Oz wizard takes the stage

WE ALL know Natalie Imbruglia as a pop star, soap star and film star – and now she’s turning her attention to the stage.

The Aussie, who first came to our attention as Beth Brennan in TV’s Neighbours and then hit the charts with songs like Torn, Big Mistake and That Day, is now making her British stage debut in a touring production of Alan Ayckbourn’s Things We Do For Love.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT – Natalie during rehearsals Picture by: Nobby Clark

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT – Natalie during rehearsals Picture by: Nobby Clark

Starring opposite Claire Price, Edward Bennett and Simon Gregor, she admits: “I’m definitely the rookie in this company!

“I’m sure the other actors were wondering how it was going to be to have a singer join them. I’m sure they had certain preconceived ideas about how I could be.”

Natalie, whose album, Left of the Middle, sold more than six million copies worldwide and won her three Grammy nominations and two Brit Awards, adds: “I think they’re relieved that I haven’t turned up with a massive entourage but I don’t like a fanfare. There’s no need for that. I’ve never had an entourage. I’ve never needed that kind of craziness.

“So it’s really nice that we are getting on so well. They can see that I’m a team player. They’re all brilliant – they’re such professionals. It’s great to work with very experienced actors who really know what they’re doing. In the rehearsal room, I’m like a sponge.”

In Things We Do For Love, Natalie plays Nikki, a trusting, slightly naive, but unremittingly positive woman who comes with her fiancé Hamish to live in the flat above her old school friend Barbara. Hamish and Barbara are polar opposites and really do not hit it off. But their relationship soon develops in the most unexpected way…

“I very much identify with Nikki,” she says. “She’s an optimist and a dreamer – and there is an element of that in me. There are parts of me that have Nikki’s sensibility. It’s always useful to relate a character back to yourself.

“Nikki always sees the best in people. At the start of the play, she wants to go back to her roots and to stay with her school friend. She wants return to a place that is all warm and fuzzy. She is eager to start over and is very excited about introducing her new man to her best friend from school. She’s very sentimental. She believes in love.”

Natalie, who has an eagerly anticipated album of covers coming out in the autumn, adds: “This play is all about love and the mad places it takes you in your life. It shows that love doesn’t always come in the packages you expect and the thing that makes you happy may be completely different from the idea you originally had.

“Ayckbourn’s genius is that we all can relate to that. If we’re not going through it ourselves, we know someone who is. Audiences will really connect with these characters.”

Natalie’s particularly excited about the tour schedule, explaining: “When I used to tour as a singer, I did the classic thing of going to my hotel room with a lemon tea and resting my vocal cords while the band went out to look around a new city. I never got to see anywhere. So I’m really excited have the opportunity to see all these places now.”

But if you spot her in the streets of Woking, don’t be too surprised if she doesn’t live up to her pop star image.

“Maybe some people have the idea that my life is very glamorous, but I love a night in watching a movie in my daggy old tracksuit,” she says. “Yes, I can frock up and look glamorous if I have to but that’s just one aspect of my work.

“People don’t have access to all of my life when all they see is photos of me. Some people have a glamorous life all the time, but not me. I’m an Aussie from a small town. You can take the girl out of Australia, but you can’t take Australia out of the girl. We don’t like pretention in Australia!”

She is equally unpretentious when it comes to making grand plans for the future. “I don’t have a set master plan,” Natalie reflects. “As the years go by, I’m more interested in the balance between work and life. I like the simple things in life – I’m not as driven as I was. I like to stay in the moment and take one thing at a time.”

Natalie Imbruglia will star in Things We Do For Love at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking from Monday, May 26 until Saturday, May 31.

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