Theatre News

5 minutes with: Romola Garai – 'I’d love to have a crack at playing Macbeth'

The actor, currently starring in ”Measure for Measure”, discusses Joe Hill-Gibbins’ ‘strange and weird’ style and wanting to take on the Scottish Play

Romola Garai in Measure for Measure at the Young Vic
Romola Garai in Measure for Measure at the Young Vic

© Keith Pattinson

I used to enter poetry reading competitions when I was a child. So I've always had a passion for speech and drama. My mother was a great lover of the theatre and used to take us a lot. I got into the National Youth Theatre when I was 14, so I was pretty young and never did a production with them. When I was 17 I was in a school production and a casting director whose niece was at the school saw me and I got a professional job from that.

No one in my family was in the arts, my dad was a high street bank manager so we didn’t have that sort of world. But it came into my life, and when you’re young you just think ‘this is a great opportunity’, for a while in my twenties I thought ‘this isn’t for me’ so I finished my degree and got back into it after.

It's hard to class what a successful actor is. If you’re able to live in London, raise a family and do that through acting, then you’re pretty successful in acting. I was able to earn a wage from it from 18/19.

I’m playing Isabella [in Measure for Measure], who’s a nun who is told by the assistant duke Angelo that she has to sleep with him in order to stop her brother from being executed.

In true Joe Hill-Gibbins style it's very exploratory and strange and weird, but really exciting and I hope it is a really thrilling and very accurate version of the play.

It’s an opportunity to see what I think is arguably one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays performed in a relatively intimate space. Joe’s not interested in the play being great or poetical, he wants to get to what the core of these plays are. At their very core they are full of rage and violence, sadness and humour, he’s trying to extract that from the play.

I’ve had some odd auditions with ‘exciting’ or ‘edgy’ directors who want you to talk about your personal life to them, and then you spill the beans to them because you want to get the job, when you don’t get them you feel pretty violated.

I once had a bad audition for a musical, my agent told me I was just going in for a chat. When I walked onto the stage they were sitting in the dark of the theatre, I walked into the spotlight and they asked me what I was going to sing, I had to explain I hadn’t prepared for anything and they were like ‘what a dick!’.

I’d love to have a crack at Macbeth. A lot of the Shakespeare plays have not been attacked enough by women. I have this idea that you could do Macbeth in a modern dress with the genders reversed which would be interesting.

Measure for Measure runs at the Young Vic until 14 November.