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Natasha Marshall: ‘I was waiting for someone to save me when I realised it was down to me’

Natasha Marshall. Photo: The Other Richard/Soho Theatre

Natasha Marshall trained as a writer on Soho Theatre Young Company’s Writers’ Lab and the Talawa Firsts new-writing scheme. She tells Giverny Masso about her debut show Half Breed, about a mixed-race woman who feels she doesn’t belong, which received rave reviews at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and has since toured to India…

How did you get into theatre?

I started acting really young. It was something my parents hoped would build up my confidence, because I was good at it. I went to drama school at East 15 when I was older and did a BA in community theatre.

What happened after drama school?

My whole life I knew I was going to be an actress, but in reality I was working normal jobs. I was moving back and forth between London and the West Country, where I’m from, and, whenever I was acting, the roles I was getting involved being in a gang. I was at a place in my life thinking about giving up acting. I was living at my gran’s house and I was waiting for someone to save me or help me out of this situation. I realised it was down to me to change my future.

How did Half Breed come about?

It started as a poem, I did it at spoken-word nights and it grew from there. I wrote it because I wanted to see more variety in the parts available. It’s loosely based on my experiences, and I initially thought it was about being mixed race, but actually it is about anyone who has felt they don’t fit in. I worked at Sainsbury’s when I was doing the show for the first few times. It used to be 45 minutes long, which was the same time it took to walk to work, so I’d practise my lines on the way.

Did you expect the show to take off like it has done?

No. If I’d known, I would have done this years ago. It’s mad, because I’m only being honest. I’ve spent my whole life trying to blend in. I used to straighten my hair, listen to Avril Lavigne, and then I moved to London and tried to be a London girl and people said ‘you’re clearly not from London’. When I was myself, I felt respect for myself.

What have the reactions been like?

The reaction changes everywhere. When I went to India the reaction was really interesting. We had a Q&A and people were saying how they related to it. When we went to Mumbai, which is the home of Bollywood and somewhere people go to chase their dreams, someone came up to me crying afterwards.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently working with Clean Break [1] theatre company and I’m creating a new play. I’m going into women’s prisons with the company, which runs workshops. That is what my year is going to be and I’m thinking about what I’m going to write.

CV:  Natasha Marshall

Training: BA in Acting and Community Theatre
First professional role: Performer in documentary Jonestown with Darlow Smithson Productions (2011)
Agent: Independent Talent

Half Breed is at London’s Soho Theatre [2] until April 21

Half Breed review at Assembly George Square, Edinburgh – ‘excoriating but exhausting’ [3]