Actress Charlotte Randle's face is familiar to millions, even those who haven't seen her in a slew of recent stage productions.

In 1999, Randle played the concerned and attractive neighbour in the Yellow Pages TV commercial, called "Cleaners", about a young man so messy that said neighbour believes he's been burgled. The commercial proved so popular she even won a Best Actress award for it.

But it's for her stage rather than her television credits that Randle has really built her reputation. In recent years, she has appeared in high-profile productions of As You Like It (RSC) The Dispute (Lyric Hammersmith), Sexual Perversity in Chicago, The Man Who Had All the Luck (Sheffield Crucible), Marat/Sade and as the star-crossed lover in Romeo and Juliet (National).

Randle is currently starring, as the only woman in a four-strong cast, in the UK premiere production of Kenneth Lonergan's Lobby Hero. After a sell-out run as part of the Donmar Warehouse's American Imports season, the critically acclaimed production transfers this week to the West End's New Ambassadors Theatre for a limited season.


Date & place of birth
I was born in Westminster hospital (which doesn't exist anymore) in London. I don't want to say when because I've had a lot of parts playing characters much younger than myself and I don't want to jinx that.

Lives now in
Westbourne Park, west London

Trained at
Webber Douglas Academy

First big break
Marivaux's The Dispute at the Lyric Hammersmith in 1999. It was a co-production with the RSC and was hugely successful. The director Neil Bartlett became ill and had to take two years off after that, so the production was very close to his heart and to ours. Before that I'd worked at the National and at Chichester, but mainly as understudies or smaller parts. I'd started to think 'this (acting) ain't going so well' and maybe I'd have to do something else with my life. Then out of nowhere I was given this great part in The Dispute.

Career highlights to date
The Taming of the Shrew at the RSC, which led to me playing Juliet at the National. Oh, I won a Best Actress award once - for a commercial I did. It was a really popular commercial for Yellow Pages where I play the neighbour of this guy who's so messy I think he's been burgled. I couldn't go to the awards ceremony because I was onstage at the time. Also, it's more funny than a real career highlight, but recently I actually got a table at the Ivy. That was one of the most exciting things ever! I took my parents.

Favourite productions you've ever worked on
The Dispute. It's a fantastic play and we had the nicest time ever doing it. Last year, I did two productions - David Mamet's Sexual Perversity in Chicago and Arthur Miller's The Man Who Hall All the Luck - at the Sheffield Crucible, which were great. The atmosphere in that theatre is incredible. I'd work there again at the drop of a hat.

Favourite co-stars
The three guys I'm working with at the moment - David Tennant, Dominic Rowan and Gary McDonald. They're amazing to be on stage with. Hayley Carmichael, from The Dispute. I learnt so much from her - focus, discipline and courage - and we're still great friends.

Favourite directors
Neil Bartlett. His love of theatre and theatricality is overwhelming and he's instilled in me a abiding responsibility for the audience, which funnily, is not widespread enough in the profession. I've never lost it. Michael Grandage. With him, you start work at the beginning of rehearsals and end up with a really fantastic play but you don't know how he did it. Also Mark Brokaw, who directed Lobby Hero. His rehearsal room is a place for very hard and determined work.

Favourite playwrights
At the moment, Kenneth Lonergan (who wrote Lobby Hero as well as This Is Our Youth). His plays are so accessible to an audience at the same time as being incredibly deep food for thought. Both Mamet and Miller in Sheffield aided me enormously in my approach to Lonergan. I also like Tennessee Williams, though I've never done any. And I adore Lorca. On a completely different level, I love the time concept plays of JB Priestley, even though the language is so old-fashioned now.

What roles would you most like to play still?
Regan in King Lear - I've never played a really nasty character before. I'd like to do Blanche DuBois (from A Streetcar Named Desire) one day. And Cleopatra just so I could do the "I dream of an Emperor Antony" speech. Some of Chekhov's women are fascinating, as are the ones in The House of Bernarda Alba. That's why I love Lorca - six fantastic roles for women!

What was the last stage production you say that you really enjoyed?
Jesus Hopped the A Train. It was one of the most exciting, passionate, involving two hours I've spent in a theatre, and the performances blew my mind.

What advice would you give the government to secure the future of British theatre?
Clean up the West End.

If you could swap places with one person (living or dead), who would it be?
I had a dream last week that I was married to David Beckham; it was one of the best dreams I've ever had. I just love him. So I'd like to be Victoria Beckham.

Favourite books
Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. It's about how to achieve immortality through hedonism, which really appeals to me. As a child, Frost in May by Antonia White was a favourite.

Favourite after-show haunt
Century, I'm a member there.

Favourite holiday destinations
I've just come back from the Kruger National Park in South Africa. I've been three times. It's the best place in the world, completely different - like being at the bottom of the sea - because human beings come second there.

Why did you want to accept your role in Lobby Hero?
Dawn (a rookie cop) is probably the best part I've ever had the honour of playing. She is so fully rounded, with lots of little quirks and foibles, and there are so many opportunities to explore different aspects of her personality. She is four-dimensional. And Lonergan's language is very vibrant and exciting. It's interesting, too, how he's taken four people that you'd just pass in the street, people in menial jobs who you think don't really have hearts and souls, and opened them up. I love that. I also really wanted to work at the Donmar Warehouse.

In Lobby Hero, the title character Jeff hates the monotony of his job & is just doing it to save some money. What's the most menial and/or monotonous job you've ever had to do?
I've done so many! I waitressed for 12 years. Just before Lobby Hero opened at the Donmar, I was still doing seven shifts a week. One of my jobs at the restaurant was to get inside giant pots that had been burnt at the bottom and scrape them with wire wool. I also once spent eight months collating invoices and writing cheques for a medical insurance company. My little finger went completely numb and shiny.

And in terms of a long-term career, if you hadn't become an actor, what would you have done professionally?
I thought I wanted to be a barrister, but I got fed up with studying after A-levels. It also bothers me that there seems to be no correlation between law and justice. I'm quite passionate about justice so it probably wouldn't have been the job for me. Sometimes I think I'd like to be a florist.

What are your plans for the future?
The transfer of Lobby Hero takes me to the end of August. I don't know beyond that. It would be nice just to keep working.

Anything else you'd like to add?
Just that I really hope people will come and see Lobby Hero. At the Donmar, Dominic Rowan and I used to watch people's reactions when we weren't on stage and it was wonderful. The involvement of the audience is so exciting, there'd be huge laughter echoing around the building. It's just a fantastic night out that also leaves people with something to think about.

- Charlotte Randle was speaking to Terri Paddock


Lobby Hero transfers to the New Ambassadors Theatre from 1 July 2002 (previews from 26 June) and continues to 17 August.