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The actress, who plays Nina in Chekhov’s The Seagull, was meant to take the role in 2020 but only managed a handful of preview performances before Covid forced theatres to shut.
The play had its official opening at the Harold Pinter Theatre last night — and Clarke said finally being able to perform properly was amazing.
She said: “It was wild I’ve never had such a rush, I was buzzing. There were no other words for it. I don’t think I’ve ever had that much adrenaline in my body at one time except when I jumped out of a plane voluntarily.”
The cast and crew were originally told in March 2020 that the show was pausing for seven weeks before it became apparent it would be much longer.
Clarke, 35, said: “I had my little backpack that I bring into the theatre every day with my script in and all that stuff. That stayed in my kitchen for a year, so convinced was I that this was just a brief hiatus and we’d be back on the stage in no time. I spent the first four months every night going through my lines and it was like a moment of acceptance when I had to go ‘This pandemic, it ain’t messing around’.”
Her co-star Daniel Monks, who plays Konstantin, said Zoom calls kept the cast focused on the show and the experience of having to wait to come back “bonded them like a family”.
Clarke said she was so determined to do the play she told her agent to “fireproof” the dates for the new production and turned down work if it clashed with the show.
She said having to wait to come back made her appreciate it even more, adding: “When I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed by things, my mate said something which sounds a bit dark but it is genuinely very helpful. He said, ‘Listen, you can get run over by a bus tomorrow so imagine it’s the last time you do the thing you love doing and do it with that in mind’. Every performance has that energy from the residual trauma that this could be the last show.”