My first job was playing Margaret in Much Ado About Nothing at Baron’s Court Theatre in 2006, but I also had a cameo role as the Sexton. My agent at the time had recommended me to the director, who invited me to come and read.
I read the play in advance, made some notes on the character, and had the advantage of having seen my uncle, who does amateur dramatics in Essex, where I am from, performing in the same play.
I remember reading the scenes for the director, going for it and enjoying trying to hit all the comic beats. I was quite nervous in the production because I was one of the most inexperienced in the cast and it was my first taste of the London fringe scene, as well as my first Shakespeare since my time at Colchester Youth Theatre.
I wish I had brought more of my own ideas about the character to rehearsals, because now that I am older and more experienced I take more ownership over the roles I play (as well as working within the director’s vision and bouncing off other cast members of course – it’s a fine balance). The wonderful actor and writer Sophie Olivia played Beatrice and I learned a lot from her. She was so confident and clear in her delivery and really got across the nuances of the part and the text, while fully embracing the comedy and taking playful risks.
We had so much fun working together and I still aim for clarity and playfulness in all my roles. One scene I particularly remember doing involved the direction to play against the gags in the text, which I initially found quite challenging.
But I think all great comedy comes from truth and with a lot more comedy under my belt now, my advice to actors starting to explore that type of role is that sometimes the truth is found in the deadpan seriousness of a situation in which the stakes are high for your character. Being invested in those circumstances can lead to a lot of laughs, because, when you think about it, it’s often exactly the same in real life.
Training: BA (hons) Drama at Hull University; National Youth Theatre
Theatre includes: Sundowning, Tristan Bates Theatre; The Scar Test, Arcola Theatre; Timon of Athens, The Factory, Willow Globe; New Anatomies, Battersea Arts Centre; Catalina, Ovalhouse and UK tour; Much Ado About Nothing, Baron’s Court Theatre
TV includes: EastEnders, The Secret World of Yarl’s Wood, Marshall’s Law, Comic Relief
Agent: APM Associates
Nadia Nadif was talking to John Byrne