Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Interview: Maddy Hill

Maddy Hill is currently starring as Titania and Quince in Simon Evans’ production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Southwark Playhouse.

This ninety minute version of Shakespeare’s play is performed by a cast of seven. It is described as “farce meets Shakespeare in the most exciting way”. The show is currently in previews ahead of press night on 6th June.

After A Midsummer Night’s Dream completes its run on 1st July 2016, Maddy will star as the title role in Matthew Dunster’s Imogen at Shakespeare’s Globe.

Maddy recently completed a two year run playing Nancy Carter in BBC1’s EastEnders. For her performance, in 2015 Maddy won Best Newcomer at the National Television Awards. On stage she previously appeared in As You Like It (Custom Practice/Lion & Unicorn) whilst her screen credits include U Want Me 2 Kill Him? and Hannah Wilson in Father Brown.

I recently spoke to Maddy about why she hopes audiences will relate to this production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, how she feels about taking on the title role in Matthew Dunster’s Imogen and what it’s like to leave the EastEnders bubble… 

I love that this production is described as an “irreverent, mischievous and wildly creative” interpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream! What did you think when you first heard about it?
For me I loved that Titania and Quince are so brilliant opposing… I wouldn’t have expected to play either of those parts ever – let alone now at this stage in my career. That was incredibly exciting. Taking such a well-known play and turning it on its head by trying to perform it with seven actors is the best thing you can possibly do with a play that everybody in the audience is going to know so well. There’s no doubt that they will never have seen anything like this before! 

How did it feel going into rehearsals? It’s such a mammoth task for just seven people! It must have been pretty daunting?
Yep… and we just had two weeks [laughs]. The premise of this show has existed before so we weren’t totally scrabbling around in the dark – it was done last summer. Effectively me and Freddie (Fox) have been slotted in, but actually because so many people have put their ideas into the mix it has changed quite a lot. It has been incredibly collaborative and really open. There has been some serious reshuffling to the script [laughs], I’ve had a brilliant time working on it.

Maddy and the cast of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

After doing a long screen job, is it nice to come back to theatre and have the luxury of rehearsal time again? Have you enjoyed being able to be creative?
Incredibly so – I feel utterly emancipated! I’m just really relishing using my entire body and doing all the movement and having time to actually sit down and configure things. Screen work has its benefits in that there’s no waiting around – you just get it done. What you can take from that into the rehearsal room is the ability to think on your feet – you don’t mull over ideas, you just do them.

Did the seven of you get on straight away? 
We have to put a lot of ourselves into the play, so before rehearsals we had three days of script work to do read throughs and some reshuffling. We sort of got to know each other pretty quickly, and we all get on incredibly well actually [laughs]. We’re all very, very different characters but everyone has a sense of humour and knows what’s funny about themselves – I think that will be apparent in the show. 

Maddy in rehearsals
How do you feel about putting it in front of an audience? It sounds like it’s a whirlwind for everyone onstage and in the audience!
Absolutely. I’m very interested in the difference between people that know the play and people that don’t. I think that because we’re making it relevant by bringing ourselves into it, hopefully people that aren’t familiar with the play will enjoy it. I mean, it’s hard not to be familiar with the play – we’ve all looked at A Midsummer Night’s Dream at some point, whether it was at primary school or for A Level. I think most people have a basic grasp of it because it’s hard to escape. 

The Southwark Playhouse is so intimate, how do you feel about having the first row so close?
Errrr…. yep it’s terrifying [laughs]. It’s something I’ve missed very much and I think the play is quite informal which, for me, is a nice way back into theatre. I think I would much rather go back to theatre this way rather than on a massive stage where I’m trying to reach the back row – like the Wyndham's Theatre or something like that. For me this is more comfortable, it’s a nicer shift coming from screen.

So after A Midsummer Night’s Dream you’re heading off to the Globe to take on the title role in Matthew Dunster’s Imogen. How are you feeling? It’s such a big deal!
[laughs] Ahhh… I can’t wait. I honestly still can’t believe I’ve been given the opportunity. This is a brilliant precursor, because Imogen really is going to be big. It’s on a massive scale and is going to take a lot of technique. As an actress, I’m going to be using all my physical and vocal tools. I’ve been getting my head back into shape. Shakespeare is a bit like riding a bike; you forget that you know this whole other language. As soon as you immerse yourself in it again it becomes instinctive. As far as I’m concerned, I couldn’t have had two better opportunities come my way. I’m absolutely chuffed!

When you’re in a show like EastEnders for two years how does it feel to suddenly leave the bubble?
It’s so, so different. For me it has been incredibly liberating because EastEnders is a bubble – it kind of needs to be a bubble because the show is so overexposed. You need to be protected in that studio in Elstree. Just getting on public transport to work again is so nice for me… I can people watch! There’s a big part of me that feels I’m back in the real world and I’m really relishing it. 

Maddy at the National Television Awards

Sometimes when you come out of a soap it can be hard for casting directors to see you as other characters, but with these two jobs you’ve shattered the Nancy Carter stereotype already!
I haven’t done them yet – I might still just do it all as Nancy Carter [laughs, jokingly]… just walk on and do a really low key and underplayed Titania. Can you imagine?! That would be so, so bad! I mean that’s the idea; as much as I loved my character and loved everyone working on the show, I didn’t want to be typecast. I was well aware of the danger of being typecast, particularly at a young age, so I really wanted to stretch myself and do something different – and I can’t think of anything better than what came along. Hopefully it will have that impact!

Going forward is theatre your main focus, or would you like to strike a balance with stage and screen work?
I want my career to be as varied as humanly possible. Every actor knows they can’t choose what job they do next, but I want to do as much variety as I can. I just want to learn everything, and the only way to do that is by doing every different type of job you possibly can. 

Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs at the Southwark Playhouse until 1st July 2016.
Please visit for further information and tickets.

Imogen opens at Shakespeare’s Globe on 23rd September (previews from 17th September) and runs until 16th October 2016.

Photo Credit 2: Harry Grindrod
Photo Credit 3:  Tomas Turpie

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