| Dubai, United Arab Emirates


Hetty Feather in Dubai

Circus tricks, adventure and theatre show coming to Ductac

© ITP Images

With her circus tricks and intrepid sense of adventure, it’s no wonder Victorian foundling Hetty Feather is one of children’s literature’s most popular characters. We caught up with Phoebe Thomas who plays Hetty Feather in the new West End show, which is coming to Dubai next month.

Already a well-known actress, Phoebe Thomas, who has starred in the UK’s top TV dramas Holby City, Family Affairs, Teachers and FIVE, is no stranger to the theatre. But this time, things are a little different, as at the age of 30, she dons a frilly cap and foundling’s gown to play the part of Jacqueline Wilson’s teenage heroine, Hetty Feather. The show, and Pheobe, will be coming to the UAE in May.

You’ve already had a varied and successful career, having spent four years on the drama Holby City, among other things. How did you get into acting in the first place?
I attended a drama school on Saturdays and did dance, drama and singing classes in the evenings. My Saturday drama school had an agency attached to it. My brothers, who also went there, were going for a commercial audition. I was waiting for them with my mum and the casting director said ‘we’re looking for a girl as well’…. So I went in, and we all got the job! It was my first professional acting job, and then I got nominated for a BAFTA for it!

What’s been your most memorable acting job to date?
I loved my four years on Holby City. That was an amazing opportunity. But I also adored playing Beth in Little Women on stage in the West End. These were two very memorable jobs as they were fantastic characters but I was also working with fantastic casts.

Hetty Feather is possibly Jacqueline Wilson’s most famous literary character. How familiar were you with her before you got the part?
I hadn’t read any of the Hetty Feather books but I had heard younger family members talking about the character. When I read the first book I fell in love with the story and the character because she’s such a wonderful and rounded person to play. Plus, she has lots of cool adventures!

It’s a very sought-after role. What was it like when you found out you’d be playing Hetty?
I was absolutely ecstatic. I shouted ‘yes’ very loudly and punched the air! She’s such a strong, interesting spirited character and I couldn’t wait to get my teeth into it! She’s actually quite a challenging person to play because I had to develop a range of circus skills to a degree that they looked as though they were being performed totally naturally on stage as I was acting – not an easy feat! Combining the usual elements in terms of building the character along with that was literally a juggling act. The story is also set in the Foundling Hospital in Victorian London, which is a real place and is open to the public as a museum now. We spent some time there as preparation – and it was brilliant to get a true sense of where these kids were, what life was like for them, and to walk up the very steps they walked up. The background, information, paintings of the time – it was all very inspiring.

When you’re not on stage, or playing dramatic TV roles, how do you spend your downtime?
I’m a runner and personal trainer as well as the Coaching Editor at Womens Running magazine in the UK and my husband is an endurance coach for Great Britain. We have a coaching consultancy business called RunningWithUs.com so a lot of my time is spent in the health and fitness industry! Aside from that I love going to the blues club my dad runs in London, going to the cinema, running through the mountains in Chamonix and enjoying good food!

This will be your first time visiting Dubai. What’s on your bucket list in terms of sightseeing?
I’m hoping to get there and pick the brains of the people in the cast who have already been to Dubai. I also have a friend who is coming out to visit while I’m here, so I am sure that together we will seek some places out and enjoy our down time. Any suggestions of where to go from Time Out Kids readers though, are welcome!

What would you like to be doing in five years’ time?
Ideally, I would like to combine working within TV, film and theatre. The combination of all mediums is a perfect scenario. If I can be successful doing what I am passionate about career wise as well as being surrounded by, being supported by, and equally supporting my amazing family and friends then that is a wonderful life balance.

What would your advice be to young people who are interested in pursuing drama as a career, but are worried about the massive competition?
Definitely follow the dream! If you are passionate about acting, you need to discover whether it really is something that’s right for you. Find a local drama school and get involved with classes, plays and theatre projects. From this point, more opportunities will arise. You have to be prepared to work hard though, and realise that it isn’t all glamour. But when there are high points, and when you are working and enjoying success in an area you love, it really is a joy!
Hetty Feather arrives in the UAE in May. Tickets start from Dhs120. Performances are at DUCTAC and run from May 16th to 24th. Visit www.artforall.ae, email info@artforall.ae or call 04 304 2340/050 880 5074 for more details. Tickets are available at www.timeouttickets.com, the DUCTAC box office, or at outlets of Virgin Megastore.

Time Out Dubai,

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