Having caught the creative bug aged seven playing King Midas in a production at junior school, I passionately pursued acting throughout my teens with the support of my drama teachers. I auditioned for school plays whenever the opportunity arose, and with a small group of fellow creative pupils, staged regular lunchtime revues of comic sketches. I was then recommended to audition for county youth theatre in Bedfordshire, run by the brilliant director John Topping who cast me as Gertrude in Hamlet when I was 18. I followed this incredible experience with a series of roles for BYT in productions including Everyman, Charles Dickens Hard Times and as Viola in Twelfth Night. Then, in the year before I went to drama school, I co-ran the Bedford-based Streetwise Theatre Company, also acting in their productions of Macbeth and A Taste of Honey.
I trained at Manchester Polytechnic School of Theatre, graduating with a Diploma in Theatre in 1990. The high point of the course was in my final year when I played Susan Traherne in David Hare’s Plenty, directed by Lawrence Till. I continued to work as an actor after graduating, first in Manchester with companies such as Penny Plain, Maiden Theatre, and Midsommer Actors and then in London. Here, I played 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. I 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. I 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, I was also the Joint Artistic Director of Weaver Hughes Ensemble a new writing/new work theatre company. Our productions included World 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 I 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 (in which I also acted) and a revival of Marlene Gomard Meyer’s Etta Jenks, directed by Che Walker and starring Daniela Nardini and Clarke Peters.
At this point, I became fascinated by the idea of adapting Edith Wharton’s ground-breaking novel Summer into a play. I 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, I began to write.
Julia directing a rehearsal of Skybridge by Andrew Bruce-Lockhart
In 2006 though, I read a monologue from a startling new play in development called Thin Toes by first-time writer Laura Stevens. I was so struck by the piece – its themes, characters and story – that it made me want to become a director in order to see the play realised. Whilst the production was being put together in 2007, an opportunity arose for me to direct a revival of the 1980s John Burrows’ play It’s A Girl! for the Bucharest International Festival of Theatre in Romania. And in addition, I had the opportunity to co-direct the World Premiere of a new devised play Remembering You like something I’d Forgotten by Louise Buchler for that year’s National Arts Festival in Makhanda, South Africa. Suddenly, I was a director.
Immediately following the well-received World Premiere production of Thin Toes in 2008, I 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, I worked again with Yaller Skunk, directing a revival of Tape by Stephen Belber. I 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 Festival Fringe.
In 2010, I formed my own company 20 South Street as a creative hub and home for my work. I wanted to call the company something that resonated with me and so I chose the address of the house where I was born and grew up. Perhaps the biggest influence on my life as an artist has been the work of Robert Lepage. I’ve been a huge admirer of this extraordinary actor, director, playwright and theatre-maker ever since seeing Elsinore, his one-man version of Hamlet, three times in its 10-date run at the National Theatre in 1997. Also in 2010, I had the extraordinary privelege of directing and producing the UK Premiere of Desire the landmark play by Catalan’s theatre’s most celebrated writer, Josep Maria Benet i Jornet on the London fringe.
Having spent my spare time since 2005 writing and workshopping drafts of Wharton’s novel, I now focused on completing my 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. I then continued with the other writing project I 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. I am now developing my next play Stella, an adaptation of a novelette by renowned diarist and author Anais Nin.
In addition to my work in theatre, I am also a passionate film fan and in 2011, I started my blog JSHmoviestuff to celebrate cinema with the tagline ‘the movies I think you should see‘. In the regularly published blog, I post my thoughts on new releases, classic films, trailers of upcoming movies to watch out for, as well as profiling major artists in the industry today. Over the last two years, I have also become increasingly interested in photography and I now post on my Instagram photos taken by both i-Phone and digitial camera.
In 2019, I returned to directing after a period focusing on writing whilst working in the corporate world. I was asked to come on board as the director of the critically acclaimed solo play A Voice written and performed by Anne Bertreau. The production was then seen at the Brighton and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals, with plans to continue touring the UK in 2020. This year, I have also joined the artistic team at the Jack Studio Theatre in London as their Literary Associate, and I work closely with the Artistic Director in programming the venue.
My current directing CV can be viewed via the link below.