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Juliet Stevenson: Stage fright almost ended my career

Juliet Stevenson being interviewed for Theatre Lives

Juliet Stevenson has revealed that she almost gave up on her theatre career following a bout of stage fright.

The actor also urged performers to take on roles that are out of their comfort zones as they get older, warning that there is a “greater danger” of becoming typecast.

Stevenson was speaking as part of The Stage and Digital Theatre’s Theatre Lives interview series, where she admitted that the stage fright she suffered in recent years left her fearing that she would not be able to continue performing in theatre.

Watch the interview with Juliet Stevenson here [1]

“When I was asked to do Winnie in Happy Days [at the Young Vic] I had been experiencing quite a longish period of stage fright, which had got worse and worse to the point at which I wasn’t really sure that I could go back on stage again. I don’t know why that happened, or where it came from – it wasn’t around for the first 25, 30 years – but it got quite bad at the Royal Court on the Heretic [in 2011],” Stevenson said.

She added that when she was considering taking the role of Winnie in Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days, she felt compelled to accept, despite considering it “an actor’s nightmare”.

“If I say no, I’ll never get on stage again, so I haven’t really got a choice because that’s an unbearable prospect. I have to say yes, and in saying yes I have to tackle this issue,” she said.

Stevenson’s comments come after Helen McCrory admitted she had suffered a panic attack [2] while starring in The Deep Blue Sea at the National Theatre.

Stevenson went on to encourage other actors to explore new roles as they get older.

She said: “I firmly believe that you’ve got to stay well out of your comfort zone when you get to my sort of age. Preferably you will always be out of your comfort zone but I think there’s a great danger that the older we get, there’s a greater danger that you stay inside your known territory.”

She added: “You get known for doing certain sorts of things and people cast you in the same way again and again, so really you’re the only person who can control that. You make choices as to what you’re going to do, and for me that is about getting out of the comfort zone whenever possible.”