Actress Finty Williams on Gatwick expansion, the Surrey countryside and life on stage
- Credit: Various
Having grown up in the county, actress Finty Williams, the daughter of Dame Judi Dench, now divides her time between Surrey and London. Here we put her under the Surrey Life spotlight…
The last time we caught up with you for a chat in Surrey Life was in 2009, so it’s great to finally catch up again! How are things?
Everything is great, thank you. We’ve moved up to London again now, as my son Sammy is studying there for his A Levels. It’s all rather lovely. But we still go down to see my mother in the Surrey countryside, near Redhill, as often as possible. In fact, Sammy spends most of his time there when he’s not at school. I think he rather prefers the countryside! I love driving down late after a show, and as the city gives way to green fields, I get a wonderful sense of calm.
There’s a great deal of concern about our countryside at the moment, with even talk of building on the Green Belt. Where do you stand on that?
I do worry about the proposed expansion of Gatwick Airport. There are so many beautiful villages and open spaces that will be destroyed. I understand that the airport needs to be equipped to cope with the huge demand, but we mustn’t forget that our countryside and our historical architecture is one of the things that people travel to the UK to see. We must not forget that.
Your mother, Dame Judi Dench, recently became a patron for Surrey Wildlife Trust. Are you a wildlife fan too?
Oh yes, absolutely. We are always going to the British Wildlife Centre in Lingfield. Ma and Sammy and I adore seeing all the animals. I am especially fond of the polecats and the weasels, and we feel extremely lucky if we catch a glimpse of a little furry face! The new owl aviaries are wonderful. It’s so lovely to see them in such great enclosures.
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Any other favourite places to visit that you would like to recommend to readers?
My other absolutely favourite place is Hever Castle, just over the border in Kent. I was lucky enough to celebrate my birthday there a couple of years ago. It never ceases to amaze me that we are allowed to walk through a castle and its grounds where Anne Boleyn lived and Henry VIII visited. I’m always telling Sammy to never underestimate that.
What else do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
In our spare time, I like nothing better than going for a walk (preferably in the rain, the heavier the better) then going home to Sammy and Joe, my wonderful boyfriend, and ordering a takeaway and watching TV. Game of Thrones is a particular favourite. It’s safe to say that I’m slightly obsessed by that! And we love going to the theatre, we go as much as we can.
With the Surrey Life Food and Drink Awards taking place this month, we wondered if you have a favourite place to eat out in the area?
When I’m down in Surrey, we eat out at various pubs around the area. The Bell at Godstone is really good and we recently visited the Old House in Copthorne, which was excellent.
And do you have a particular shop in the area that you always like to visit when you’re here?
As for shopping, Ma and I do enjoy a trip to Nicky Cs in Cuckfield down in Sussex. It always has lovely things, and I’ve heard they’ve started doing food too. I shall have to check that out very soon!
It’s also Guildford Book Festival this month, so we wondered what book you’re reading at the moment?
I find reading quite hard when I’m rehearsing, but Joe and I read voraciously on holiday recently. I think we got through five books between us in six days. At the moment, I’m reading two books. A book about the life of Charles Manson, and a book called The New Pearl Harbour by David Ray Griffin, which is about the 9/11 commission.
And is there an all-time favourite read that you would recommend to curl up with by the fire this autumn?
I’m happiest reading any history book. Whether it’s about the Tudors or the Second World War; anything I can learn from. My favourite is called the East End Chronicles. All about the history of the East End from the 15th century to the present day. Fascinating.
So tell us about Dangerous Corner… that certainly sounds like the perfect play to get stuck into on a chilly autumn evening?
Dangerous Corner is a wonderful play: a mixture of intrigue and truth. Including revelations about homosexuality, drugs and sexual liaisons! It has an amazing cast: Michael Praed, Colin Buchanan, Kim Thompson, Lauren Drummond, Matt Milne and Rosie Armstrong. And of course it’s directed by the wonderful Michael Attenborough, who is a true inspiration. Like his father was for previous generations.
What’s it like working with Michael Praed – and did you, like us, have a secret crush on him when he was in Robin of Sherwood?!
As for Michael Praed, I’m afraid I didn’t watch Robin of Sherwood, but I was a huge Dynasty fan. I think I had the wedding massacre episode on VHS and broke the tape because I watched it so much. Also he was in Riders, which most of my friends and I watched avidly. I think we all secretly wanted to be showjumpers after that. Can’t imagine why...!
Is the Guildford Yvonne Arnaud a theatre that you know well?
I love going to the Yvonne Arnaud. I’ve been there many times and always look forward to going back. I remember my parents being there when I was a child, and it’s nice to feel that they were walking on the same stage that I get to go on.
Do you have anything else in the pipeline work-wise?
I’m just enjoying doing Dangerous Corner at the moment; I try not to think too far into the future. Sometimes I think if you are constantly looking forward, you miss what is happening today. And I am so lucky to be with this group of people, I want to make the most of it. I would love to do a play with Ma; it’d be an absolute dream. But she has a rather full diary at the moment! I shall keep my fingers very crossed though.
Finally, tell us something about you that we don’t know…
Something you don’t know... I have a total love for tattoos. I have four that all mean something to me. Ma isn’t quite so keen. I wanted to have ivy tattooed on me for my 40th, then add to it every year so that I’d look like it was covering me by the time I was 70. Ma put her foot down!
• Dangerous Corner ran at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in October 2014. Visit yvonne-arnaud.co.uk for the theatre’s latest shows
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