Sharon Maughan returns to short form for new show Autobahn
- Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images
Having captured the nation’s heart when she starred in Nescafé’s iconic series of Gold Blend adverts in the late ’80s, Sharon Maughan knows how to get the most out of tight dramatic opportunities.
Despite having no more than 45 seconds of time in each clip, the chemistry and “will it, won’t it” relationship between herself and Anthony Head has led to it being commonly referred to as one of the greatest television adverts of all time. Now, Maughan’s latest venture sees her step onto the boards to perform in another series of short, colourful vignettes.
Currently enjoying its London premiere at the King’s Head Theatre, Autobahn sees Maughan – alongside Henry Everett, Tom Slatter and Zoe Swenson-Graham – bring to life a group of ordinary, yet complicated people making their way across America’s highways and their stops, starts, and stalls along the way.
“This isn’t a lightweight experience; it’s a pretty intense venture into the underworld of American culture, and possibly ours as well,” says the actress, who has also appeared in films including The Bank Job and She’s Out of My League.
“The play’s themed around very ordinary people, but we all know with ordinary people that everyone can have a personal, sometimes very complex, sometimes not very conventional life that we keep to ourselves.
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“Conceptionally and in execution it’s a very interesting piece of theatre.”
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Originally staged in America back in 2003, the quality writing of Neil LaBute’s Autobahn attracted an all-star cast – including Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Peter Dinklage and Kevin Bacon – to perform the series of short one-act plays, which unravel dark themes ranging from stalking to child abuse.
For Maughan, this was a testament to LaBute’s vision and she explains how he uses the cramped conditions of Autobahn as a tool for dramatic possibility.
“He’s a wonderful playwright and film-maker, so he’s constantly redefining and challenging the parameters. It’s a very restricted space, a car, a very simple idea. Unless we can open the car door – which you can’t on a freeway, a motorway or autobahn, whatever you want to call it – we’re not usually going to run out, so you usually have to complete an argument or debate.”
While her children are also beginning to make their names in showbusiness – her daughter, Alice Eve, is an actress and son Jack Eve is a director – the 65-year-old says she would never advise anyone to join the industry.
“You’ve either got the pull, the calling, the choiceless situation or not,” she argues, before adding that, of all the mediums she has worked with, theatre is definitely the hardest.
“Because it’s live, you’re your own editor, you’re your own director on stage once you’re on. It’s hard work!
“I promised myself the next thing I did would be an ensemble comedy and this isn’t an ensemble comedy, but there are some very funny moments in it.”
Autobahn runs at the King’s Head Theatre until Saturday, September 20. Visit kingsheadtheatre.com