Sheridan Smith opens up about her public ‘meltdown’ eight years ago

Smith recalled having the curtain ‘brought down’ on her while performing in ‘Funny Girl’

Ellie Muir
Thursday 22 February 2024 08:54 GMT
Graham Norton jokes about Sheridan Smith's rumoured alcohol abuse in 2016 BAFTAs clip

Sheridan Smith has opened up about her public “meltdown” that happened while she starred in the West End adaptation of Funny Girl in 2016.

At the time Smith, 42, was dealing with personal difficulties and mental health issues following her father’s cancer diagnosis. Media coverage was dominated by reports of missed curtain calls, disgruntled audiences and speculation about Smith’s alcohol abuse. She eventually took a leave of absence from the show due to “stress and exhaustion”.

In a new interview, Smith said she recalled having “the curtain brought down on me”.

The Olivier-winner will now star in the new West End adaptation of the film 1977 Opening Night, which follows Broadway actor Myrtle (played by Smith) as she has a downward spiral a few days before the premiere of her latest play.

Smith said that receiving the script for Opening Night was a “sign”, since there are similarities between the character Myrtle and her own experiences.

“I knew I had to do the play as a way of taking control of what I went through,” she toldThe Guardian. “I felt so ashamed of that time. I need to prove I’m not that person. It’s been very cathartic.”

“I’ve actually had the curtain brought down on me. I’ve been through that sort of crisis,” she added.

The Royle Family actor said that she worried that elements of Myrtle’s story might be triggering, but there are therapists in the Opening Night company that she can speak to.

Smith at the Baftas in 2016
Smith at the Baftas in 2016 (Getty Images)

“It’s so different from when I had my meltdown eight years ago. There was no support team then. It was just, ‘Get on stage!’” she recalls.

“I’m in a stronger place now. We find the truth of a scene, then shake it off and go home.”

After Smith temporarily left Funny Girl, presenter Graham Norton joked about her leave of absence onstage at the Baftas.

“Graham Norton was hosting and made a joke at my expense about me being a drunk,” Smith recalled, in a 2020 ITV documentary about motherhood and mental health.

“I was so humiliated,” she continued. “It’s a room full of your peers, people you want to work with or have worked with. That night, for me, was like the final straw before my brain totally went off the deep end.”

This came after a performance of Funny Girl was cancelled midway through, with theatre management citing “technical difficulties” as the cause.

Smith said she can access therapists while working on her new show ‘Opening Night’
Smith said she can access therapists while working on her new show ‘Opening Night’ (Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)

Norton referenced this while addressing the audience at the Baftas.

“We’re all excited for a couple of drinks tonight. Or, as it’s known in theatrical circles, a few glasses of technical difficulties,” he said.

She later recalled: “Here I was in unbelievable distress, and a room full of people in my industry were laughing at me.”

Opening Night is at the Gielgud theatre, London, from 6 March until 27 July.

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