Photo by Stephen Cummiskey
1. Who do you play in John ?
I play a blind lady called Genevieve. My friends that have seen the play say they’ve never seen me play a role like this. She’s a very grand rather odd person. She’s strange to say the least.
2. Is there a scene you particularly enjoy performing?
There’s a scene where I mainly eat biscuits. I really enjoy that scene. There’s also a scene where I talk directly to the audience which people think would be terrifying but because I have macular degeneration I can’t see the audience so it doesn’t matter. I also really love the end of the play, it’s a wonderful ending.
3. And do you have a favourite line in the show?
I love saying: ‘Everybody knows someone named John.’
4. Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Yes I do stretches and a vocal warm up – where I usually shout HIP at the top of my range and BATH at the bottom of my range. Somebody else puts my makeup and wig on for me which is unusual, in theatre you usually do it yourself. But I’m happy to let them do it!
5. What would your dream role be?
I would love to play Lady Wishford in a play called The Way of the World she has a great line that’s: ‘I feel like an old peeled wall.’ - She’s that type of person. I would also love to play Lady M but I’m too late.
6. Who is your backstage hero?
Michael Bryant. He was a wonderful, wonderful actor. A long time ago I was going through a bad time with someone; Michael witnessed it and rescued me from the situation. So he was my big hero.
7. Where’s your favourite spot in the National Theatre?
Well it used to be the Green Room but you can’t get in there. It’s not just for actors anymore! It’s chockabloc. But the Dorfman Theatre is special to me because I’ve done most of my productions at the National in that theatre.
8. What’s the most memorable on-stage moment you’ve seen or been part of that has made a lasting impression on you?
My brother took me to West Side Story when it first came over in the 50s or early 60s. We sat in the front row of the dress circle. At the end when one of them is dead and one of them is weeping. The curtain came down very very very slowly. Usually when the curtain comes down there is applause, but when it hit the stage there was complete silence. For a good minute no one could clap. We were all in floods of tears. That was magical.
9. What advice would you give to aspiring actors?
Work very hard on your breath control. Breathe from the diaphragm. I don’t know what they’re teaching them in drama school nowadays but they’re all breathing from too high up. They’re running out of breath before they get to the end of the line. Not all of them – there are a lot of wonderful young actors.
10. Finally, could you describe John in three words?
Mystical, magical and naturalistic.
John is playing in the Dorfman theatre until 3 March. More information and book tickets here