Past: “Doing the The Emperor Jones at the National Theatre was more than a dream come true. ‘Dream come true’ always implies that it’s something you thought about for a long time and neither (the show’s star) Paterson Joseph – who I would walk over hot coals to work with again - nor I ever imagined that the show would transfer. One minute we were doing it at the Gate (where Sharrock was then artistic director) to less than 70 people, and the next minute we were doing it to 1,100 in the Olivier. I think we both felt that the show deserved that bigger audience, and along with (NT artistic director) Nicholas Hytner, we believed we could make it work on a bigger scale. It was an exciting challenge and it meant a lot to me. It was such a risk putting the play on in the very first place. I didn’t know quite how people would react to it, so when Hytner agreed to do it at the NT, that was very special.”
Present: “Nicholas Hytner asked me to read Happy Now whilst I was rehearsing The Emperor Jones, but the two plays are worlds away. It was very enticing to move from the Olivier to a new play in the Cottesloe, where I’d never worked before. I just loved the piece and thought it was incredibly brave, very pertinent and very very funny. I say it’s brave because I think Lucinda Coxon (the author) has been so clear sighted in her telling of what life is like for this particular generation in this moment in time. She doesn’t move away from the difficult stuff, and yet she writes it in such a way, especially the comedy, that allows you to sit back and think, oh well that’s all very recognisable but luckily it’s not my life at all - then suddenly you think, hold on, I probably would do that in that situation and I probably do know somebody who does that, in fact, I do wear shoes like that and actually my husband said that to me this morning. She’s going really close to the edge in terms of saying it how it is. There are a lot of pinpoint references that give the play a very resonant, contemporary feel. At the centre of it is a woman in her late thirties called Kitty who’s trying to do what so many of our generation are trying to do: have it all, the kids, the job, the happy marriage. Is this what we have really all asked for? Does it make us happy? That’s the reference in the title. Kitty’s at a particular crunch time when she meets this man who seems to really get her. And this stranger asks her, well, what if…? It’s that sort of Sliding Doors phenomenon where you have a choice to make, a choice you didn’t even realise you had or were still capable of having until that exact scenario occurs and you’re confronted with it.”
Future: “After a self-imposed maternity leave, I’m taking Equus to Broadway in September. Daniel Radcliffe and Richard Griffiths are coming, but we’re recasting the rest of it. That will be my Broadway debut. That really is a dream come true. It’s the kind of thing you want so much and just don’t believe will ever happen and then suddenly it actually might … I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to it. Richard, Daniel and I agreed it was all or nothing, we wouldn’t do it without each other. The West End production last year was so special. The fact that Peter Shaffer had never let a major revival of it happen until then, that is a huge responsibility, and then having the extraordinary combination of working with Peter and the designer John Napier, who created the original together, was brilliant, absolutely amazing. They were both incredibly generous and allowed me to lead the way in realising my vision of it. To be back in a rehearsal room with Richard Griffiths, frankly, you can’t ask for more. And working with Daniel Radcliffe is nothing but a pleasure. I’ve never met anybody of his age who has his discipline and level of professionalism - and yet there was also a genuine nervousness and naivety because he’d never worked in the theatre before. There’s something very special about being part of somebody’s training, which is essentially what I was doing with him. We had a lot of madness over Daniel here and I’m sure it’ll be the same in New York. The funny thing about the craziness is that, when you’re right in the middle of it all, you still just have to get on with things. If you take your head out of the job, of course you notice all the paparazzi following him to work and back home again, all that. But you have a choice - you either see it from their point of view and become part of the monster that the media can create or you step away from that and remember that that’s nothing to do with me, nothing to do with the job I’m doing. The job that I’m doing is directing this actor in the room, and you just get on with it.”
- Thea Sharrock was speaking to Terri Paddock
Happy Now continues in rep in the NT Cottesloe until 10 May 2008. The cast includes Olivia Williams, Anne Reid, Stanley Townsend and Dominic Rowan. Equus is due to run at Broadway's Broadhurst Theatre for 22 weeks from 25 September 2008 to 8 February 2009. Following its 2007 West End run, the production won three Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards this year: Best Play Revival, Newcomer of the Year (for Radcliffe) and Theatre Event of the Year (for Radcliffe’s steamy publicity photos).