• Anna Koval and Simon Haines are appearing in Oliver Bennett’s Europe After the Rain. The play, which explores what waking-up in a post-EU Britain might feel like, was the winner of last year’s Mercury Playwrighting prize and runs until June 9. For tickets call the box office on 01206 573948 or go on-line at www.mercurytheatre.co.uk

What or who got you interested theatre? Did you take part in any productions at school?

Anna: I was a very confident and playful child with a huge imagination and a knack for making people laugh. Acting was a natural fit. I went to an all girls school so always got cast as the men because I was bolshy.

Simon: I had some great teachers at primary school and there were lots of school plays. I remember I did mad ‘show and tell’s where I dressed up as a witch, improvised, and sort of held court. Eventually, the teacher told me ‘This isn’t show and tell anymore’ and I had to stop. Mr Thurgur in Year 4 really encouraged me. He bought a camcorder and set up a Film Club and me and some other kids made a little movie about a fishfinger. There were two big school plays in Year 5 and 6 which we performed on a proper stage at the local secondary school. That was amazing. I was Toby Belch in Twelfth Night, and for the second one I already was a hustler – there weren’t enough good male parts so I convinced the teachers to let me play one of the female leads in drag. I was phenomenal.

Are or were any members of your immediate family involved in the theatre?

Simon: No! But there was an 18th Century actor and fortune teller called Joseph Haines. I wonder if I’m distantly related to him.

Anna: Nope. But my Polish Grandfather was an Opera Singer.

What formal training have you done?

Anna: I trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

Simon: I trained for three years at Guildhall School of Music and Drama. It was brilliant. I also did a degree before that at Cambridge, where I acted and wrote with the Footlights a bit, and did about 30 shows in three years. That was intense.

Which experience/role do you regard as the highlight of your career to date?

Simon: I loved playing Christopher Wren in Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. Doing Hamlet in Elsinore Castle sounds cooler than it was; I didn’t really enjoy that. The Mousetrap was brilliant fun.

Anna: My first job out of drama school was playing Beatrice Joanna in the Changeling for the English Touring Theatre. It was an incredibly challenging role in an epic Jacobean Tragedy.

Also, Rachel Costello in Ripper Street – a strong, female journalist in the Victorian era.

Gazette: Anna Koval (Yana) & Natasha Kafka (Marta) in Europe After The Rain. Picture by Robert Day

What has been your most embarrassing moment on stage?

Anna: When I walked into a bannister and it punched a hole right through my corset bone and winded me. I thought I broke a rib! Don’t know how I got through the rest of the night.

Simon: So many. So many.

What role would you most like to play and why?

Simon: It hasn’t been written yet. New stories are my passion. That said, I’d love to have a crack at Rooster Byron (the character Mark Rylance played in Jerusalem). And I love the men in Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams and David Mamet.

Anna: Gosh, so many. Lady Macbeth, Medea, I would love to play some of the male roles in Shakespeare. Why not? I also love Sci-fi so maybe like a Star-ship captain like Jean Luke.

Ever corpsed on stage? What happened?

Anna: Of course. I had just been killed on stage and had to stay completely still and control my breathing. I could hear the rest of the cast giggling uncontrollably – I had to fight it so hard – my face was towards the audience. I could feel a stupid smirk appearing.

Simon: Yes, but it’s fine – it’s part of the character! In real life, we laugh at the strangest moments.

Any big plans for the future?

Anna: I am also a writer – working on my 2nd and 3rd plays. I would love to get my own work put on. And of course, continue to play exciting female roles – ones with depth and complexity. There are still a lot of poor roles out there for women – especially in Television and Film. I often say no to things – I do not want to sell myself short. Things are improving but it is slow.

Simon: Let’s see what happens!