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Rising Star: Morfydd Clark

The actress, currently appearing in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, talks Welsh language plays in a field and the importance of regional theatre

Morfydd Clark as Cecile in Les Liaisons Dangereuses
© Johan Persson

Morfydd Clark graduated from Drama Centre in 2013 and went straight into two years of TV and film work, including The Falling alongside Maxine Peake and Maisie Williams. She returned to the stage last year in the critically acclaimed Violence and Son at the Royal Court, followed swiftly by Romeo and Juliet at The Crucible in Sheffield. She is now starring opposite Dominic West and Una Stubbs in Les Liaisons Dangereuses at the Donmar Warehouse.

What is your first memory of wanting to become an actor?

I went to a Welsh medium school and we did the eisteddfod every year, we'd compete in singing and reciting competitions, so I was always performing, though not particularly successfully. I did a school show when I was 13, Under Milk Wood, and I guess that's where it really started, I played Mrs Dai Bread Two, it was really fun.

When did you decide to pursue it as a career?

I left school at 16 and just did bits and bobs. Then I auditioned for National Youth Theatre of Wales and the British one. I got in – much to my surprise – that's when it became real. I was one of the youngest in the company so I was kind of like ‘Oh wow! Grown ups who sing and act, it's just wonderful!'

No one from my family is in acting, so the only route I had in was going to drama school. I was really shy and those three years were vital in helping me grow my confidence.

What's the most important thing you learnt during training?

We did this class where you create your own characters and [the lecturer] encouraged us to people watch and never stop being fascinated by people. I became obsessed with 24 Hours in A&E and One Born Every Minute and all these Channel 4 docs, just watching people in extreme states and how they deal with that.

You went straight into TV and film, was that a conscious choice that you made?

My very first job was a Welsh language play, in a field on a mountain in North Wales with Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru. After that I kind of fell into doing TV and film. It was a surprise to me because it seemed massively out of my reach, it was great. Then last year was mostly all theatre.

You're first major theatre role was Violence and Son at the Royal Court...

Yes, that was such a wonderful thing to be part of, just a privilege. As a Welsh person, if you are looking for a monologue you go to Gary Owen's plays. So to be in one of his was just wonderful. The cast were fantastic and I'm so glad that David [Moorst] won the Evening Standard Award for it.

Then you went up to Sheffield for Romeo and Juliet...

I love Sheffield. I think that because I come from Cardiff which is quite small, every new city I go to I'm like ‘WOW!'. It was a really young cast with lots of people straight from drama school, so everyone was really excited and raring to go. Jonathan Humphreys as a director is just brilliant, he's really young as well.

Is it important to you to work in different places around the UK?

I'm really passionate about regional theatre, I think it is so important. Particularly coming from Wales, where you've got the Welsh Language work as well, that's what I grew up on. In lots of ways London is the centre of things but there is such exciting work being done around the country.

Tell us a bit about Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

It's such a clever play. Every time I watch it I just think ‘Christopher Hampton you clever, clever man.' It's about two people who have this weird relationship, they basically have lots of affairs and then report back to each other. They decide to get revenge on this guy who slighted them both in different ways. He's engaged to be married to my character.

Working with Una Stubbs has been a bit of a dream, as has Josie Rourke, she's so well read and so passionate but ultimately she's so warm and kind to her cast. It has been great watching her be so nurturing, especially watching from my perspective as someone beginning their career.

Do you agree that there is a lack of opportunities for women in theatre?

I feel that I'm quite lucky that I'm coming into this industry at a time when everyone is talking about gender equality in theatre. Lots of actresses that have been in the industry for a long time have been brave and stood up about it so I feel that I'm coming in at a time of change.

It wasn't until we were halfway through rehearsals when we were doing a dance class and Arthur [Pita, movement director] asked for women on one side and men on the other, we realised there were more women than men! It's a special play in the way that all the women are totally different characters, there's not a ‘stock' woman in it, which is wonderful.

What's next for you?

I've been quite busy so I'm planning to relax for a little bit back in Wales. I did a film last year called Love and Friendship, that has its premiere at Sundance so I'm going to see what happens with that and then we'll see.

Les Liaisons Dangereuses runs at the Donmar Warehouse until 13 February 2016 and will broadcast to cinemas on 28 January.