What are you up to in Fiddler On The Roof?
Everything — acting, singing, a bit of dancing, crying, laughing. The whole business of show. I play Golde. It’s set in 1903 and we live in the Pale of Settlement in Russia, which is where the Jews were forced to live under the Russian tsar. We’re very poor but we have our traditions to keep us together. We’re desperate to get our daughters married, we’re living under the threat of pogroms and there are a lot of amazing songs, and joy and sadness.
Is it a timely show?
It’s timeless as it’s about generational change. But it’s pertinent now with the migrant crisis. It asks if you take communities out of where they come from and spread them across the world, and children grow up in different places to where their parents grew up, and you take your traditions away, who are you and what are you?
There’s talk of a rise in anti-Semitism — what are your thoughts?
We’re living at a time where there’s a rise in all sorts of racism. History shows when you have economic insecurity and global insecurity racism rears its head, and anti-Semitism is about a sickness in society. It starts with pointing the finger and making tropes about Jewish people forming a global conspiracy and so on, then it turns into Islamophobia, homophobia and sexism. It needs to be kept an eye on in all walks of life. It all needs to be taken seriously, and if it isn’t nipped in the bud, history shows where it leads.
It’s your first time singing in a musical. How are you finding it?
I’ve never done a musical before but having just done Stepping Out, where I learned how to tap dance, I was feeling pretty fearless. It’s an acting piece more than anything — it’s not like a musical where you break into a song that sounds nothing like the acting bit. So hopefully I’ve found a voice that goes from talking to singing and it still sounds like the same person. It’s been a great learning experience.
Are you enjoying performing these new skills?
I’m proof you can teach an old dog new tricks. To learn how to tap dance then do a musical in nine months is a privilege.
Your co-star is Omid Djalili — did you see him on Splash!?
I didn’t see Splash! But he’s re-enacted his moment [when he dived off the 10m board]. I do understand what that experience meant to him and the nation. I’ve worked with him before and it’s wonderful. He really makes me laugh.
Do you get offered things like that?
Yes. But anything where my life could be in danger doesn’t appeal. Look at The Jump — it’s like watching a real version of that crazy cliff-top Bond stunt [in The Spy Who Loved Me]. And now I’m an expert tap dancer and singer I can’t take the risk!
When was the last time you watched EastEnders?
I’ve been busy doing plays, so I only really watch box-sets. We just watched the whole documentary series about the OJ Simpson trial, then watched The People Vs OJ Simpson, so we’ve gone through a month of being obsessed with OJ. With EastEnders, I do watch scenes if I see Dot’s in them. I was in 140 episodes out of 148 in my first year on the show, so I had a few scenes with her but I think most of the other people I worked with have left.
How’s your science fiction book coming along?
I’ve just written a comedy pilot about Freud and I’m writing a Radio 4 play — but I’ve got to get on with this sci-fi book, I’m determined to write one. I read Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel recently, which was wonderful. I generally like dystopian post-apocalyptic novels but my desire to read them has lessened recently having watched the news — it feels like we’re actually living in a dystopian fiction.
Science fiction is a great way of analysing our present by looking at a pretend future
How did you get into sci-fi?
I loved Doctor Who as a kid. Me and four boys in our street used to meet up every Saturday to watch it. I was the only girl who enjoyed it. Then I became a freaky kid who’d read [Isaac] Asimov and [Robert A] Heinlein. Science fiction is a great way of analysing our present by looking at a pretend future.
What are your career ambitions?
I’d love to do a Chekhov play and a science fiction film or TV show. I love a green screen.
Fiddler On The Roof is at the Chichester Festival Theatre until September 2