September 17, 2010 comments off

A year into an acting career, Vanessa Kirby is playing Shakespeare’s biggest female role in Leeds. Nick Ahad met her.

THE start Vanessa Kirby has made to her acting career is impressive enough to demand an interview.

It turns out to be even more impressive than at first thought.

How does it feel to have a CV loaded down with awards and brilliant roles just a year after leaving drama school, has to be the first question?

“I didn’t actually go to drama school,” says Kirby, coyly, almost apologetic.

I’d been misinformed. It turns out that Kirby landed a place at drama school – the high profile LAMDA – but she turned it down.

All the training she has had – aside from three years of student productions at the University of Exeter – has been on the job.

The breakthrough came last year, when she met with David Thacker, the artistic director of Bolton Octagon.

At the end of a first meeting, Thacker offered Kirby the opportunity to appear in the theatre’s next three plays: Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, Ibsen’s Ghosts and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

“He asked if I was going to say yes and I said, ‘I’m supposed to be going to LAMDA’,” says Kirby.

“He told me he would give me the weekend to think about it.”

Weekend over, decision made, LAMDA spoken to, Kirby accepted the job offer from Thacker and set off on a remarkable career journey.

How remarkable? There was a weekend between the end of the last performance at Bolton Octagon and the start of her next job – at the National Theatre.

When that job finished, she had a fortnight of meetings in LA, arrived back in Blighty and half a week later started rehearsals at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds for the role of Rosalind in As You Like It.

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