Terry Grimley meets Stratford girl turned RSC actress Caitlin Mottram...
Selling tickets for your daughter's performances may seem like the ultimate in stage mum-mery, but that's what Caitlin Mottram's mother, a long-serving member of the RSC's Stratford box officee staff, is doing this season.
Local girl Caitlin, who moved to Stratford at the age of 11, is in her debut season with the RSC, having just added the role of Phebe in As You Like It to that of Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Now living in Leicestershire, where her engineer husband - they met at Sheffield University - develops Formula I car engines, she is currently back in rented accommodation in her home town. Her family moved north from Windsor when her father, a former civil servant, switched jobs from Heathrow to Birmingham International Airport, initially settling near Evesham and then moving into Stratford.
"I had my last year in primary school here, and from 11 to 18 I went to Kings High School for Girls in Warwick. I was there all the way through to 18, which was great," she recalls.
"I used to do drama as a hobby, and took part in a couple of festivals, reciting poetry and monologues and things. But I didn't think it was something to do for a living."
Still, having the RSC on the doorstep was a major focal point. "As the theatre was here I went to see more and more stuff, and ended up seeing so many wonderful productons. The first I remember is Titus Andronicus with Brian Cox, just before I moved to Stratford."
Quite strong meat for a young girl, you might think. Grown adults were known to faint during this production of Shakespeare's most graphic play, and I remember Cox telling me how at one performance he took a queasy-looking woman by the hand and gently conducted her to the care of an usher while continuing to deliver his lines.
Caitlin, however, took it all in her stride: "I went with a friend and her mother, and I was quite amazed by it. It was a great first thing."
She also had the rare opportunity of revisiting shows several times during the run.
"It was great fun to go and see previews and then see the show near the end of the run to see how it changed. I remember Henry IV with Michael Maloney and Sylvestra La Touzel - it was brilliant when I saw it at the preview but it was so much sharper when I saw it later.
"That kind of thing I just found fascinating. The record was The Venetian Twins with David Troughton. I think I saw that into double figures. Even though you knew the show backwards, and you knew there was someone planted in the audience, it still made you fall over with laughter."
If there was a downside to being a teenager in Stratford, Caitlin never found it: "I really enjoyed it and made a lot of good friends in Leamington, Warwick and Stratford - those were the three places that we socialised in."
Meanwhile her interest in theatre progressed with the National Youth Theatre.
"I was about 15, and that was the first thing where I went away for three weeks. They do a junior course and a senior course, and I still think that was a clerical error to this day - I did the three-week course when I should have done the two-week course. Everyone else had done their A-levels.
"It was very challenging. But even at that point, although I really enjoyed it I wasn't thinking of acting professionally. Everyone I had heard said it was so tough, and of course it is."
But she did an American-British drama academy at Oxford, specialising in Shakespeare, and then played a number of roles at university.
"I did Six Characters in Search of an Author, The Trojan Women - lots of difficult things. I had done some work experience at the National Theatre and was trying to get into the press office, and somebody said why don't you audition? You might regret it if you don't, and what do you have to lose? And so I auditioned for RADA, and they accepted me."
So far her list of credits is relatively short, but includes three shows each at Richmond and Regent's Park including, at the latter, a previous As You Like It, in which she played Celia. This time she is playing the headstrong shepherdess who spurns her faithful suitor only to fall in love disastrously with the cross-dressed Rosalind.
"It's great to do - she's very different from Helena. She's someone who sees the world in absolutes because she hasn't seen much of it. There's such a naivety about her, and I think that Silvius is a bit more
emotionally advanced than she is.
"Both plays start in quite a dark way. In this production they're trying to suggest there's a real cost in getting to the forest, and it's quite a difficult and dangerous place to be. But through that you discover strengths to yourself you didn't know were there."
These two plays run until the end of October in Stratford and then go to Newcastle and London, with a trip to Japan in-between for The Dream. It's steady work until March, but how do you keep performances fresh over that time-span?
"I think the repertory system is the key. Having breaks is important. When Twelfth Night comes back in they won't have done it for five or six weeks. So it's not as if you're saying the same words every night for six months!"
* As You Like It opens on Wednesday.