As seen on screen in Dr Who, Da Vinci’s Demons and BBC’s Poldark, actress Sabrina Bartlett – who lives in Battersea – is one to watch this year
Words: Christopher Nye
Many actors just out of drama school might expect to be working as a chugger on Northcote Road Battersea or behind a bar somewhere, but in the 18 months since Sabrina Bartlett graduated from Guildford School of Acting she has worked constantly. ‘It’s all been a bit of a whirlwind,’ she says, when we meet for an SW resident photoshoot upstairs at The Prince Albert pub on Albert Bridge Road, close to where she grew up and still lives today.
She’s been dragged through the mud by medieval warlords in Dr Who, galloped horses and fought with swords in renaissance Tuscany (actually filmed in Swansea) in Da Vinci’s Demons and plays a temptress in Poldark. But you probably remember Sabrina from her most recent TV appearance, in The Passing Bells, BBC1’s First World War drama that was shown on five consecutive nights in November, where she played the proud lover of a young volunteer. The clever part was at the end of the opening episode — by which time we were emotionally stuck to them — when the adorable couple were suddenly revealed as being German. ‘I love that you picked up on that,’ smiles Sabrina. ‘We wanted to look at the youth of that time and show how everyone experienced the same loss and heartache. They fall in love and then he goes off to war but comes back a changed man, and she has to suddenly grow up along with him.’
In the BBC’s remake of Poldark, she plays Karen: ‘Such a contrast with The Passing Bells, which was very innocent and sweet. Keren, on the other hand, arrives in the story with a travelling theatre company. She hasn’t got any money, but she’s botched together a corset, put ribbons in her hair and knows how to get what she wants. She is used to men slobbering all over her and knows how to manipulate them. I think audiences will hate her! But hopefully love her too because she has such determination.’
Sabrina spent her early years in Fulham, growing up in Walham Grove — ‘I would lie in bed listening to the Chelsea crowd during evening matches’ — and attending the Roche primary school. Then her parents, both artists and designers, spent a few years to-ing and fro-ing between south west London and the Kent and Sussex coasts. Eventually the seaside won, while Sabrina stayed on at ballet school in London. Now she lives ‘in an attic in Battersea.’ She loves the village atmosphere of Battersea, indulging her passion for kale, spinach and sweet potato smoothies from her local health food shop, or stocking up at her local Italian deli for her passion: ‘I love cooking, I’m obsessed, I cook all the time and eat enough for many, many people. Then if you want motivation to run it all off, you just look out of the window at Battersea Park and think, God, what a beautiful place!’
How does she explain her success? ‘I do think you make your own luck to an extent, but I also have a great team and an amazing support system at home. So I spend a lot of time on my preparation and I love to create a world and a past for my character. I can’t just rock up to an audition; I will go through a script with lots of coloured pens, annotating and analysing what a scene is really about. Whether that is researching growing up on a German farm before the First World War or whatever.’ She learnt self-discipline at an early age: ‘At dance school we would be up, at assembly and ready at the barre for 7 o’clock in the morning. Then you dance all day until lunchtime and have academic lessons in the afternoon. That’s every day, so it’s quite intense. All that stretching and pas de deux and tap, and I had that instilled from the age of 11 to 18.’
Where next? ‘I would love to do theatre, it would be great to find some freshness in a role, and so I have that itch.’ Her dream part would be Antigone, preferably in the Jean Anouilh version made famous by another south west London beauty, Vivien Leigh, and as she says: ‘Of course, I am the right age to play Juliet…’ if any theatrical producers are reading this. Sabrina knows her classics, speaking eloquently of her favourite film directors (Hitchcock), writers (Shakespeare) and TV dramas (‘Game of Thrones,
Sabrina says ‘I’m not bothered about glamour or parties. Right now I care about developing my craft and learning my job. I like to read plays, but particularly when I’m at home, with a glass of wine, nice and cosy in Battersea’.