Having caught the creative bug aged seven playing King Midas in a primary school production, Julia pursued acting throughout her teens with the support of her drama teachers and the director of the Bedfordshire Youth Theatre, John Topping, who directed her as Gertrude in Hamlet when she was 18. She followed that incredible experience with roles in the BYT productions of Everyman, Dickens’ Hard Times and as Viola in Twelfth Night.
Julia trained at Manchester Polytechnic School of Theatre, graduating with a Diploma in Theatre in 1990. She continued to work as an actor, first in Manchester with companies such as Penny Plain, Maiden Theatre, and Midsommer Actors and then in London.
Here, she began to play a range of classical parts including Nora in A Doll’s House (Time Out Critics’ Choice), the title role in Hedda Gabler, Regan in King Lear, Kate in The Taming of the Shrew and the title role in Racine’s Berenice. Julia also had the opportunity to work at the National Theatre on several of their Platforms series, with highlights being playing opposite Susannah York in Long Day’s Journey into Night for NT2000 and as Susan Traherne in Plenty alongside original cast members Paul Freeman and Stephen Moore for NT25. She was also directed by Fiona Shaw as the Young Woman (whom Shaw had played in the NT production) in a masterclass on Machinal.
During this time, Julia was also co-running Weaver Hughes Ensemble a new writing theatre company. Their work included premieres of a number of critically acclaimed new plays: The Silent Time by Rhiannon Tise (Time Out Critics’ Choice), Unlucky for Some by Paul Tucker (Time Out Critics’ Choice), Sara – a new version of Chekhov’s Ivanov by Patrick Miles (in which Julia also played the title role), The Smashed Blue Hills by Dominic Francis and The Six Wives of Timothy Leary by Philip de Gouveia (Time Out Critics’ Choice).
In addition, the company was involved in producing some extraordinary work by other artists, including the London Premiere of Fanny and Faggot by Jack Thorne directed by Steve Keyworth (Time Out Critics’ Choice), the UK Premiere of Don DeLillo‘s Valparaiso directed by Jack McNamara (Time Out Critics’ Choice), a revival of English Journeys by Steve Waters and a revival of Marlene Gomard Meyer’s Etta Jenks, directed by Che Walker and starring Daniela Nardini and Clarke Peters.
At this point, Julia became fascinated by the idea of adapting Edith Wharton’s ground-breaking novel Summer into a play. She had read the story after graduating from drama school and always thought it would work well in another medium and so in 2005, encouraged by the award-winning playwright Helen Edmundson, Julia began to write.
In 2006 though, Julia read a monologue from a startling new play in development called Thin Toes by first-time writer Laura Stevens and she was so struck by it that she wanted to direct its World Premiere in London. Whilst the production was being put together, in 2007, Julia had the opportunity to direct a revival of It’s A Girl! for the Bucharest International Festival of Theatre in Romania and co-direct with Hazel Barnes, the World Premiere of Remembering You like something I’d Forgotten by Louise Buchler for that year’s Grahamstown Festival in South Africa.
Immediately following Thin Toes’ premiere in 2008, Julia directed the critically acclaimed Off-West End transfer of Steven Hevey’s remarkable first play In My Name (‘Five Best Plays’ in London, Evening Standard) for Yaller Skunk Theatre Company. The following year, she worked again with Yaller Skunk, directing a revival of Tape by Stephen Belber. She also collaborated with Second Skin Theatre to co-direct the World Premiere of a new play Burn by Andy McQuade at that year’s Edinburgh Fringe.
In 2010, Julia formed 20 South Street as a creative hub for her work. In the same year, she directed and produced the UK Premiere of Desire (Desig) the landmark play by Catalan’s theatre’s most celebrated writer, Josep Maria Benet i Jornet, and translated by Sharon G. Feldman.
Having spent her spare time since 2005 writing and workshopping drafts of Wharton’s novel, Julia now focused on completing her first play. The World Premiere of Summer opened on the London fringe in 2012 and the text was also published to coincide with the production. Julia then continued with the other writing project she had been developing, a one-man adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet re-imagined from the point of view of the character of Horatio. The play Hamlet our brother premiered on the London fringe in 2016. Julia is now developing her next play Stella, an adaptation of a novelette by renowned diarist and author Anais Nin.
Julia is also a passionate film fan and in 2011, she started her blog JSHmoviestuff whose tagline is ‘the movies I think you should see‘. In the regularly published blog, she celebrates cinema, sharing her reviews on everything from new releases to classics as well as profiling the key players in the industry today.
She is also interested in photography.