What is it like being the only actress in The 39 Steps?
The cast are a dream team and I totally lucked out in being cast alongside them; namely Andrew Alexander, Stephen Critchlow and Ian Hughes. I love performing with them, and the roles I play in the production are a total gift – it’s rare and such a treat to be able to play such varied and exciting women! As for being the only female – well this is not unusual – there are fewer parts for women in drama generally, but I think this is something people are changing, particularly in the case of older women. There is a campaign to make TV and film makers feature women more prominently actually, to redress the balance, sign up if you agree! http://www.gopetition.com/petition/24658/sign.html
Which – if any – of the three characters you play do you identify with most?
Well I’d love to think I had Pamela’s gumption, Margaret’s heroism and Annabella’s mystique, but in reality I don’t have much in common with them – apart from bearing a striking resemblance to them all of course.
How much creative license do you have as actors?
Rehearsing the play was a bit like learning a dance – there were ‘moves’ to learn. So we start with that and then flesh it out with our own embellishments and ideas, but whilst staying within that choreographed remit. It is quite disciplined, but it must be combined with mischief, playfulness and joy too.
Do you improvise or is everything scripted?
Everything is scripted even if it seems improvised thanks to Patrick Barlow’s script. He is a genius and I recommend you watch him in The National Theatre of Brent. You can see it online on 4OD: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/massive-landmarks-of-the-twentieth-century/episode-guide/series-1
What is the best thing about being in The 39 Steps?
I mentioned that element of ‘play’ which for me is at the heart of The 39 Steps – so that combined with getting a live audience reaction is the best thing I reckon!
What is the best moment you have experienced in your career?
I was a child actor so the one that stands out is one of my first acting jobs, which was when I was in Spring Awakening at the RSC (not the musical, the play adaptation by Ted Hughes). I had a total blast and made lifelong friends as well as running about backstage at the Barbican. For a 15 year old it was a rather dazzling experience!
How do you feel when you’re on stage in front of a live audience?
There is something great about telling a story to a room full of people, especially if they are listening and laughing. The reactions of the audience feed into what we’re doing on the stage. The trick is to relish the participation of the audience without getting self indulgent, so telling the story has to remain the most important thing.
Most awkward moment when you’re performing?
Recently there was a technical fault and so the lights didn’t come up for a scene at the start of Act 2. Us actors didn’t know whether to start the scene in the pitch dark or wait until some lights came on. We did the latter, which was fine, but there was a brief moment of blinking whilst retinas adjusted to the light! We got away with it, our technical crew are so professional and quick-witted I don’t think the audience even noticed!
What is your biggest dream?
To keep on working as much and for as long as possible!
Do you try and separate your work and your personal lives? Is it difficult?
I am lucky to have a terrific fiancé who supports me and understands how irregular the life of an actor can be, as well as great friends, many of whom are also actors, so I’m not short of people I can discuss the trials and tribulations of the profession with!
What is your message to any aspiring actors and actresses out there?
Get out there and do it! Join a drama club, or set up a play-reading group. Make your own work if necessary by setting up a theatre company – I did this with some friends a while ago and it is hard work but so rewarding and such a creative outlet – we are called Baz Productions and just put on our first show which went down a storm! I would add that my final bit of advice to aspiring actors is to be tenacious!!!
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Catherine will be performing at the Criterion Theatre until July 2012.