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Interview with Russian actress Anna Danshina

Anna Danshina
Anna Danshina

Anna Danshina is an up and coming actress who has been in films and theatre productions. She will star in the hit film The Bromley Boys, which is to be released on 1st June 2018, with a star-studded cast including, Martine McCutcheon, Alan Davies and Brenock O’Connor. Anna plays Anoushka who is the Russian wife of Charlie McQueen, played by Jamie Foreman.

Anna has been in a number of feature films including Cordelia, Love Possibly, You, Me and Him and Shapes. Her theatre credits include Cockroaches, Joy Division, Notes from Underground, Morphine, The Idiot and Wife For Sale. Anna has also appeared in a few TV shows such as Family Matters and Your Day in Court.

Anna was born in Siberia, Russia and grew up in St. Petersburg. She is also a graduate of Oxford University and was the president of the Oxford University Russian Society and is married to Formula One engineer Paddy Lowe. Anna trained at the Drama Centre London.

Read our Q&A with Anna

Q: You were born in Siberia and grew up in St. Petersburg. Can you tell us about a favourite childhood memory?
Anna: I was born in the Eastern part of Siberia in Russia and spent some of my childhood in a small village called Maiskiy in the Amur Region. It was a very remote place surrounded by deep forest. Nature is truly amazing there, I remember there were vast flower fields blossoming in spring and summer, a lot of the plants that we cultivate in the garden such as orchids, lilies and peonies just grow there in the wild. There were a lot of wild animals too including brown bears, which were occasionally breaking into people’s houses, and I was a bit afraid that it might happen with us too. I remember that I enjoyed walking in the forest but I knew it could be dangerous, occasionally people got lost there and never came back. The temperature in winter on average was 30 degrees below zero, but when it dropped lower than minus 40-45 we were allowed not to attend school and we liked that! I remember the food was very tasty and it was to a large extent homemade, including ice cream. The grocery shop was mostly for bread, salt, sugar, chocolates and matches.

Q: You graduated from Oxford University and were the president of the Oxford University Russian Society. Can you tell us about your academic journey to Oxford and your time there?
Anna: My academic journey to Oxford was quite long! I had already gained two Master degrees before I started my studies in Oxford. My BA and my first MA was in Philosophy. I really enjoyed my years being a philosophy student. I think my first degree not only widened my horizons and enhanced my knowledge, but also gave me useful lessons about the life of a human being which helped me later to approach and overcome many difficult moments. My favourite philosophers were probably Friedrich Nietzsche and Fyodor Dostoevsky, but I also liked Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and Michael Foucault.

Later, I developed a strong interest in politics and international relations and did my second Master degree in “Studies of European Societies” at St Petersburg State University. It was a truly international experience for me, as a student, I travelled quite a lot around Europe on various research and study trips: I studied in Germany and Norway; and visited Sweden, Poland, and Serbia.

In 2011 I received a Hill Foundation Scholarship to study at the University of Oxford. I did two years’ study for an MPhil in Russian and East European Studies. It was fascinating to come to Britain to study the politics, history, economics and culture of my home country. I was privileged to learn from many world-renowned specialists. However, I enjoyed my time in Oxford not only because of the highest standards of tuition but also because of a very interesting social life. I was at St Antony’s college and we had the best parties in Oxford! Also, there were numerous interesting societies and clubs: I tried rowing and boxing. Later I joined the Oxford University Russian Society and was elected as its President. During my presidency, we organised many interesting events to promote Russian culture hosting famous speakers from Russia such as Film Director Andrey Konchalovsky and TV presenter and journalist Vladimir Pozner. One of my favourite days in Oxford was when HRH Prince Michael of Kent and Princess Michael of Kent accepted my invitation as President of the Russian Society to come and
give us a talk. I remember when I sent the letter of invitation I myself couldn’t believe he would come, but he did! There were a lot of preparations made to arrange his visit, but it was so much worth it! Prince Michael and Princess Michael of Kent stayed for the dinner afterwards and we had a very interesting conversation about Russian politics and society. I think it was one of the most remarkable days of my life. I still keep the letter
of thanks that I received from him afterwards.

