For those who may not be familiar with your work, can you give me a little run down of some of your career highlights so far?
Well Wilma, I’m glad you asked! I started off as the eponymous Annie at the Riverdale Theatre in Lewisham, for those of you who don’t know it, it’s basically a shopping centre. 10 years old and achieving my life goals. Much like Jennifer Lawrence winning her Oscar at such a tender age, I felt I had nowhere to go from there. Luckily though the last few years have been fun. Playing Courtney Lawrence in American Psycho, where in one scene I had to simulate sex with a massive pink teddy bear (thank you Es Devlin – the designer) and the wonderful Matt Smith. Then for something completely different I got to skulk around the stage causing havoc as the ghost of Diana princess of Wales in King Charles III. Both shows were directed by the brilliant Rupert Goold at the Almeida. Most recently I played Carole King in Beautiful at the Aldwych.
Last year you won an Olivier Award for your performance as Carole King in Beautiful the Musical (I may have had a cheeky dance around it at the after party). What does it mean to you to win such a prestigious award and most importantly, where have you put it?!
Haha. Yes it was the handbag for the night! … Winning an Oliver. You can’t really put it into words. It’s magic. My work has been passionately dedicated to theatre and music, so to be awarded an Oliver felt like such huge validation. I’ve dreamt about it but never believed it could happen. I have Carole King and the whole team on Beautiful to thank for it. They really put together a fantastic show. It was also wonderful to win alongside my friend Lorna Want who plays Cynthia Weil.
Oh and where have I put it? On the mantelpiece of course. I sometimes just stare at it. My boyfriend said the other day “you got a prize for doing the acting, that’s mad!” Sums it up.
You are about to star alongside Maureen Lipman in ‘My Mother Said I Never Should’ at the St James Theatre. What is the show about and what attracted you to it?
My Mother Said I Never Should is a very special play. As soon as I read it I was like ‘wow, there is nothing like this!’. It explores the complex relationships between mothers and daughters from the perspective of four women, four generations of the same family. The choices these women make and why, and the consequences of their actions. It’s a very moving and real piece. It jumps back and forth through most of the 20th century so the play has many layers, including World War II, women’s liberation, cancer, changing trends and fashions. It was written in the 1980’s but is still keenly relevant today. If you are somebody’s son or daughter you should go see this play. See what I did there? That’s everybody!
What is the best piece of advice your mother ever gave you?
I was going to say something silly like ‘watch out for that bus!’ but I do have something. My parents are musicians so they know what it’s like to perform and be all vulnerable and put your art out there and stuff. I remember someone once said well done to me after a performance when I was younger. I felt like it had gone badly and I said “no I was shit” and my mum took me to one side and said ‘You should never undermine someone’s opinion like that. If someone has gone out of their way to say well done you say thank you very much no matter how you feel’. I still remember her saying that very clearly to me. It’s a great piece of advice.
I saw you perform an incredible version of Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now at Julie Atherton’s show recently at the Crazy Coqs. Who were your musical influences growing up and what do you listen to these days?
Ah well thank you very much (see, still following mums advice). Julie Atherton was amazing wasn’t she?! Well Joni Mitchell of course. I’m a huge fan of her music. I put her on and it’s like stepping into another cosmos where someone is articulating how I feel about the world much better than I ever could, in this visceral passionate language. I write songs myself so I have so many influences but the main ones are Tori Amos, Ani Difranco and Bob Dylan. At the moment I’m obsessed with the album Earfood by the Roy Hargrove quintet. It’s insane. The horns. Well. Give me shivers.
There are lots of exciting shows coming to London in 2016. What are you most looking forward to seeing?
Well I want to get myself a ticket to The Maids because Uzo Aduba is sooo amazing as Crazy Eyes in Orange Is The New Black. Can’t wait to see her on stage. And I’m hoping to get to see Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom because I’m a huge fan of Sharon D Clarke and I was brought up on the blues so I know I’m going to love it!
If you could be the opposite sex for the day, what theatre role would you love to have a go at playing?
I don’t think you do need to be the opposite sex. All casting should be up for discussion regardless of gender. I’d love to play Hamlet, Richard the III, and II and King Lear one day. As for musicals, Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, Berger in Hair, and The Dentist in Little Shop of Horrors.
Can you complete this sentence. People should come and see My Mother Said I Never Should because ___________________.
Because it’s an award-winning, clever, moving play about mother-daughter relationships, love and choices that change the lives of subsequent generations. It hasn’t been performed professionally in London in 25 years. Don’t miss out!
Thanks for having Tea With Wilma
My Mother Said I Never Should plays at the St James Theatre 13 April – 21 May 2016