Amanda Muggleton interview: ‘In stitched-up post-war Britain, Coral Browne was a force of nature’

Amanda Muggleton

A twentieth century acting great, Coral Browne was known for her glamorous lifestyle, as well as appearing on screen in productions such as The Killing of Sister George and An Englishman Abroad.

From her Australian roots to worldwide stardom, Amanda Muggleton retells the life of the formidable actress in Coral Browne: This F***ing Lady at the King’s Head Theatre.

Ahead of the national premiere, we spoke to Amanda Muggleton to discuss the importance of Coral’s story, how to get into character and a love for the off-West End venue she will appear at.

Why is Coral’s story one that’s worth telling on stage?

“Coral Browne’s life is fascinating. She was ambitious, brave, daring and so colourful. A pioneer in theatre from Australia, she paved the way for so many who followed her. Her career spans the world. Australia, England, Europe and America. She is part of English theatrical royalty.”

‘This F***ing Lady’ is quite an eye-catching title! Where does that come from?

“She was renowned for her colourful language. She used the F word at a time when ‘ladies’ weren’t supposed to use such words. It was said she had the vocabulary of a sailor. She was also described as sounding like a Duchess who’d spent too long in an East End pub! People were shocked but loved her for her honesty. In stitched-up post-war Britain she was a force of nature.”

Is Coral a performer you enjoy watching?

“Her acting ability is well worth watching, yes. Her pronunciation and diction are impeccable. She is very convincing and truthful in anything she does. She played everything - from light West End comedies to Shakespeare and the classics with the Old Vic and The National, to the original production of Orton’s What the Butler Saw. Her movie characters ranged from the hilarious in Auntie Mame, the predatory  in The Killing of Sister George to playing herself in Alan Bennett’s An Englishman Abroad for which she won a BAFTA.”

What have you learnt about her as a person preparing for this play? And what will audiences learn about her that they might not have known?

“She has a vulnerability that is not immediately obvious - she was so confident and strong. Underneath all the bravado she was soft and very generous. As you will see from the play her relationship with her Mother was very telling and ultimately very sad.” 

You’re returning to the King’s Head Theatre, is it a theatre you enjoy performing in?

“I love performing at The King’s Head. It’s so intimate and cosy, up close and personal. It’s a very friendly crowd and has an amazing history.”

If you arrived in London with just £50 in your pocket, like Coral, what’s the first thing you would do?

“£50 doesn’t buy much these days but I would buy a ticket to The National Theatre and a large gin and tonic!”

Coral Browne: This F***ing Lady! is at the King’s Head Theatre from 19th May to 3rd June.

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