Sinéad Matthews: Happy-go-lucky and in a world of her own

Mike Leigh protegée Sinéad Matthews tells Elisa Bray why she is ideally suited to her new role in The Glass Menagerie

I'm single. I'm footloose and fancy free!" chirps actress Sinéad Matthews, with cheerful laughter, before adding that it's just as well: the role she's currently rehearsing for – Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie, which opens on Thursday at the Young Vic – is putting her right off relationships. In Williams's four-character play, Matthews plays daughter Laura Wingfield who, crippled by a bout of pleurosis, has withdrawn into her own world.

"The part of Laura – she's so nervous and so awful with those situations that I find that I'm not particularly good at that sort of thing at the moment. I'm a bit hypersensitive around that subject. I don't want to start anything," says Matthews. "Laura has retreated and she's quite happy with being in her own world. It's quite a lonely character."

The role is her latest in a string of theatre jobs, which have included Ibsen's The Wild Duck at the Donmar, and Lulu at the Gate Theatre. It is testimony to how much of a rising star the 30-year- old is, that she is so much in demand – she is already lined up to star in Mike Leigh's 1979 play Ecstasy next year at Hampstead Theatre, the third time she'll have worked with the director.

The actress found herself an early champion in Leigh. Matthews had not yet finished her course at Rada when Leigh started coming to watch all her shows. After he saw her first Rada show, Arthur Miller's The Crucible, Leigh wrote her a note, saying how much he had enjoyed it. "He was very sweet, because I only had a small part, and my hat came flying off as I was running round the stage, which I was rather embarrassed about," Matthews recalls. "But he assured me that even though this happened he still much enjoyed it and would definitely come back to see more of my work. He's completely supported me from the word go."

It was Leigh who first gave the talented young actress the platform where she has proven herself to be an actress to watch. Leigh cast her in her first professional acting role in his film Vera Drake, and she has since starred in Happy-Go-Lucky.

Her current character is somewhat different to the last flamboyant role she played this summer in Lulu. Matthews is lively and open, but she can identify deeply with Laura, due to the stammer she had in her childhood. "I used to be quite nervous and Laura's a very nervous person. I can relate to being in situations and not wanting to be in them. I've slowly grown out of it as confidence grows. Sometimes I still get the stammer and that's fine. It doesn't rule my life like it used to."

As a child she was obsessed with dancing, films and musicals – easier to practise with a stammer. "I was never a stage-schooly person, I was a bit too shy for that – I just loved dancing. Because of my stammer it was a way of expressing myself not through having to talk."

She enrolled at Stratford-upon-Avon College where she took drama classes, and soon realised university wasn't an option – she just wanted to act. Coming from a working-class background where drama school "wasn't possible" (her father is a floor tiler and her mother is a primary school teacher) she had to pursue it with self-belief alone. "When my parents first realised that that's what I wanted I think they were slightly fearful of it. Looking back it must have been a self-belief or else I wouldn't have done it."

This year she turned 30. Does she feel any different? "A lot of people have said they've been really depressed. It's been the opposite for me. I just feel like it's a brilliant thing. Because your twenties are all about making mistakes, exploring and discovering who you are."

Meanwhile, she keeps the advice that Leigh gave her when she was still at drama school: "Never change who you are." "Hearing him saying it gave me faith in who I thought I was or who I am."



'The Glass Menagerie', Young Vic, London SE1 (020-922 2922) Thursday to 1 January

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
    Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

    The dark side of Mexico

    A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

    Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935