As Amanda Hale stars in Eldorado at the Arcola Theatre, the White Queen actress talks to Mark Kebble who suspects this won’t be the last we see of Amanda Hale
I’ve been in this job long enough to have grown accustomed to – no, make that bored of – actors coming out with your safe, regular soundbites. It’s a reason why, despite the early hour, I am riveted by my latest interviewee, Amanda Hale. Asking about The White Queen, screened last year on BBC and a show that hyped up Amanda’s performance as Margaret Beaufort, is one example of her searing honesty.
‘I didn’t know if I wanted to act after that,’ she says, cradling her coffee. ‘It was ten episodes and I got a bit of episode one, but they expect you to sign away six months of your life in another country. My gut instinct was screaming at me not to do it – I didn’t listen and ended up feeling really trapped. I was away from home and it was hard.’
Luckily she didn’t turn her back on acting and Amanda is much closer to home for her next project, starring in Eldorado at the Arcola Theatre in Dalston. A Clerkenwell local for the past year, she genuinely looks elated about the fact she can walk to work – ‘It really makes a difference to your day’ – and as the interview progresses, and considering how she chooses her roles, I am already convinced it will be something special. ‘It’s about a marriage between two people who should be perfect for each other,’ she attempts at summarising Eldorado, ‘but it’s like a Greek tragedy. It’s just timing that constantly makes them miss each other.’
The dark comedy, written by German playwright Marius von Mayenburg, originally premiered in Berlin in 2004, and the translated version has gone on to travel around the world, with the Arcola Theatre its first UK stop. Amanda almost thrives on the fact it’s ‘a really weird play’ – one that asks what happens when the drive for success carries us past our coping point – and her character does sound like an actor’s dream. ‘She’s a concert pianist who was a really gifted child, but now she has started to feel like she has not really lived,’ Amanda explains. ‘It sort of reminds me of A Doll’s House [which returned recently with Hattie Morahan in the lead role, who is a former co-star of Amanda’s from The City, which also featured Benedict Cumberbatch] – she wants to find out who she is without her domineering mum, without her piano, without others telling her what she should be. She gets stronger and stronger as the play goes on, but I am almost certain everyone will think she’s crazy and fragile!’
Looking at her CV, she certainly has form when it comes to theatre. She has appeared just down the road at the Almeida (in The House of Bernarda Alba), plying her trade on the Young Vic and Royal Court stages on several occasions, and was up for an Evening Standard Award for Outstanding Newcomer for The Glass Menagerie. ‘That was surreal because it’s the way my career has gone…’ she begins, before hesitating and adding: ‘I don’t even call it a career, it’s like a collection of jobs, I don’t have a trajectory at all. That was a classic example – I finished that and didn’t work for ten months.
‘The awards came along and I had been working in a bar and I couldn’t have felt less like an actor. I was so skint and so knackered, and it was a lunch time ceremony and I had nothing to wear, so I was in a borrowed suit and I was terrified that I would have red wine spilt all over me – and I was surrounded by people with red wine! I had to get to my bar shift at 3pm and I had to leave before my category even came up!’
She tells the story at breakneck speed, with the odd burst of laughter cutting in, but it’s an incredible insight into the life of a modern day actor. Amanda was terrific in The Glass Menagerie, and has had roles in some of our biggest and best TV shows in recent years (Spooks, Rev, Ripper Street), but that doesn’t mean life is a walk in the park. The films that have caught her eye recently certainly do lean towards the more independent spirit of the industry. ‘I have just seen Her, the Spike Jonze film, and it’s amazing,’ she gushes. ‘And Blue is the Warmest Colour… Oh my god, that is so incredible. Films like that you can tell didn’t come out of a committee in a room, all wrestling over a script and wondering what people wanted to see: they came out of one person’s vision of how they see the world and what’s true to them.’
We talk about the Paddy Considine film Tyrannosaur – bleak, tough to watch but utterly engrossing – and it leads on to her Rev co-star, Olivia Colman. ‘You wonder if Tyrannosaur hadn’t happened would people still be taking her for granted?’ Amanda questions. ‘So much about this industry is luck – she has always been brilliant, but she never had a chance to show what she could do until that film. I remember trying to tell Olivia how much her performance killed me and as I opened my mouth I started crying. She knew what I was trying to say, but I couldn’t get it out. She is so lovely and brilliant. There are a lot of Olivia Colmans out there who are brilliant actors who have never had that chance.’ Keep a close eye on Amanda Hale.
Eldorado runs until 3 May. 24 Ashwin Street E8 3DL; 020 7503 1646;arcolatheatre.com