5 minutes with: Helen McCrory – 'We've become too reverent with Rattigan'

”The Deep Blue Sea” actress discusses working with director Carrie Cracknell again and why they are taking an ‘unusual’ stance to Rattigan’s work

Helen McCrory
Helen McCrory

I moved all around the world as a child because my father was in the foreign office. I used to do ballet quite seriously but stopped because we moved to east Africa and there wasn't a ballet teacher there. When I moved to England I had a very influential teacher at my school – like most people who go into the job [acting] do. He was fantastic, he took us to see the theatre and spoke to us about it a lot. I then went off to study at the Drama Centre.

Richard Eyre saw me in a production when I was getting my Equity card and he gave me a lead on the main house at the National. He then went on to give me another seven leads over four years and really, that was my third training.

Helly [Helena Bonham Carter] and I used to spend hours looking at all the props, sets and costumes on Harry Potter. It was great fun because there were so many interesting people in it and we had so much time off, I mean, we spent a long time chatting to each other, and everybody in each department was extraordinary. It was a very happy shoot, it was great fun and David Yates [director] was lovely.

I think Rattigan is a brilliant writer and I feel if he were alive now, how frustrated he might be that everybody does his plays the same way. I'd seen Rattigan performed beautifully but often quite similarly and there seemed to be a house style that had been agreed. With The Deep Blue Sea, I was really interested to see if it was possible to play Hester in a slightly different way and actually approach it as you would for instance with a Shakespeare – you don't necessarily get up in your doublet and hose and come on with your ruff. We're very irreverent with the classics but suddenly we've become very reverent with Terence Rattigan so ours is a very irreverent production with quite an irreverent Hester. I think that you don't give true justice as an artist unless you really try and reinvent productions each time you do them. I'm very nervous to see how it will be received because it's unusual.

It's really interesting working with Carrie [Cracknell] again because we worked in a very different way on Medea. Ben Power, who did the adaptation, was in the room as well as a chorus of 13 women and a choreographer. We also had Alison Goldfrapp writing the music. Carrie would spend a lot of time managing the production as well as trying to look at the script itself. We often disagreed quite vehemently about things but always got on very well and on this production, I think that that sort of shorthand honesty has led to a trust in the rehearsal room that has been very liberating. It's a very calm rehearsal room actually and we work hard. There's not a lot of sitting around talking about anecdotes and going out partying, it's everybody arrives on the front foot and is ready for work and gets their head down. I find that really interesting and I've loved working with her again.

The Deep Blue Sea runs at the Lyttelton Theatre until 21 September.

Read our review of The Deep Blue Sea here