interview Caroline Quentin

Interview: Caroline Quentin

Interview: Caroline Quentin

Caroline Quentin and her daughter Rose are heading to Richmond Theatre in Mrs Warren’s Profession. Caroline tells us more…

Working with her daughter for the first time feels like a “gift”, says Caroline Quentin. “It’s rather wonderful to spend time with someone you love doing something you love,” she adds.

Caroline and Rose are coming to Richmond Theatre with Mrs Warren’s Profession, George Bernard Shaw’s provocative play that was written in 1894 but banned for 30 years by a Lord Chamberlain who found it “immoral and improper”.

Caroline plays Mrs Warren and Rose plays her respectable daughter Vivie, who wants a career in law, and the play explores their relationship when it comes to light that the mother has had to make her living from the world’s oldest profession.

Danny Moar, director at Theatre Royal Bath, suggested the idea that Rose and Caroline do this play together. It will open in Bath from 9 to 19 November and then head to Richmond from 22 to 26 November.

Caroline adds that the play feels relevant today, over a century on. “It’s still harder for women to find paid employment, and women still get paid less. And given that a lot of people are being pushed into poverty at the moment, some women will turn to sex work because it is sometimes the only way they can make enough money to live on and to raise their children.

“It’s also a very funny and very truthful play.”

Rose is 23 – the same age as the character – but the role is often performed by an older actor. “She’s doing brilliantly in the role,” says Caroline. “She is a formidable actor.”

“I do have to be careful not to be too mumsy and have to remember that we’re colleagues. So I’ve had moments where she sort of looks at me as if to say, ‘now you are being a mother and you have to be an actor’. And she has refused to share digs with me when we go on tour! But we enjoy each-others’ company and we respect each other as professional people.”

Rose has grown up seeing what life is like as an actor. “She’d be in TV studios and listening to me doing plays over a tannoy in theatres,” says Caroline. Did she have any advice when Rose decide to become an actor? “Yes, and I think I’ve been quite firm about it… I was a singer and a dancer for many years… she’s a musician, a very good flautist, so I said that she must keep it up because if you have another skill [as well as acting] you’ll always be able to pay your rent.”

Caroline has two children with her husband Sam Farmer – Rose and William – and she and Sam enjoy the country lifestyle at their home in Devon. Phoning Caroline for our interview on a Saturday morning, I find her busy preparing courgettes, plucked fresh from her garden. She shares her passion for gardening, growing and her country life on Instagram – and her account is hugely popular. “I’ll hopefully be able to pursue that a bit more on a bigger stage at some point,” she says. “People seem to enjoy it. I think after Covid, a lot of people either returned to their gardens or found gardening for the first time and now realise that it shouldn’t just be something we do in times of crisis. It’s good for you mentally, physically and spiritually in a way as well.”

Caroline lived in southwest London, for a time with the comedian Paul Merton who she was married to from 1990 to 1998, and it was here she was bitten by the gardening bug. “I started with a window box in Clapham, in my twenties, growing lilies. I’ve always loved nature and then I found I could grow things. From there I went on to little raised beds in urban yards, and on to bigger and bigger gardens. It’s been over a 40-year journey…And I draw and paint the stuff I grow too, so it ties in with that hobby as well…”

Born in Reigate, Caroline went away to the Arts Educational School in Tring, Hertfordshire, before being cast in Les Misérables. Her work has spanned stage and screen with Caroline’s television roles ranging from Men Behaving Badly, Kiss Me Kate and Jonathan Creek to the 2020 season of Strictly Come Dancing and a number of documentary series.

She recently loved doing Jack Absolute Flies Again at the National Theatre as Mrs Malaprop. So, what’s next for her? “I like singing so I’d love to do another musical. I’m also doing a second series of The Lazarus Project for Sky. It’s a big budget sci-fi series and has been great fun.”

In the meantime, Caroline is very much looking forward to bringing the play to Richmond. “What’s not to like about Richmond? The views walking up the hill, the green outside the theatre, the shopping…and the theatre itself, which I’ve played before, is one of the most beautiful, not just in the country but in the world. I adore it.”

Richmond Theatre, from 22 to 26 November.