20 Questions: Product star Olivia Poulet

The ”Thick of It” actress has reprised her acclaimed performance of Mark Ravenhill’s satirical monologue at the Arcola Theatre

Olivia Poulet in Product by Mark Ravenhill, which is at the Arcola Theatre to 24 May
Olivia Poulet in Product by Mark Ravenhill, which is at the Arcola Theatre to 23 May
© Richard Davenport

1. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in south west London.

2. What made you want to become an actor?
I don't know if I had one of those epiphany eureka moments like some actors. I just loved making people laugh and telling stories. Then when I realised you could attempt to do this for a living, as a grown up, well I was sold!

3. If you hadn't become an actor, what might you have done professionally?
I love food and I love writing, so I sometimes think I could be a food critic. Though I get so excited by meals out, and I'm scared that if I ate out as a profession it could lose its sheen.

4. First big break?
Probably Whatever Love Means, the TV film about the young love of Charles and Camilla. It could have been utterly gruesome but Bill Humble wrote a brilliant and touching biopic and Larry Fox and I worked well together on screen.

5. Career highlights to date?
The Thick Of It, In The Loop, Top Girls and Product.

6. Worst ever audition?
Being asked to "pop into my bra and pants" for a yoghurt audition and then told to do a "360 degree turn slowly for the camera". I had been told I had to wear 'a short skirt and spaghetti strap top' (I should have known then and run for the hills!) but in the actual meeting, the casting director asked us to all get into our underwear. Her reason for this was – and I quote – "the client needs to check none of you are obese". For the love of God! Surely they could see none of us were obese THROUGH our clothes!

7. What was the first thing you saw on stage that had a big impact on you?
The Merchant of Venice with Geraldine James and Dustin Hoffman. This may have been in part because we met him afterwards and he went through my family saying "Poulet? Another Poulet? Another Poulet?" Then he turned to me. "And the little Poulet?" And smiled. I felt like I could fly!

8. And the last?
I absolutely adored being in How I Learned to Drive at Southwark Playhouse – it was such a fantastic and inspiring role. If that counts.

9. What's your favourite place in London?
My sofa with my boyfriend and some old Amsterdam Gouda cheese from Lidl and roasted cherry tomatoes from Rachel Khoo's cook book, The Little Paris Kitchen. Can I have that?

Poulet plays an agent in the Hollywood satire
Poulet plays an agent in the Hollywood satire
© Richard Davenport

10. Favourite book?
Oh boy, that's hard – so many. I loved A Secret History by Donna Tartt; I loved The Outsider by Camus because it made me feel like I was a real grown up and a burgeoning existentialist; I loved all the Little House on The Prairie books; I loved One Day by David Nicholls…

11. How would you summarise Product in five words?
Satire on the Hollywood machine

12. You play a character originated by the playwright, Mark Ravenhill – does that add pressure?
No, it adds spice!

13. Favourite line in the show?
Come and see it! Seems crazy to give away the best lines.

14. Best memory from last year's Edinburgh run?
It was a brilliant run, but I think it peaked once I got over the nerves of doing a monologue (something I thought I'd never do) and became more relaxed. I just had a huge amount of fun with it and have so many great memories from performing it.

15. Can you relate to the play's depiction of Hollywood?
I haven't ever been close enough to it to comment.

16. If you could go back in time and see any stage production, what would it be?
My grandma was an actress in Donald Wolfit's company. I would adore to go back in time and do a Shakespeare with her and Donald!

17. How do you unwind?
Swimming, wine in the sunshine, hanging out with my beautiful friends, chatting to my mum, laughing with my fella.

18. If you could swap places with anyone for a day, who would it be?
Nigel Farage. He seems such a special balanced and open-minded chap…

19. Favourite theatre anecdote?
In the first interval of Top Girls at Chichester (when the fantasy dinner party has taken place with Marlene – played by Suranne Jones – and she has invited various famous women from history) a woman was overheard saying to her friend "I recognise the modern one dear, I think she's an actress!" Erm, not sure where that left the rest of us…

20. What's next?
More writing, a few nice comedy pilots, moving house, maybe a puppy, and an autumn free to unfold.

Product is at the Arcola Theatre until 23 May 2015