Emily Johnstone Talks Exclusively To Box Office Theatre

Emily Johnstone Hobson's ChoiceWe talk to Emily Johnstone who trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, graduating in 2014. She’s currently playing Ada in Hobson’s Choice with Martin Shaw at the Vaudeville Theatre.

Tell us a little bit about your character
I play Ada Figgins, the fiancé of Willie Mossop who’s a boot maker in Hobson’s shoe shop and who has caught the eye of Hobson’s eldest daughter Maggie. Poor old Ada she gets a rough deal in the play. She’s bullied out of the shop by Maggie when she comes to bring Will his dinner.

She’s great fun. I wear a blonde wig and three skirts and I laugh and cry in the space of 5 minutes – what’s not to like! It is hard being dumped every night though.

You’ve been with the play since it first opened at Theatre Royal Bath— how has the show changed since then?
It’s been lovely to be with the play since the beginning. We’ve now done over 140 shows and I still find it really exciting every night. With every new audience the show is different. They find new laughs in it every day and sometimes add a running commentary. One night I walked onstage and a man on the front row said ‘O, here comes Ada’. That’s when its most exciting, when the audience feels as though they’re in the play with you.

How did you feel when you found out you’d got a West End transfer?
Delighted!  Especially with a show that I feel so proud to be a part of. There is a real family environment backstage and I’m learning so much from everyone.

Are there particular moments of the show you look forward to? Any parts that you dread?
My favourite moment, I think, is when I walk onstage. A first entrance is always exciting but especially in this play. Because the audience is given a description of Ada by one of the characters and then I come bounding on completely oblivious. It’s such a clever, well-written play.

There’s one moment I always get a bit worried about.  On the first night in the West End I fumbled with the door that I enter through. It was probably only a millisecond but I was terrified I was going to have to bang on the window to be let in. Every night now when I walk up to the door I always think ‘Please open, please open, please open  …  Thank God!’

What’s your journey been like so far, as an actress?
I had a year out before getting into RADA. It wasn’t planned but I couldn’t recommend it enough. It’s very easy to take university or drama school as a next step on the ladder, but sometimes you need a bit of a breather from education to fully appreciate it. And often when RADA felt really hard (and even now when I’m sat backstage boiling in my bonnet) I’d much rather be here than in an office!

I loved RADA. Although I found it very difficult and challenging, I came out feeling ready to tackle just about anything and hungry to experience this mysterious profession. Whilst RADA gave me a grounding in what I technically need to bring to the stage, nothing can prepare you for the life of an actor in terms of the amount of time you spend not knowing what’s next and feeling your livelihood is in the hands of others.
You can often feel completely powerless as an actor. You can be out of work for a long period of time, and then get a call that you are going to be on the West End— it’s still baffling to me. I love this profession and really wouldn’t want to do anything else but you have to have a real cool-headedness and confidence that it will ‘all work out in the end’. I’m still mastering it! I wish someone had told me sooner that only 5% of actors are working at one time. When you’ve been part of the 95% is it sometimes difficult to see your way out of it.

And finally— has anything gone wrong onstage yet?

I’m a terrible giggler but I’ve managed to keep it together during the show. There was one night where Maggie, played by Naomi Fredrick, went to say “Can I sell you pair of clogs Miss Figgins” but she accidentally said “Can I sell you a pair of figs Miss Cloggins.”  We managed to keep going but there was a definite twinkle between us that night!

You can catch Emily Johnstone in Hobson’s Choice by buying your tickets here.