Lindsay Duncan: I get nervous every night on stage

The actress reveals her love of Strictly – and the time she got tongue-tied speaking French


Favourite TV role?


That is an impossible question to answer because I have chosen all of my parts because they were either interesting or exciting and picking one out is so hard. I am always about the writer and if you choose good writing you rarely go wrong – or maybe I have been really lucky.

Favourite programme on TV?

Oh Strictly! God, I love it – absolutely adore it! I was very pleased to do a little independent play with Kara Tointon recently and I think I bored her with my incessant questions about all of the backstage gossip.

I also enjoyed Call the Midwife with the lovely Jessica Raine and Miranda Hart – who is also a huge Strictly fan. The party I would most like to be invited to is Miranda Hart’s Strictly final party! I want to be there! It’s my idea of heaven – lots of professional dancers and champagne.

I would never be on it because I am too private and I would find it too intrusive but the dancing is so beautiful – I often cry watching them perform.

What are the challenges of going from TV to the stage?

Stage is terrifying – it’s live! I still get nervous every night I go on – I take it very seriously. You have one chance to give the audience a nice evening and you can’t do it casually. On TV if you really screw it up you can go again but on stage you only have one chance to entertain that audience.

TV role you covet?

I don’t particularly think like that. I am happy to see what comes along and, to be honest, as long as I can do some good work and enough of it to pay my bills, I quite like not working! I have a really good life – I love staying up late and drinking too much and travelling – so being out of work occasionally is fine by me!

Worst moment on stage?

In Hay Fever, which I am in at the moment, I have to sing and play the piano – neither of which I do – in French – which I don’t speak… During one performance I realised that I was playing the wrong notes and if you try as a non-pianist, non-singer, with schoolgirl French, to improvise in that situation, surprisingly it doesn’t work.

I went into complete meltdown and then had to pick myself up and pretend it hadn’t happened.

Two-time Olivier Award winner Lindsay Duncan is playing Judith Bliss in Hay Fever at the Noel Coward theatre, booking until 2 June.


See pictures and interviews with Britain’s leading actors – including Joseph Mawle, Russell Tovey, Eve Myles, Celia Imrie, Mackenzie Crook, Anne-Marie Duff, Jessica Raine, Kara Tointon, Tom Chambers, Ben Miller and many more – in Radio Times magazine’s fantastic Olivier Awards special! Also in the new issue: Paul Weller, Jools Holland, Pamela Stephenson, Mary Beard, Clare Balding, Two Greedy Italians and Dara O Briain. In shops now.