I am forever encouraging my children to follow their passions and have a go, so when I saw the application to sit on the panel for the Olivier Awards, I thought: “That’s my passion, so why not have a go?” I studied drama at school and read English at university; going to the theatre has been my sustenance, almost a vocation! It has been stimulating, enriching and endlessly joyful.
The first production I remember seeing as a young teenager was the Mystery Cycle at the Cottesloe. A promenade performance, it was a totally joyous mingling of time and place and music and dance and actors and audience. I was smitten.
I feel very strongly that young people should be exposed to drama. The Mousetrap Theatre Projects Charity, which gives children who might not usually have the opportunity a chance to go to the theatre and to be inspired in a creative way, and all the education projects run by London theatres, are fantastic. Taking my own children to the theatre has been a revelation; they reminded me how hilarious it was that someone’s name was Bottom!
One of the best shows I have ever seen is War Horse at the National Theatre. Perhaps because it was so surprising, that puppets could be so exquisite and take you to a place of such grit and realism. In terms of a team working together, this was a production in which all the elements combined to create a magical experience.
It was experimental and yet has been a massive success for the NT and has been loved by thousands. It is one of those productions that make you realise how lucky we are to have a state-funded theatre that can take risks and produce something dazzling.
In 2000 I saw Helen Mirren in Tennessee Williams’s Orpheus Descending at the Donmar. She is an actress of such exquisite talent and her performance in the tiny forensic space of the Donmar was so heartbreakingly beautiful that it will stay with me for ever. Vanessa Redgrave’s solo performance in Joan Didion’s play was pretty mind-blowing too. These are extraordinary film actresses but to see them on stage and to experience their energy and focus is mesmerising.
So now I have been give the chance by Radio Times to indulge my passion. And I am looking forward to every second of this year. We are so lucky in London to have so much talent, whether it’s directors, actors, set designers or all the other craftspeople who work to produce these plays for us, the audience, to share with them. I can’t believe I will see so much! I hope as a passionate and experienced audience member to make a useful contribution to the judging. Thank you.