Harriet Thorpe is a great friend and mentor to me. She’s my hero.
Meeting via our mutual friend Michelle Collins, she endlessly inspires me with her sheer wisdom and talent. It’s an honour and a joy to interview her on my blog.
Harriet is best known for her role as Carole in the BBC’s popular Brittas Empire and Fleur in Absolutely Fabulous.
Work with French and Saunders includes Girls On Top, French And Saunders series and most recently Vivienne Vyle. Other TV includes The Secrets: The Conversation, Doctors, Material Girl, Victoria Wood’s Christmas Special, Midsomer Murders, The Musketeers, Casualty and The Bill.
Her West End credits include Great Britain (Theatre Royal, Haymarket); Wicked (Apollo Theatre); Rufus Norris’ production of Cabaret (Lyric Theatre, UK Tour and Savoy Theatre); Crazy for You (Regent’s Park and Novello Theatre); Tanya in Mamma Mia (Prince of Wales Theatre); Madame Thenardier in Les Miserables; The Vagina Monologues and Jackie O. Other theatre credits include Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Maria in Twelfth Night; The Queen in Cymbeline (Regent’s Park) and Timothy Sheader’s Street Car to Tennessee (Young Vic). At the Almeida she played Ida Arnold in Michael Attenborough’s Brighton Rock. Harriet was recently seen in Gary Barlow’s and Tim Firth’s production of The Girls, based on the film Calendar Girls.
Thorpe has played several seasons at the National Theatre, most recently in the 2014 production Great Britain. Previous seasons for the Richard Eyre and David Hare Company included Pravda and the The Government Inspector, Howard Davies’ All My Sons and A Prayer for Owen Meany.
Films include Absolutley Fabulous The Movie, Merchant Ivory’s Maurice, Greystroke, Mike Leigh’s Life is Sweet, Zefferelli’s Toscanni, Suzie Gold, the head of the WI in Calendar Girls, The Calling with Brenda Blethyn, S.N.U.B., An Arm’s Length, Wise Girl and The Lady in the Van.
1. Describe a typical day for you.
I don’t have one but if I’m working then I’m up around 6 am. I put the first wash on whilst I make a cup of tea then I feed the cats, shower and walk the dog. I walk daily if I can as I’m ambassador for breast cancer charity Walk the Walk-The MoonWalk. Then it’s a second layer of make up on as I can’t walk the dog without my lip line can I? It’s not for anyone else it’s just what I like. Then I’ll dry the clothes I’ve washed, hoover and steam the floor and if I’m going to a rehearsal, I jump on the Tube.
Rehearsals are all day and I could be based anywhere in the country depending on where the show is so I make my dressing room into my second home as I’m in there so much, doing 8 shows a week. This year, Christmas Day was my only day off.
2. What are your greatest achievements?
Bringing up my children, firstly. Being able to work for thirty years and knowing that there is no age in which I need to change careers. Working as a freelancer for so many years in an industry that isn’t under any obligation to deliver. I’ve made my own work. I’ve created work if I’m not offered it. I grateful to go and teach, and consult. I started a presentation skills company with my sister, Matilda Thorpe too called Dr Theatre.
3. What’s in your handbag/satchel?
My handbag will always have my make up in there. MAC is my favourite brand. I love them and they do a lot for the shows I’m in. They’re built for longevity and really last. I always carry painkillers (ha ha). Having trained as a dancer at The Royal Ballet School means I’ve always had to work through the pain. You’re often in pain when you’re dancing but it doesn’t mean you stop dancing.
I also wear glasses now and have three pretty pairs, those cheap magnifying ones which are £4 a pair. I couldn’t live without them.
Also, my phone and phone charger. The phone is always on my person. Oh, and Tom Ford perfume in Black Orchid, and my children went overboard this year and bought me Noir for Christmas.
4. What are your ambitions in life?
To always keep moving forward and evolving.
5. What advice do you know now, you wish you had pre-kids?
I had no idea endlessly pushing an ‘effing’ swing would push me over the edge. Saturday mornings devoted to swimming and karate became my new normal so enjoy your lie-ins, child-free people, while you can.
6. What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career you now know?
I’ve always wanted to perform. What I didn’t know is that you have to validate your own worth. Don’t look for it to arise from a job.
7. Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
To keep going and growing, and to embrace new technology.
8. What advice would you give a budding actor?
This is a marathon, not a race.
9. Finally, happiness is…
Having time out and laughs with friends and family.