Juliet Stevenson Returns to ‘The Doctor,’ and the New York Stage

Stevenson, the youngest of three children, lived abroad with her family as her father’s job with the British Army’s Royal Engineers took them to Germany, Australia and Malta. At 9, she encountered “an amazing drama teacher, Bess Jones,” at a boarding school just outside London, and started to go to the theater in her teens. When she saw “King Lear,” she immediately wanted to play the title role. “I was just possessed by it, the size of his anger, passions, love, regret, grief,” she said. “I stomped around being Lear for months; of course he is just like a badly behaved adolescent!”

She successfully auditioned for the Royal Academy — “a culture shock” — where she felt lost and insecure until a teacher harshly criticized her performance of a speech from “Antony and Cleopatra.” “My anger found its way into the words, and I could feel the temperature of the room change,” she said. “I thought, OK, this is what acting is.”

After graduating, she found ensemble work (“Shape No. 2, Sea Nymph No. 2 and Hellhound No. 3”) in a Royal Shakespeare Company production of “The Tempest,” and stayed for eight years playing lead roles in Shakespeare productions and new plays, and working with directors like Peter Brook, Trevor Nunn and Howard Davies.

She had also started working in film, appearing in Peter Greenaway’s “Drowning by Numbers” and “a couple of forgettable movies” before being cast in “Truly, Madly.” Also in 1990, she performed in “Death and the Maiden,” winning the best actress Olivier Award in 1992, and met her future husband, Hugh Brody, an anthropologist. Over the next two decades she had two children and played a dizzying number of roles onscreen (“Emma,” “Bend It Like Beckham,” “Departure”) and onstage (“The Duchess of Malfi,” “Private Lives,” “The Caucasian Chalk Circle,” “Duet for One”).

“Juliet pours her life and love and soul into everything,” said the theater director Natalie Abrahami, who worked with Stevenson in Beckett’s “Happy Days” and “Wings,” by Arthur Kopit. “She is always pushing, really good at asking instinctive, actor-led questions: ‘Why would the character act this way? What memory is triggered here?’ She is always making the map of a character’s life as three-dimensional as possible.”

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