Maria Friedman

One interview described her as a goddess of the theatre atop Olympus. Discuss.

“I’ll ‘ave that,” she roars. “But no. I’ve been incredibly blessed but it goes with my nature. You’re lucky if you’re born interested. The majority of my career I’ve worked with living writers, soing new work. So, you;re part of teh craetive process. I passionately believe the arts are someting being eroded and it shouuld start in the schools. We don’t all have to be mathematiains. Music and words have healing transformative power. They remind us of our fallibility, courage and humanity.”

I saw her earlier this year in tiny cabaret club Brasserie Zedel and she made me cry when she sang Marvin Hamlisch’s At The Ballet from A Chorus Line. She cried too. How does that feel, to have that power? Is it addictive? How can you possibly go back to your daily life after that?

“Marvin was extraordinary. How did he do that in a song? How did he know how we all feel? He took me all round the world with him for concertss. He’d always order all the puddings and make me eat them because he was on some crazy diet. And I had to rate and review each one. He wanted to know if this wass the greatest soup or pudding. He was a man of passin and immediacy. To be present is the most important.”

“You feel liek you are a vessel as long as yo ustay open and lal this energy you use it. it’s a communion both ways. There’s always a leader in the audience, you can feel it. It allows the audience to become part of it. It’s contagious. It’s frustrating and I wish we could put it on the programme, ‘You have a job to do in the audience. Commit to being present and you get a better show.”

“It’s really hard. I’m very practical and down to earth but there is no doubt the adrenalin that is like a poison. It’s addictive and when it’s not thers, yes, there’a  feeling of emptiness.  The next morning you feel like youve been run over. It’s like great sportmen, performers anyone who has a great run at the top, when it goes, the lows are really hard to manage. But i don’t need it. I had years without it because I direct a lot.”

Wasn’t this also a raection to the brutal truth theer are so manty less roels for leading ladies after a certain age?

“It was many thing. I had been ill. I had spent 20 years doing fantastic parts in the dark, eight shows a week and i had two young children. You miss putting them to bed and you’re knackered taking them to school. There wasn’t a moment for me, not the actor, wife or the mum, just me, simple Maria. And I didn’t want to get ill again. I wanted to reconnect with my family and I’d pushed it too far.”

Maria had a hugely publicised battle with cancer in   when she was in New York to headline the premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Woman In White. A lump was discovered and two days later removed.

“I missed three days on stage and I was back for opening night. Anybody’s who’s been ill.. A lumpectomy is liek having a tooth extracted. A tiny thing with a tint scar. I felt well. YOu’re graded and I was a 2, a massively good prognosis and your life force kicks in. I was out four hours after surgery, pushed down teh road in a wheelchai because i didn’t have enough insurance in the disgraceful America and I was walking in Central Park that evening. So it woudl be stupid not to go back to work.

“But then I got a call saying they’d found some more and I went back in and have a another much worse proceedure and that knocked me and I was off for ten days. It was already iupsetting but then it was just horrible when the press got hold of it. It was deeply unpleasant and highjacked everything. The producers weren’t happy and they closed the show.”

“We’d only just started going out together and he walked nme to hospital every day and took over my cchildren and gave up his flat and job in London.

He is twenty years younger than me but we’ve been together for 14 years so i think that proves . 

I’m a creative person, useless at everything else and an opportunity came to direct. My question is always ‘Why shouldn’t I do this?’  As an actor I drect myself and by osmosis I’d absorbed so much from so many wonderful directors. It felt like a comfortable glove.


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