Five minutes with… actor Clare Perkins

Clare Perkins (left) performed at our Gala Dinner and Auction alongside fellow actor Charity Wakefield and children from Arnhem Wharf Primary School

Actor Clare Perkins is a star of both the stage and screen. She took the title role in Emilia, which played at the Globe to great acclaim before transferring to the West End stage and tells the story of Emilia Bassano, allegedly Shakespeare’s Dark Lady. Her television work includes roles in EastEnders and Holby City. 

Clare was a special guest at our recent Gala Dinner & Auction, joining some of our young performers on stage. We chatted to her about the powerful role drama has to play in children’s lives.

“As a child, my love of drama grew out of my love of reading. I used to want to be inside the story, and that’s what theatre was. My mum took me to all the big musicals - Chicago, Bubbling Brown Sugar, The Black Mikado. I was part of a dance group and wanted to be Judy Garland. When I realised that wasn’t going to work out, I set my heart on acting. My school didn’t do drama, so a special arrangement was made for me to do it at the school down the road.

I got so much out of drama. It helps you to develop empathy - to listen more closely and to understand what makes people tick. It makes you a better communicator. 

For me, to see children performing Shakespeare so confidently with Shakespeare Schools Foundation is amazing. It’s almost like a miracle to watch. I’ve never seen such young children do that before! It just goes to show that with the right support anyone can access the language and make Shakespeare their own.

I always loved to play (I still do!). Drama gives you an opportunity to do just that - to try things out in a situation where there is no fear. To discover the limits don’t exist. It’s empowering for anyone, especially a child, to realise you can be anyone and do anything.

I can’t say I entirely fell in love with Shakespeare at first. We studied The Merchant Of Venice at school. I appreciated there were some beautiful passages, but a lot of it went over my head. It was only when I saw Othello starring Bob Hoskins as Iago when I was about 18 that I went, ‘Now I get it!’. He really brought the villainy of the character to life.

Early in my career, I was cast as Viola in Twelfth Night in a production by London Bubble. It was the summer of 1991 and we performed in a big circus tent. When I first saw the script, 'I thought I’m not going to be able to do that.' It just seemed so daunting. But the director and the other actors really helped to unlock it for me. They helped me to get at the meaning behind the lines.”

Find out more about our Gala Dinner & Auction.

SSF is a cultural education charity that exists to instil curiosity and empathy, aspiration and self-esteem, literacy and teamwork - giving young people the confidence to see that all the world is their stage.

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