Jane McLeish-Kelsey Sophie Pax­ton

Evening Standard - West End Final Extra - ES Magazine - - Your Positivity Forecast -

Por­traits by

Styled by a warm em­brace. I emerge dis­armed and charmed in equal mea­sure.

‘I’ve al­ways been overly fa­mil­iar with peo­ple,’ she later con­fesses. ‘I just love peo­ple. I love them a lot.’ Is she a peo­ple-watcher? ‘No, I’m straight in there, full throt­tle. I doubt my­self a lot, but go for­ward at full throt­tle any­way.’

I had wor­ried that the bustling café would be too dis­tract­ing a place in which to con­duct an in­ter­view. Yet from the se­cond Kirby sits down, she com­mands your full at­ten­tion. You have to con­cen­trate, too, be­cause Kirby, a dar­ling of Lon­don’s most rad­i­cal young stage di­rec­tors, of­ten speaks in an en­thu­si­as­tic but in­choate stream of con­scious­ness. Over­lap­ping ideas are pounced on, mulled over, for­got­ten, then much later looped back to. ‘I love the idea of be­ing an Aries,’ she of­fers up at one point, be­fore adding: ‘My friends, who all call me Noo, think I op­er­ate on an­other planet.’

Cer­tainly, this year prom­ises to be a stel­lar one: a show­case for her daz­zling ver­sa­til­ity. On stage she will play Elena in Chekhov’s Un­cle Vanya at the Almeida, and make her Broad­way de­but when she and Gil­lian An­der­son reprise their roles as Stella and Blanche DuBois in the pro­duc­tion of A Street­car Named De­sire that brought them ac­claim at the Young Vic in 2014. On screen she will be seen as Zelda Fitzger­ald in Michael Grandage’s de­but film Ge­nius, a kick­ass cy­borg-like anti-hero­ine work­ing for an arms man­u­fac­turer in the dystopian thriller Kill Com­mand, and as the young Princess Mar­garet in the Netflix se­ries The Crown.

Un­cle Vanya, which opens next month, will see her star along­side her good friend Jes­sica Brown Find­lay. She will play the al­lur­ing Elena to Brown Find­lay’s put-upon Sonya, in a con­tem­po­rary stag­ing, adapted and di­rected by the wun­derkind Robert Icke.

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