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Abigail Cruttenden

Actress Abigail Cruttenden

Interview: Actress Abigail Cruttenden on Playing Jane

A special live performance of Playing Jane is heading to Landmark Arts Centre this autumn. We talk to East Sheen resident Abigail Cruttenden.

From Elizabeth I to Playing Jane, actress Abigail Cruttenden is a face we love from sitcoms like Not Going Out and the soap Benidorm. Abigail tells us why she wanted to support the Landmark Arts this season and what she loves about Teddington.

MEET ABIGAIL CRUTTENDEN

This September, the Landmark Arts Centre will host a special live fundraising performance. The play in question is Playing Jane, which was the first dramatic adaptation of Jane Austen’s novels by Victorian feminist Rosina Filippi, a progressive actor, novelist and director. She established a People’s Theatre in 1913, advocating affordable theatre for all. It is a fitting choice for the Teddington venue, which aims to bring the arts to a wider audience. And it seems all the more poignant as the Landmark struggles for its survival.

SUPPORTING THE ARTS

Abigail is among a host of stars that are joining together to support the Landmark, and the cast includes Tim McMullen (The Crown), Gaia Mondadori (The Witcher), and is directed by Amanda Root (Summerland). Abigail was drawn to the idea for several reasons: “I’ve worked with the Landmark before – starting way back 20 years ago in Love on a Branch Line. Plus, Amanda is one of my favourite actors and I loved the BBC adaptation of Persuasion that she starred in.”

But Abigail’s main driver was to help the arts scene, so badly hit by the pandemic. “It is a really scary time for anybody in the arts. Many theatres are closing. So anything we can do to help is incredibly important.”

She loves the relevance of the chosen play. “Fillipi believed in bringing the arts to everyone and making it accessible. The big theatres aren’t really able to open at the moment so it’s down to groups to put on what they can. Her work was designed for theatres that didn’t have much money and to be performed in a smaller space. We’ll be doing it in-the-round – it will all be socially distanced – and it will have this intimate feel to it.”

LONDON BORN ACTRESS

The Ealing-born actress is also an Austen fan: “I did Persuasion for A level and it is still one of my favourite books. Austen has this core of truth and humanity running through all of her works.”

She says that Austen still resonates today. “Society then was very much about who you married and how that determined your place, and women’s place in society is something we still grapple with now.”

Having recently played Elizabeth I at The Globe just before the pandemic broke out, she says it was incredible to see how women in power were – and still are – treated. “The politics is still at play today when you see how the likes of Theresa May has been treated compared to her male counterparts.”

RIVERSIDE REHEARSALS

Abigail has become a popular face on our TV screens in the likes of Sharpe and Benidorm, and as Anna in the BBC sitcom Not Going Out, which she is currently filming in Teddington. “I love Teddington for the high street and the lock. We’ve actually been sitting out by the river to rehearse.”

It has been a strange experience to film during the pandemic. “We normally film in front of an audience but we’re having to film without. The crew are also in masks and the actors are tested for Covid every week and temperature checked before we come on set.”

When she gets some time off, Abigail, who lives in East Sheen, loves walking in Richmond Park. “I walk my dog there every day. We’re very lucky to have this on our doorstep.”

SEE ACTRESS ABIGAIL CRUTTENDEN IN PLAYING JANE

Playing Jane 4 & 5 September. Buy tickets.