TBB Talks TO… Angel Coulby – Florian Zeller’s The Forest

Angel Coulby is of Afro-Guyanese descent, she was a long standing character in Merlin (she played the role of Guinevere). She has also starred in BBC2’s Dancing on the Edge alongside Chiwetel Ejiofor. She can also be seen in new Apple TV+ series Suspicion.

Her Theatre Credits include Theatre work includes Albion (Almeida); Good People (Hampstead Theatre/Noel Coward); Lavender Blue (Edinburgh Lyceum) and more.

The Forest sees Pierre at a turning-point of his life, he finds himself tormented by the conflicting demands of family, career and sexual desire. His struggle to resolve this crisis, without fracturing his marriage or compromising his moral code, is explored in unsettling ways.

Florian Zeller’s play is translated by Christopher Hampton, with Angel Coulby as the girlfriend.

We spoke to Angel about her role and her career so far…

Please introduce yourself…

I’m Angel Coulby and I’m of mixed heritage. I grew up in London and I’m an actress.

A word or sentence that describes your life right now…

Right now my life feels busy but in a good way.

The Forest is Florian Zeller’s first play to premiere outside France and as an Oscar-winning writer, it has a buzz around it with the anticipation that it will have audiences riveted. How exciting is it for you to be a part of the production and do you feel pressure to deliver on your performance?

When I saw the team behind this production I knew I wanted to be involved. I’ve worked with Jonathan Kent at The Hampstead before and loved the experience. I was extremely flattered to be asked to be a part of Florian’s new play. I try not to feel pressure but to focus instead on doing my best and serving the play.

THE FOREST: Marketing Image Shaun Webb Design

It is a play about a man struggling with a mid-life crisis, the women are somewhat held adjacent to the main protagonist but are still important for the development of the storyline. Can you tell us about your character, her development and what tools you use to captivate your audience?

I play The Girlfriend. She is a woman caught up in a difficult situation and is driven to distraction by a man who has seemingly made promises to her which he’s now denying. The play is in no way linear, so there are differing realities for each character in any given scene. In the play, the men shift and change in ways that the women don’t. Perhaps this is a metaphor but you’d have to ask the writer.

I think the play is captivating in its construction, so it’s my job to simply play the truth of each scene.

The Forest deals with themes such as the conflicting demands of family, career and sexual desire, how do you think the audience will relate to this play’s narrative?

I’m sure everyone can relate to the themes in this play. I believe we are all multifaceted beings trying to cope with conflicting wants, roles and needs. It’s the problem of being human, and this is a play that explores that concept.

The Forest has been translated from French to English are there any differences in cadence in the translation of the script?

Hard to say since I’ve never read the French version. But I’m sure Christopher Hampton has done a very good job of maintaining the French-ness of the original writing within the English translation.

What have been the best and most challenging parts in working on this production?

The best bit has been working with such a wonderful group of people, everyone involved has been a joy to collaborate with.

The most challenging is working on a non-linear play. Each scene has its own back story for each character which might be conflicting. We naturally want to find the logic in the play, but because the play shifts between supposed fantasy and reality there are no clear answers.

The Forest Production Image featuring Angel Coulby, Paul McGann © The Other Richard

You have worked consistently across theatre, television, and film What are some of your stand-out experiences that reinforce why you got into acting?

For me, the stand out experiences are to do with the people I come across. It sounds like a generalisation but I love actors. Their natural creative energy is very inspiring. This aspect of my job continually reinforces why I got into acting.

Let’s talk about Apple TV’s new series Suspicion, you play Vanessa Okoye what’s your character’s goal in the world of Suspicion and how does her journey evolve through the series?

In Suspicion, I play a detective trying to locate a young kidnap victim. She’s fastidious in her methods, has a tough exterior and likes to do things by the book. Enter FBI agent Scott Anderson (played by Noah Emmeric) drafted in to help since the crime took place on US soil, although the suspects are British. Vanessa is forced to adapt to Scotts more heavy-handed way of working, and also to reconnect with painful memories from her past.

Suspicion is full of some amazing British Talent including Clare Perkins, Lydia West, and Georgina Campbell. What was it like working with one another, had you worked with any of them before, and as filming is often non-linear did you get to spend time with each other at all?

I got to spend time with all of them and they were all wonderful, as people and actors.

Vanessa Coulby as Detective Vanessa Okoye- Suspicion: Apple TV

Which role to date has been the most career-defining for you – and what was it about this role that makes it so?

I guess maybe the role I played in Good People at The Hampstead. I think the calibre of the roles I was going up for changed for the better after that.

You’ve had an extensive career as an actress, do you have plans to get in the director’s chair, or write?

I love the idea of writing something but I’m not sure I have the patience for it! It’s a long process and not everything you write will get produced. I have enormous respect for people who write, my husband, being one of them.

I have no plans to direct, but never say never I guess..

GETTING TO KNOW YOU…

A book you have to have in your collection?

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm- This book proffers the idea that love is an art form, and therefore cannot be mastered without continual honing and practice. It’s a gem of a book.

A song/album that defines the soundtrack of your life to date?

Tricky one. I’m not sure this defines my life to date, but Eryka Badu’s Baduizm certainly holds a lot of nostalgia for me. Happy memories of summers, early adulthood and discovering what it meant to be independent.

A film / TV show that you can watch/have watched repeatedly?

The Goonies. LOVE that movie. I’m all about nostalgia clearly.

The first stage production you saw and what it meant to you (play, dance or concert)?

I was about 6 and it was a pantomime.. can’t recall which one, but the chorus was made up of young girls about my age. I desperately wanted to swap places with them. Guess that was the beginning of ‘the acting bug’ for me.

What’s made you sad, mad, and glad this week?

Sad- the fact that Russia might be about to invade Ukraine. I find it deeply sad that war is even considered an option in this day and age.

Mad- Boris Johnson and his clan’s entitlement and contempt for the people of this country. Need I say more.

Glad- seeing dear friends after the opening night of The Forest. I know some wonderful people, I’m privileged to have them in my life.


THE FOREST Saturday 5 February – Saturday 12 March 2022 at Hampstead Theatre

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