(Edward Petherbridge’s article appeared in the Guardian, 9/24.)
Laurence Olivier handed me the script in his office, saying: “Marvellous part, marvellous play.” And that was almost the end of the interview. I simply asked: “What about Celia?” I’d been told I might be going to play that role in an all-male As You Like It, but that production was now on hold, and I found myself cast in Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.
I hadn’t had a new part with the National Theatre company for 18 months – I’d been in Trelawny of the Wells and The Royal Hunt of the Sun; I walked on in Othello and I had a tiny cameo in Franco Zeffirelli’s Much Ado About Nothing. Suddenly, I was on Mount Olympus.
I read Stoppard’s play on the bus home to Peckham. Having not known anything about it before, I quickly discovered that I was on every single page. I had a notion of how it should go. It seemed as if all my career up until then had been a training in just the skills for this role.