Diamond has now stopped performing. As Carley says, “We were four best friends who just loved to sing together. We now concentrate on being the best of friends and having fun nights chatting instead.”

Together with several others, Carley joined Legally Blonde The Musical during a cast change, on 25th October 2010. Carley is fabulous in her role as Elle Wood’s Delta Nu sorority friend Margot and has also performed admirably as Elle Woods, the main character. Her reviews as Margot and as Elle have been superb.

Legally Blonde The Musical synopsis: College sweetheart and homecoming queen Elle Woods doesn’t take no for an answer. So when her boyfriend dumps her for someone ‘serious’, Elle puts down the credit card, hits the books, and heads for Harvard Law School!

Legally Blonde the Musical will take you from the sorority house to the Halls of Justice with London’s brightest new heroine (and of course, her Chihuahua, Bruiser).

Having seen Legally Blonde four times I can vouch for the fact that the cast all appear to have a great time on stage, and with the daily tweeting on Twitter, it is also apparent that many of the cast are great friends off-stage. If you haven’t seen the show and you want a fun night out then go and see it! I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Carley is now an established member of the Legally Blonde cast and clearly has a long and successful career ahead of her in musical theatre.

Carley obviously has a very busy schedule appearing most days of the week in Legally Blonde, but she still takes time out whenever possible to support charities. Carley loves animals and in particular dogs and she contributes actively to support animals in need.

Carley is particularly passionate about New Hope Animal Rescue. New Hope, co-ordinated by Niall Lester and Liesa Hope Clark, helps to rescue many animals, especially dogs, from being put down. Together with a group of supporters, they house the animals and try to find good homes for them.

Carley doesn’t have a dog herself at the moment as with her working schedule it wouldn’t be possible to look after it properly. However, her sister has a dog called Jodie who all the family love.

Carley doesn’t have a pet at the moment but if she won the lottery?  “I would invest in a farm, where we would help unwanted animals, and work alongside New Hope. It has always has been a dream of both mine and my mums.”

There is no doubt that Carley is a genuine star off-stage as well as on it!

Carley’s other theatre work includes:
Jill in Mother Goose (Palace Theatre, Newark); Sandy in Grease (Palace Theatre, Manchester); Soloist in Summer Song (Bridgewater Hall); Soloist in Remembering Diana (Her Majesty’s); Godspell (Globe Theatre, Blackpool); Princess Amneris in Aida (Opera House, Manchester); Dulcie in The Boyfriend (Wigan Youth Theatre) and Nancy in Oliver (Neptune Theatre).

Page updated 11th October 2014

Interview with Carley Stenson: Elle Woods in Legally Blonde

It was recently announced that Carley Stenson would be taking over the role of Elle Woods in London West End’s Legally Blonde at the Savoy Theatre, as from July 11th. Following on from our previous in-depth interview with Carley, I asked her a few questions about the role.

Actress Carley Stenson

You have been confirmed as the new Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, where were you when you got the news and how did you feel?
I was in my car (on hands free) driving back down south after a two week break back home to visit my family and friends when I got the call! I screamed all the way down to London, and rang everyone, but it wasn’t confirmed until the next day.

How would you describe ‘your’ Elle?
I miss the bonus of being able to watch what I do to correct it, now that it’s theatre not television so I guess I can’t really explain or describe how my Elle is different to anyone else’s. We all get directed a specific way, but I guess we have subtle differences naturally and our choices on how to play certain lines may vary. You will have to come and see to find out!

Following on from Sheridan Smith and Susan McFadden, how will you make the role your own?
I will just give every performance 110% and find my feet and Elle along the way. I like to play every line fresh each night and sometimes surprise myself how they come out! So I can’t predict exactly how I will make it a part of me, but I’ll just feel it all every night as if it’s my first.

Have you ever been treated like a ‘blonde’ in real life i.e. can you identify with the concept, ‘people thinking blondes are dumb’?
I’ve been treated blonde and ditsy many times, but the clever blondes use the label to their advantage, you get away with more ha! But actually on occasion I probably have deserved it, as I don’t like to take life too seriously or myself. But I like to consider myself as being a tad clever. I’ve studied, I read, I love to learn about the world, I definitely believe brains come before beauty!

What is your favourite song in Legally Blonde?
My favourite Legally Blonde song is So Much Better!

What do you like most about the character Emmett?
I like Emmet’s sincerity. He silently falls for Elle, never expecting anything back. He’s very endearing!

Legally Blonde is obviously a feel-good musical, but what is the most important underlying message of the show that you want to put forward?
The most underlining message for me from Legally Blonde is that it’s always better to trust your gut and be yourself!

Is there a point in the show when you can begin to relax and start to think ‘job done’ or does this only happen right at the end?
I never relax as Elle in Legally Blonde, but I breathe a little more easily once the “Scene of The Crime” is over as it’s set to music and very wordy!

