Billie tells of her stage terrors
7:00am Saturday 27th January 2007 in By An Editor's View
Actress Billie Piper says she is terrified of going on stage in her first theatre production, but is relishing the challenge.
She is appearing in Christopher Hampton's Treats with Kris Marshall (best known for playing Nick in My Family) and Laurence Fox (Kevin Whatley's sidekick in Lewis).
The play is on tour and will be appearing at the Theatre Royal Bath fromFebruary 5 to 10, the closes it will get to her home town of Swindon, before a West End transfer to the Garrick Theatre February 28.
She said: "I feel like the adrenalin and the nerves put you in this trance-like state where you find it hard to judge what you've just done. But at this point of the game, I just feel like throwing up. But I think that's normal, right?"
She said she is nervous because this is the first play she has ever done. But she's up for the challenge, and fear is a key part of that process. At just 24, she's lived her life in the public spotlight for most of the last decade, but has constantly reinvented herself over that time.
"I am trying to have a go at a few different things and trying to stretch myself and give things a whirl - and I hope that I can pull them off. I think its important and I want do to do it now, while I'm a bit younger - I don't want to get too scared of doing things. I'm at a position in my life where I want to keep scaring myself, before I become a bit stale and maybe complacent."
Though she began her career as a pop star while still a teenager - and at the age of 15, became the youngest artist ever to debut at number one in the UK singles chart - "acting was what I always wanted to do", she said.
"That's always been my first love, and the pop career hijacked all of those plans. But I'm glad I did it in a way - it has opened many doors for me, though it closed a few, too." And she learnt a lot, too, about fame and the need to follow her heart's real desire.
How did she deal with all the attention then? "I don't know - I didn't cope very well with it at all. Initially it was fine, but then I found it a real struggle and it sent me slightly crazy.
" I just knew I had to do something I loved, or I would continue to feel like a charlatan for the rest of my life, being in the wrong career. I wasn't born with Mariah Carey's voice - I don't have a massive set of lungs on me and I can't play instruments. So I always felt like I was lying and doing the wrong thing."
Four years ago she enrolled in acting classes in Los Angeles, where she was living at the time, "because I could be completely anonymous and become a student again". As a teenager, the form Bradon Forest, Purrton, pupil had left home to attend the Sylvia Young Theatre School in London for two years.
"It's a great school and it taught me a lot - I loved it there," she said. She never went back home afterwards.
"After that, that was me sold, signed, sealed, delivered, I'm yours - literally," she said.
She was caught up in the rush of a full-time career and said it was a difficult way to grow up.
"Fortunately for me I have a great family and finally a great circle of friends, who just keep me on the straight and narrow. I'm not really interested in the fame and all that - I like working and grafting and trying new things and challenging my ideas."
After LA, she returned to London and quickly started winning television roles that included a contemporary version of The Canterbury Tales, before winning the role of Rose Tyler in the return of Dr Who, which she played for two series. She won the Times Breakthrough Award at the South Bank Show Awards in 2006 for her successful transition from singing to acting.
"I really wanted to do theatre, but I knew at the beginning of my career that I just wasn't ready for it. Then I was working with David Tennant on Dr Who, who has done a lot of stage work, and he would tell me tales of the stage and it just sounded so great. And he encouraged me to have a stab at it - he gave me a taste for it, so I have him to thank - or blame!"
She appreciates that on stage there is nowehere to hide if things go wrong.
"There isn't, but I don't want to hide. I just want to have a go and be good,'' she said.
"And I'm working with two great actors and a great director, so I'm in very good company."
She plays a young woman, Ann, who replaces her difficult long-term boyfriend Dave (Kris Marshall) with the more conventional Patrick (Laurence Fox), but can't decide which one she wants when Dave returns from a trip abroad "She is a young, incredibly smart woman who is very confused about love. She has been with the impossible man for two-and-a-half years since leaving uni, and he's abused her, mentally, physically and emotionally, and she's trying to find what she wants now,'' she said.
"Those relationships are addictive - you want to be around men like Dave and you gravitate towards them. But they break you as women, they make you weak. For someone who's so smart, so witty and so decisive, it really brings her down. It's about her battle with knowing what's right and how to make the right choices."
And doing the theatre is definitely the right choice for Billie as an actress now. "The level of concentration is like nothing I have ever known before. When it's great, it's the best feeling I've ever experienced."