5 minutes with: Jane Hazlegrove 'I left Casualty because I wanted to get back to theatre'

The actress tells us what it’s like working on the Royal Court’s ”The Sewing Group” and why she left TV for the stage

Jane Hazlegrove (centre) in The Sewing Group
Jane Hazlegrove (centre) in The Sewing Group
© Stephen Cummiskey

I was a child actress and didn't go to drama school. I was quite a precocious child, a bit odd, and thank God drama found me via teachers and youth theatre. Here I am at 48 still doing it.

I can't remember a time when I didn't go to the theatre. Which is unusual for someone who grew up in Manchester in the '70s. My mum is a keen theatre goer and I used to be dragged along to the Royal Exchange and others like Contact and the Coliseum. She'd take me to London once a year to see a musical too.

There's nowhere to hide in The Sewing Group. The design is a big wooden box and I am one of a group of women from the 17th century sewing in a room. The playwright Emma [EV Crowe] wanted to write a play about the start of the industrial revolution and what women were up to then. There are parallels to now: there’s a whole argument that we are undergoing a digital revolution.

Jane Hazlegrove
Jane Hazlegrove

There's a lot of sewing in it, which I had to learn how to do. I said when they offered me the job that I'm the least practical person in the world. It was a bit of a worry that I was going to sew cloth to my costume, but it hasn't happened yet. Our director Stuart [Laing] made us sew everyday for 90 minutes in the morning. It was a bit scary at first, but it created a really contemplative frame of mind that is required for the play. So he's a genius as far as I'm concerned.

I'm chuffed to be back at the Royal Court. It's such an exciting place. It's a place where you're expected to be brave, but at the same time there's this overwhelming feeling of being nurtured as well. Theatre has always been important in my life, but right now it is needed more than ever.

I left Casualty over a year ago now. I didn't quite do a decade, it was eight years in all. I miss the people, but it's an all consuming job. You work Monday to Friday and playing a paramedic means you are out on the road somewhere in Wales and it's teeming down. It's relentless. I loved it and I met the most incredible people and I learnt a lot about television acting and myself but it was time to go.

The impetus to leave was because I missed theatre. I wanted to see if those muscles still worked. I was a little apprehensive in rehearsals, but the company is amazing, it's been so accommodating. I had to jump in and commit myself and they gave me the room to do that.

The Sewing Group runs at the Royal Court until 23 December.

Read our review of The Sewing Group