Anne-Marie Duff Through the Decades

We've asked Anne-Marie Duff to reflect back on her own life based on the five decades when The House of Shades takes place.

Blanche McIntyre (Hymn) directs the world premiere of Beth Steel’s revelatory new play which spans five decades of the lives, and deaths, of the Webster family. BAFTA and Olivier Award-nominated actor Anne-Marie Duff (His Dark Materials, Sex Education) returns to the Almeida to lead the cast as the Webster family matriarch.



Anne-Marie Duff: The House of Shades is a play that jumps back and forward through time and makes huge time leaps into different decades. So, I've been requested by the Almeida to talk about my life in different chapters. I guess? So, here we go.

I was not born in 1965. It might be around that time that my parents may have met as teenagers. My chromosomes were hurtling through the universe towards them, I guess. That's the beginning.

I was a phenomenally shy child (might seem hard to believe now). And I always and ever had my head in a book. That's where I lived. Because there was a great safety in story and narrative, and I guess that's where it all began. It was lovely actually because the first school I've been at I was kind of bullied, and I had a tough old time. And then we moved house and I went to a really lovely school. So, 1979 was a pretty good year for Anne-Marie Duff.

I was in my teens and it was Thatcher time I just remember looking around  at the panorama. If you were in any way creative, it was kind of looked down on a wee bit. Because it was insecure, because it was seen as being frivolous. So I felt a little bit outside of the circle. I found I didn't belong to that time. But it was cool because I was still listening to The Smiths. And I was still, you know. There was a lot of good music. And that, I think, that was when I started to get a little bit into Velvet Underground and Lou Reed. I got a little bit sort of… Took myself a bit too seriously maybe.

London was a very cool place to be, actually, in the mid 90s. Real Britpop time. I remember it was a supremely hot summer I was sharing a flat in Battersea with two other actresses. You can imagine. And I was working at the National Theatre on a production of War and Peace. You'd go out to a party and there would be artists there, and writers there, and there was a real sense of a creative community. It was a very cool time. It was very different to the 10 years previously.

That's mad, the most recent of the dates I find most difficult to remember. We had a sit-down read-through of The House of Shades. Because on the page it was spectacular but just hearing it out loud. It's... Certainly the first 20 minutes of the play are so funny. And that's kind of  something you need to hear. You need to hear the music of that. So yeah, so it was the start I guess of me sitting here today all these years later.

Please come and see The House of Shades by Beth Steel at the Almeida Theatre. We are performing from the 7th of May. It is the most remarkable play. It's like nothing you've ever seen before, I promise. And I want you to love it as much as I do.

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