What is your favourite scene in the show?
One of My favourite scenes is Elle’s entrance, I love coming up on the lift but feel scared I’m going to fall.

From Hollyoaks to Legally Blonde, you have quite a large number of fans, how do you try to keep in touch with them?
I always try to say hello to anyone who wants to talk about the show at the stage door afterwards, I always reply to fan letters, if and when I get them. I really appreciate the support.

Is there anything you would like to say to your Legally Blonde fans?
I would like to say, Thank you to anyone who has ever supported me!!

You can follow Carley on Twitter @carleystenson

Questions asked by Neil Cheesman who you can follow on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

6th July 2011

Interview with Caroline Loncq

At the time of the interview, Caroline was performing as Margaret Hyman in Arthur Miller’s Olivier award-winning drama, Broken Glass, directed by Iqbal Khan, at the Vaudeville Theatre.

Caroline is an accomplished actress who has starred in numerous plays including in the West End, and has also appeared in over 35 television programmes and films.

Caroline recently took some time out from her busy schedule to answer a few questions about herself and her career – enjoy!

At what age did you discover your ability to entertain others as an actress?
Haha… Well where does it begin? I vividly remember playing a golden goblin in gold lamé knickers and a gold net poncho, going “one, two, three, hop” round in a circle with the other three year-olds while some older kids tried valiantly to get through a scene on the other side of the stage in a school play (that still has my mother weeping with laughter at the memory). But I think a production of Medea in my first term at university with a director called Rod Bolt opened my eyes to how electric performing in theatre can be and gave me an inkling of what I could tap into.

Did anyone in particular inspire you to take up a career in performing arts?
I had some great teachers at school who opened my mind to literature and performance: Etain Kabraji and Janet Gough. Most actors have an English teacher that they credit with starting them off.  They propelled me to university, to do an English degree and there my fate was sealed.

What roles did you perform in your stage and Actress Caroline Loncqtelevision debuts and what can you remember of those occasions?
My first paid theatre job was playing Fraulein Kost in Cabaret in Harrogate. She gets to close the first half singing Tomorrow Belongs to Me – goosebumps every night. Cabaret was followed by The Provok’d Wife and Serious Money, rehearsing the next one in the day while playing the former at night. It was heaven after drama school, to be actually doing it, all day and all evening too.

Monday morning at eight on my first TV job (Casualty) saw me getting introduced to Clive (cameraman) who was one end of a bath while I was to be having a shower at the other end. So we shook hands, said hello and then I took my clothes off, which would have been hideous if he hadn’t been such a gent. My character had been raped which was certainly an intense first TV role and I felt like I had a real responsibility to be truthful.
The director (Bill Pryde) was great, as were the other actors, so it was a pleasure to have something to get my teeth into.

You have numerous stage, television and film credits. Do you have a preference for acting in front of a live audience or the camera?
Acting for camera can be great when you get a decent part to play and a director who is interested, then there can be a fantastic level of creativity at work all round, but the reality can sometimes be that the character is chopped liver or the director has decided everything they require from you before you get there…in which case TV is just work, and not very creative. You are part of a big team, which is great, but things that are important for an actor, like rehearsal, say, can sometimes get squeezed out. The chain is only as strong as its weakest link on TV, be that the Boom Op’s tired arm or the weather. Plus of course the storytelling aspect of TV happens in the edit – it’s a director’s medium, in the end, so if the director is great and the script is great – two big “ifs” – then TV can be wonderful both to do and to watch.
In theatre if the lights go out or the set falls over the relationship at work is still that between the actors, the play, and the audience. It’s alive, in that moment, right there, and that’s a different thrill, and paradoxically what happens under that paper moon can be more ‘true’ than a scene shot under a real moon.

A great play is a work of art, and one that cannot fully live without interpretive artists to inhabit it, much like a piece of music, so when the stars align and you get to do a great play with good actors and a director who furthers the work plus, lets not forget, an audience, well then, there’s nothing like it. Theatre feels like my medium at the moment, mind you, that may be because I am involved in a great play and haven’t had a nice bite of a TV cherry for a while.

Of all of your acting roles to date, which has been the most demanding as an actress?
Physically demanding:  in Lysistrata the stage was thick sand so we all got thighs of steel, and it involved acting in half masks which is a whole discipline in itself, at least within a proscenium arch. I did a lovely TV job for Granada called Bare Necessities which involved getting really fit very fast, which was a challenge, but that stuff is always fun to take hold of and run with. The psychological side: the journey you take when you explore a character’s motivations and responses, well, that’s part of the work. Sometimes the more extreme people are easier to grasp than someone closer to yourself. A character will take its space in my imagination though, and sometimes they occupy my dreams so I haven’t always enjoyed living with some of the psychologically disturbed people I’ve played.

