Preview: The Wild Duck, Donmar Warehouse, London WC2

Rising star tackles Ibsen's child
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The Independent Culture

It is not too difficult for the actress Sinead Matthews, 25, to play the 13-year-old Hedwig in Ibsen's domestic drama The Wild Duck. "I just tap into the innocence that I had at that age, an innocence you should never lose," says Matthews. It helps that she doesn't look a day over 16 and has an incredibly childlike voice.

This new version of Ibsen's play, by David Eldridge (whose previous adaptations include Festen), is Matthews's Donmar debut and is directed by Michael Grandage.

"He likes us to go through the play on instinct," says Matthews of the renowned director. "Then we go back and layer it up. By the end, it is all there. It almost happens without your realising it, but he is always in complete control." Matthews is rehearsing her role while appearing in the West End, in You Never Can Tell.

Matthews left Rada two years ago. "So far, so good," she says of her subsequent success. Her first job was a part in Mike Leigh's film Vera Drake, playing a girl who has an abortion. "Working with Mike Leigh is very pure," recalls Matthews. "He spends so much time on the work and characters. He never compromises himself or his work. That is what I admire."

Matthews has appeared in The Crucible at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre, The Mandate at the National, and The Birthday Party in the West End, where she played her oldest character to date, the 25-year-old Lulu.

The Wild Duck is the story of a family shattered by the truth when a family friend reveals a secret to Hjalmar Ekdal (played by Paul Hilton), who had been a contented husband and father. "Some things are better left unsaid," says Matthews. "The truth isn't always the greatest answer."

What is her dream part? "The great Shakespeare roles - particularly Cleopatra," says Matthews. "But I have just started and I am not fussy. I don't want to think too far ahead. I am just open to great plays."

Tomorrow to 18 February (0870 060 6624; www.donmarwarehouse.com)

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