Josie Lawrence: 'My earliest stage memory was playing one half of a swing door'
The comedian and actress talks embarrassing moments and career highlights ahead of opening in Hannah Chissick's revival of Brecht's classic drama
1. How would you describe Mother Courage (the play) in five words?
A powerful, funny, serious ride (on a wagon).
2. How would you describe Mother Courage, the character?
A businesswoman, mother, survivor and hard nut.
3. What is it like starring in this production?
There's no stars, it's complete ensemble work. Although I do sit on a gold throne during rehearsal notes.
4. It's an exceptionally big part, is it an endurance test?
No, however vitamins help.
5. It's also an iconic role, had you always wanted to play it?
I read the play when I was 16 and loved it. I decided never to watch a production because one day I wanted to make it mine.
6. How did you feel when you found out you got the part?
7. What is your earliest memory in entertainment?
Playing one half of a swing door at a holiday camp. I was five.
8. What do you consider to be your big break?
There are many but probably playing Kate in Taming of the Shrew at the RSC.
9. If you hadn't become a performer what would you have done?
I would have been a gardener.
10. What has been your career highlight?
Theatre-wise it would be The King and I, on film Enchanted April, and in my comedy career it's the Comedy Store Players.
11. Most embarrassing moment?
Not being able to get my jeans back on after a nude scene. I was sweaty with nerves and could only get them up to my knees – I hopped off stage.
12. What draws you to acting?
What draws me to breathing? Something I love and have to do.
13. Who are your idols?
Glenda Jackson, Beryl Reid and Shakespeare.
14. If you could go back in time and change one thing in your career what would it be?
Not to audition for the part of an ugly troll stuck in a lift. It's on film somewhere.
15. What have you seen on stage recently?
Le Grand Mort. I adore Julian Clary.
16. You've done a lot of improvised comedy – does improvisation come easily to you?
Yes, I hope so.
17. Had you always thought you would be a performer?
Absolutely. I don't come from a theatrical background, but all my family knew I would become an actress from four years-old onwards.
18. What do you do to unwind in your spare time?
Gardening or sitting with a cat on my lap.
19. What would your dream role be?
Mother Courage, so that's lucky.
20. What advice would you give to aspiring singers and actors?
Don't just wait. Get together and create.
Mother Courage and Her Children runs at Southwark Playhouse from 6 November to 9 December, with previews from 2 November.