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Page 3 Profile: Billie Piper, actress

Enter stage left…

…a viciously ambitious tabloid hack played by Billie Piper in the satire Great Britain, which opened at the National Theatre in London earlier this week.

Set the scene for me…

It depicts a corrupt relationship between the press, police and the political establishment. Piper, 31, plays Paige Britain, a ruthless and cynical tabloid news editor, desperate to establish herself as part of the ruling elite. Her title Free Press has the mission statement: “We go out and destroy other people’s lives on your behalf.”

Who could have inspired such an odious character?

I haven’t got the foggiest. Strangely enough, the former News of the World editor Andy Coulson was convicted last week of conspiracy to hack phones, and his predecessor Rebekah Brooks, the former News International chief, who enjoys a close relationship with the now-defunct paper’s proprietor, Rupert Murdoch, was cleared. Hours later, the National Theatre said that it would be staging Great Britain, which was rehearsed in secret during the tail-end of the £100m hacking trial.

Should I get tickets?

Reviews of the play, written by dramatist Richard Bean and produced by the National’s Nicholas Hytner, vary but on the whole are positive. Trade journal The Stage complained that the satire was too “heavy-handed” but applauded Piper’s “utterly committed performance”, while i’s critic Paul Taylor gave the production four stars, calling it “laughter-making on an industrial scale” and described Piper’s performance as “excellent”.

So Piper’s the one to watch?

Yes. The actress was born in Swindon and found fame in the late 1990s, aged 15, with her teeny-bopper hit “Because We Want To”. She then made the transition to acting, landing the part of Rose Tyler in Doctor Who and playing the escort Belle de Jour in the TV series Secret Diary of a Call Girl. Her former Doctor Who co-star David Tennant was there to cheer her on at the Lyttelton auditorium on her opening night, as was The League of Gentlemen’s Mark Gatiss, who has written for and acted in the sci-fi series. The production will play at the National Theatre until 23 August and then move to the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, from  10 September.

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