Stagefright? I just can't get enough

Last updated at 12:11 19 April 2006

Juliette Lewis hasn't acted on a stage in her life — unless you count the school production of Hansel And Gretel when she was 11 — yet she's heading this way to make her theatre debut.

The actress and rocker will star as May, the complex heroine of Sam Shepard's modern classic Fool For Love, about two doomed lovers who rip each other apart with the ferocity of alley cats trapped in a dustbin.

'So I'm playing May in the first play I've ever done,' said Ms Lewis on the telephone from Los Angeles. 'I've performed in front of all kinds of crowds with my band, but this is the first time doing a play and I just couldn't say no. The material is so provocative and visceral that I'm really excited to do it,' she declared when we talked on Wednesday night, as she was preparing to pack up and haul herself to London for rehearsals with director Lindsay Posner.

Ms Lewis comes across as a vulnerable bundle of nervous energy — a quality she has successfully channelled into roles in movies such as Natural Born Killers, Romeo Is Bleeding, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Kalifornia and Martin Scorsese's re-make of Cape Fear, which earned her a best supporting actress Oscar nomination.

Lately, though, she's preferred playing gigs with her band Juliette And The Licks to making movies, which, she told me, have become 'a bit of a sterile medium, and more and more formulaic'.

Acting in Fool For Love, a play Shepard wrote in the early Eighties, had the emotional intensity 'of doing ten rock shows', she revealed, adding that the offer from producer Clare Lawrence came at a time when she was able to understand the kind of tug of war that May and Eddie, the rough-hewn object of her vacillating affections, go through.

The 32-year-old actress said she was ready to 'breathe in the thrill, the fear and the sheer terror' of acting before a live audience: 'This scares me — and I always do my best work when I'm terrified.'

Fool For Love opens at the Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, on June 13, with previews from June 7. In between all the thespian activity, Ms Lewis and her Licks will play a concert in Hyde Park on June 17, supporting the Foo Fighters and Motorhead.

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