To describe Amanda Abbington as outspoken would be putting it mildly.
“Stupid people on Instagram that want massive gaps between their legs: Go and EAT a Toblerone is my advice to you,” is one of her more printable recent tweets (and that’s only because we’ve taken the bad language out).
The actress, who is best known for her roles in Sherlock and Mr Selfridge, is particularly direct with her views on issues like politics, feminism, trophy hunting and animal rights.
But, as she speaks to BBC News ahead of the West End transfer of her current show The Son, Abbington acknowledges that today’s celebrities have to strike a delicate balance when it comes to social media.
“I’m so glad that Twitter has only been around in my 30s and 40s, because if it had been around when I was in my 20s… that would’ve been awful!” she laughs. “I was even more angry and vocal than I am now.
“But after a three-time Twitter ban, I’ve learned not to be quite so visceral in my anger or upset, just sit on it for a bit.”
Posting controversial comments online has come back to haunt many younger celebrities, who grew up with social media.
But Abbington explains she has developed a new strategy when it comes to posting her opinions online.
“As a general rule of thumb, if I’m going to tweet something that I think is quite inflammatory, I will write it and save it in my drafts,” she explains. “And then I’ll read it after I’ve had a night’s sleep and see what I think in the morning.
“It’s the same if I’m cross with someone, I’ll write a really stern email, and then put it in my draft, and sleep on it, and then wake up in the morning and think ‘thank God I didn’t send that!'”
Abbington is speaking as it’s announced the show she’s currently starring in – The Son, written by Florian Zeller – is set to move from The Kiln in Kilburn to The Duke of York’s Theatre.
The actress plays a mother whose divorce is weighing heavily on the mental health of her teenage son, Nicolas (played by Laurie Kynaston).
He has become depressed and prone to sudden bursts of rage as a result of the emotional toll the separation of his family is taking.
“Parents of teenagers will need to take a deep breath before seeing Florian Zeller’s new play,” said The Daily Mail’s Patrick Marmion. “It’s no cake walk.
“Yet curiously, although it is desperately sad, it’s not a depressing show. There are always rays of light.”
“A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner,” said The Guardian’s Kate Kellaway in her five-star review.
But Andrzej Lukowski from Time Out said the play relied on the strength of the actors to carry the script
“Zeller is always going to seem pretty good while he attracts casts and creative teams of this calibre, but The Son really would be in trouble without them,” he wrote.
The Son was originally written in French – Zeller’s first language.
It’s the third of a trilogy (after The Mother and The Father) – although the three plays are connected by little more than their titles, as each features different characters.
The playwright says he hopes the show will continue the public discussion around understanding mental health issues.
“What I do know is that many people are concerned by this kind of issue,” he tells BBC News.
“And when you go through these kinds of problems, you have this idea that you’re the only one. Especially parents, when you don’t know how to deal with this hard moment, and you try to do your best to help when you see your children suffering.
“There is something taboo about mental health. Not necessarily in the UK, but certainly in France, nobody speaks about those kinds of issues without taboo.
“It’s always like there’s a lot of shame and ignorance about these problems, and I think there are many young people that suffer, and I think it’s important to see that, show that, and share that.”
Abbington agrees: “I’m hoping people will see it as an amazing piece of storytelling and something that we need to highlight in mental health care, but it’s sort of done in a very interesting and sensitive way.”
“There are harrowing and heartbreaking moments in it. There are moments when it’s funny. But there is also something quite beautiful about it.
“And I think that’s what you need to play, you know, you need those peaks and troughs.”
She adds she’s “more than thrilled” about the show’s West End transfer, adding that audiences often comment afterwards how they found the show oddly positive given its subject matter.
“The general consensus with audiences was that they couldn’t really understand what they were feeling,” she says. “It opens up a dialogue about depression… but there is also a kind of hope.”
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