Has anyone in particular been your inspiration or role model along your acting journey?
There are actors I admire and I try to see in everything they do, because I love their work. Mark Rylance is one. Generally though, I try to take my inspiration from life and other art forms.

Which has been your favourite stage and/or television role?
Playing Lysistrata in the amphitheatre at Epidaurus was a highlight. The play was first performed there in 412BC, and the audience all know the play really well. I did a movie in Hungary called Bolse Vita that I loved, but that was as much to do with being in Budapest for a month and the director’s way of working as the character. The Shakespeare plays I have done have all been highlights, Rosalind and Lady M in particular because they are such meaty parts.

You are now appearing in Arthur Miller’s Broken Glass at the Vaudeville Theatre. What is it like performing in the play?
It’s a real thrill. The stars have truly aligned on this one. Arthur Miller has written a full, rich feast of a play in Broken Glass, plus he writes actors’ gold; Iqbal is a dream director who is constantly urging you to go forward while having exquisite taste and the cast couldn’t be better. Everyone is alive in the moment with each other, inhabiting this big expansive story which is at the same time a chamber piece with just six actors, a cellist, two chairs and a bed.

How would you describe your character of Margaret Hyman?
I wouldn’t want to limit her by trying to describe her. She is multi-faceted, three-dimensional (thank you, Arthur!) and contains the odd contradiction, as we all do. I’d rather hear you describe her to me having seen the play. Or rather, I could describe her, but I’d have to write you a three page essay about her and her myriad of hopes and fears.

During the play and talking about life, one of Margaret’s lines is “you draw your cards face down, you turn them over and you do your best with the hand you’ve got”. What do you think about that philosophy?
Well, it’s practical, which is very Margaret. But it’s easy to say and hard to do if you turn over a real busted flush of a hand in life. Margaret has a good life with Harry, albeit one with the complications that come from being a nice WASP country girl from Minnesota who fell for a charming Brooklyn Jewish doctor. I think I’m less fatalistic than she is and believe more in the power to change, but then my life as a twenty-first century woman has a great deal more freedom than Margaret’s and Sylvia’s to whom she is speaking in Brooklyn in 1938 just after the depression.

In your current role how do you like to prepare before the start of the play?
I make sure that I do a vocal warm up before the show every day: diaphragm wake-up, articulation and placement of voice, plus a trip through the words that anchor the Minnesota accent. Margaret is specifically not from NYC, so I just remind myself of that, plus she uses a wide range both pitch & dynamic so I am looking after that side. There is a whole hair rigmarole too that involves hot rollers and a pimp up by the redoubtable Clare too, so I’m in early on this one…

Broken Glass concludes its run in mid-December, what have you got planned next?
Er… Some sort of holiday, I reckon.

Are there any particular roles that you would love to play or any actor/actresses that you would like to perform alongside?
Everything I read or see has a part in it I’d like to play. Some of them are even parts I might conceivably be cast in at some point in my life. Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd, now there’s a part for later on. All Shakespearian women. Anything by Arthur Miller.

How do you feel when your husband (and or son) watches you perform on stage?
My son hasn’t seen me on stage yet as I haven’t done anything remotely suitable since he’s been old enough to be interested (he’s nine). Broken Glass is, I think, rather mature thematically for him, while Scorched was just too harrowing in subject matter. I’m fine with my partner seeing me on stage.

How would you say the audiences differ in a regional theatre compared to the West End?
I think audiences in cities all around the country are pretty sharp – sometimes quicker on the uptake than a West End crowd. Certainly the Liverpool audience, say, are sharp as a tack and extremely discerning. When we took King of Hearts to Liverpool they absolutely loved it – a satire on the Royal Family and the political suits – it went down a storm.

Away from the stage, what do you like to do to chill out?
I’m lying on a rather uncomfortable dressing room sofa at the moment so all I can think of is lying on a comfortable sofa.

What would you say to any young actor or actress thinking about a career treading the boards?
Do you really have to do it? Why? Sort out the part of you that wants validation, that will just get in the way. Develop yourself as a whole person, a creative being. Give yourself the choice of acting jobs you want to do by having another way to earn money that you enjoy. Accept that time not working is part of the job and learn how to deal with it without it affecting your sense of self, plus cultivate your friendships that have nothing to do with the business, the people who will take the piss out of you, those people will stop you turning into a self-obsessed neurotic. Ha ha, that doesn’t sound very encouraging, does it?! But that’s the stuff I wish I’d been told. It can be a brutal business, so it’s wise to sort out your ego early on, I think, then you can enjoy it as it comes.

Thank you Caroline for taking time out to answer the questions. Best wishes for Broken Glass, and of course your future projects.

Interviewed questions by Neil who you can follow on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

Updated 11th October 2014