Interview: Amanda Donohoe, actress

Danile Casey and Amanda Donohoe in Star Quality at The King's
Danile Casey and Amanda Donohoe in Star Quality at The King's
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STAR quality is something Golden Globe winner Amanda Donohoe has in abundance.

The 50-year-old, who achieved international stardom starring alongside Oliver Reed in Nicolas Roeg’s 1986 film Castaway, boasts an impressive body of work.

Amanda Donohoe

Amanda Donohoe

Right now she is midway through her first theatrical tour, appropriately playing the lead role in Noel Coward’s Star Quality, which tours to The King’s next week.

“It’s a bit of a shellshock, moving from town to town every week, but once you get into the stride, it’s fine,” she smiles.

“I’m used to being in a theatre and getting to know it quite well, but on tour each venue is completely different. There are different entrances, set-ups and lay-outs to get your head around every Monday night at seven o’clock.”

Donohoe’s reasons for accepting the role are simple.

“I’ve never done Noel Coward on the stage before and you always want to tick off as many playwrights, especially the good ones, as you can.

“That and the fact that Star Quality was a play I already knew. One of my first TV performances for the BBC was playing a tiny part in it - Susanah York played the character I’m playing now.” That character is theatrical grand dame Lorraine Barrie, a woman fighting for survival in a changing world.

In the piece, the year is 1951. Coward takes us behind the scenes of a new West End production called Dark Heritage, conjuring up an authentic backstage world of talent, treachery and unforgettable characters.

There’s Donohoe’s temperamental, manipulative leading lady, the ruthless director, a jaded old trouper and, caught somewhere between them all, an innocent young playwright.

The action runs from the first rehearsal to the opening night and charts the crashes of ego as they become increasingly hilarious and violent. Life imitating art imitating life then?

“Although the situations in the play are extremes, I do recognise them,” concedes Donohoe. “Star Quality is about a time in British theatre when the old school were meeting the new wave for the first time. It’s just after the war and Lorriane Barrie is very much about the old school-style theatre but she knows that to survive in the business she must change and embrace the new naturalism that she finds rather hard to deal with... she thinks it’s all a bit pretentious and artsy farty. She is a complete diva and great fun to play.”

Lorraine Barrie is just the latest in a long line of strong women Donohoe has played. After Castaway she worked with Ken Russell on The Lair Of The White Worm and The Rainbow. She also appeared opposite Jim Carrey in Liar Liar.

On TV her credits include LA Law, Murder City, Bad Girls, Ally McBeal and, of course Emmerdale, in which she played ruthless businesswoman Natasha Wylde for two years.

“That’s the joy of this business,” she reflects. “You do a job that pays well to do the jobs that don’t, which is theatre. It’s a very different ball game and I believe theatre is a slightly more pure form of acting. No one is editing you or cutting your performance. It’s your two hours to just flow and make the character your own.”

Donohoe also has a couple of unexpected credits to her name - in 1981 she appeared in the videos for Adam And The Ants’ Antmusic and Stand And Deliver.

“It was wonderful. I was a punk rocker at the time,” she offers by way of explanation. Today, that’s hard to imagine.

“Well I’m 50 now, I was 19 then.... it was many years ago,” she exclaims.

Star Quality, King’s Theatre, Leven Street, Tuesday-Saturday, 7.30pm (Wed & Satday mats 2.30pm), £16.50-£27.50, 0131-529 6000