After a long medical career as a GP, Cath Humphrys reconnected with her love for theatre and pursued a professional acting career in her 40s. She tells Giverny Masso why both vocations require ‘relentless positivity’...
How did you get into acting professionally?
I’ve been a medic since 1985 and qualified as a GP in 1989. I dedicated myself to medicine – back then, it was a very traditional career. I’d always loved theatre: I played piano and cello in an orchestra and was always acting, but all that stopped because there wasn’t time. We were the generation that did 120-hour weeks – it was horrific – then when I was 40 I decided I was going to have more time. I’d spent my 30s bringing up children and my 20s training. In my 40s, I went back to what I loved. I had singing lessons, did musicals and then the big step was in 2014 when I trained with Mary Doherty at the Actors Class in London.
How did your acting career develop?
I’ve been very lucky in who I’ve met along the way. I was given the wonderful role of Countess Charlotte in A Little Night Music at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, by Alex Parker, who is now a musical director in the West End. We are friends and I helped produce the show. That was 2011, and although I had an instinct, I hadn’t yet trained. My Count was the US actor Cory Peterson, who helped me through it. If you are open, people come into your life and help you. I met Cory’s partner, the stage and film teacher Julia Carey, who has been like a mentor to me over nearly 10 years of deep friendship. She trained me in film, and as a result I have an agent and a body of work in film.
What were you doing when the theatres closed?
I was on a tour of Agatha Christie’s A Murder Is Announced. I had resigned as a GP for my acting career in 2018. Before that I had tried to juggle acting with my job at a very understanding practice, but I was mainly working as an actor. I’ve gone back to the practice because they needed help.
What was it like going back?
It was a big adjustment because both careers are vocations – you’re connecting with human beings to work in collaboration. They’re similar, but I had to let go of one role, and was committed to the acting. I did three films in January and was spending all my time doing showreels, self-tapes and auditions, so it was a bit of an adjustment to go back and get my GP head on. But my workplace is fantastic – it’s very flexible, and was just pleased to have me.
What are the similarities between the two roles?
In theatre, you start rehearsals and everyone’s bubbling. When you’re nearing the dress rehearsal, tensions get high when it’s not quite right or the scenery doesn’t work. Problems arise, and you have to power through. You need a continually positive director or producer to get you through those moments. Whether acting, directing or producing, I’ve never known a production not to have a crisis, so I’ve learned the positivity of thinking: “If we just keep going, tomorrow is another day.” It’s similar to the NHS. People have been so cooperative and positive and adapted beyond anybody’s expectations with video and telephone. It’s about having relentless positivity.
Training: The Actors Class (2014-15); Triple C Theatre Company with Julia Carey (2017-present)
First professional role: The State We’re In, Theatre503 (2016)
Agent: Fiona Cross