Olivia Colman: Revving it up

“It was terrifying,” Olivia Colman says of her National Theatre debut in 2009’s England People Very Nice. “It was the first time I’d done a play for nine years. I probably should have started at a pub theatre, because it was like starting again. And I wasn’t very good.”

It’s hard to tell if Colman is just being disingenuous in her appraisal of her own performance. Best known for comedy characters in TV programmes from Peep Show to Beautiful People, in person she is warm and self-effacing but one gets the feeling that she is not particularly comfortable singing her own praises.

Nor does she particularly care for public attention when not working, preferring instead to be “what I am at home – just a mummy and a wife, and pootle around with not much hassle. I think that if you’re the lead, then you don’t get as much privacy and I really do crave that. Ideally, I’d love for my work not to be seen – which sounds very weird,” she adds with a smile.

In her new role in BBC2 comedy Rev, she plays Alex, the wife of a country vicar who has just taken over a parish in inner city London, playing opposite Tom Hollander, who created the series with writer James Wood.

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