Anna Danshina
Anna Danshina

Q: You trained at the Drama Centre in London – what were the highlights for you there?
Anna: I felt very privileged to be accepted to one of the best acting schools in Britain and in the world. I loved my times at Drama Centre but at the same time, I have to admit that sometimes it was emotionally and physically challenging. The programme was very intense with few days for holidays. We had very strict discipline there, if you were late even for 1 minute for a class, you would not be allowed to come in, and they didn’t make exceptions. During my studies, we covered a lot of methods and acting techniques that I use nowadays at work including movement psychology, Stanislavsky’s method and Meisner’s technique. As I pursued an Acting For Screen degree, we worked a lot in front of the camera. I liked our teachers, they were very strict on one hand but supportive on the other. I also enjoyed the special atmosphere of Central Saint Martin’s where the Drama Centre is based, it was amazing to be surrounded by so many creative people including fashion designers and artists. We had lots of fashion shows and art exhibitions in our building. I really enjoyed my studies there.

Q: Why the decision to come to England? Was that difficult to leave your homeland?
Anna: I wasn’t actually planning to leave my homeland, I came to England to study in Oxford and I was planning to go back after I finished my studies, however, I met my future husband here and he is British so I had to stay. I miss Russia a lot, but I like England too. I had developed a ‘special relationship’ with Britain before coming here as I used to work for the British Embassy in Moscow as Head of Public Diplomacy Campaigns and was promoting Russian-British cooperation in many spheres of joint interests including nuclear non-proliferation, climate change and human rights.

Q: When did your interest begin in the performing arts?
Anna: My interest in the performing arts began to form long ago, when I was at school, however, my generation which I myself call “generation in transition” was growing up in difficult times for the country which was undergoing a lot of significant transformations after the ending of the Soviet Union, there was very little stability in the society when millions of people were barely surviving, and a career in the performing arts in those times didn’t seem to me to be a sensible choice.

Q: You have performed in various stage roles – what have been the highlights to date?
Anna: After I graduated from Drama Centre in 2016 I played Serafima Korzukhina in “Cockroaches”, Kat in “Joy Division”, Liza in “Notes from Underground”, Aglaya Epanchin in “The Idiot”, Anna in “Morphine”; and Natalia in Chekhov’s farce “Wife for Sale”. Of course, I am still a beginner and have a lot to learn. I am trying to improve my skills every day and acquire new ones. I have just started to take singing lessons, hopefully, it will go well! I like to watch shows and see what other actors are doing, learn from them and understand what makes some of them very interesting to watch. Recently I went to watch Macbeth at the National Theatre and I was totally mesmerised by the performance of one of the witches. When she was in the scene, I was only looking at her.

Q: You are starring in the hugely anticipated film The Bromley Boys (released 2018) – a coming of age comedy – with a star-studded cast. Can you tell us about the film and Anoushka, the character that you play?
Anna: The Bromley Boys is a comedy feature film set in the 1960s about the worst football club in Britain. It tells the story of a teenager who happens to be a passionate fan of this very unsuccessful club, his loyalty and sacrifice trying to help his favourite team, it also tells the story of his first love. The film is very light-hearted, funny and warm. It is the sort of film that you can watch with your family or friends, it is suitable for any age. You don’t have to be a football fan to like this film, because it is more about life and human relationships overall rather than just about sport. The film has a brilliant cast starring Martine McCutcheon, Alan Davies and Jamie Foreman.
My character Anoushka is a funny one. She claims to be from Russia and is in a relationship with Charlie, the Bromley football club owner. She is quite pretentious and opportunistic, she doesn’t like rotten teeth, and she tries to stop her boyfriend from consuming too much sugar!

Q: Do you have any memorable moments from filming?
Anna: I remember that everyone was very nice, friendly and supportive. I also remember that sometimes it was very cold outside when we were shooting scenes outdoors. I enjoyed the filming process very much, I felt very privileged to be involved.

Q: Film or stage – do you have a preference?
Anna: I don’t know actually, I like both. I started with films as I was trained as a screen actress, but then I developed a passion for theatre as well. I think screen and stage acting are very similar and different at the same time. I love the filming process because there is a lot of excitement and energy on a filming day, I like meeting lots of new people on set, early mornings and late hours, there is always something unpredictable happening, something new and unexpected that you need to deal with, and I like it. With theatre I like sharing energy with the audience, you perform in front of many people and for them. The audience makes you feel real and alive as a character. During rehearsals I never feel my transformation is complete, it may be ninety-nine percent but never a hundred, its only when you come out on stage on the first night those eyes of the audience that look at you lift you up and make you feel fully immersed into the play allowing you to live truthfully in imaginary circumstances.

Q: What next for you in 2018?
Anna: I am focusing on films at the moment, I will play Alena in a feature film by Michael Elkin called “Break” which will tell the story of a young underdog snooker player. I will play along with Jamie Foreman and Adam Deacon whom I met on set for the Bromley Boys. Recently I played Natasha in the psychological thriller “Cordelia” directed by Adrian Shergold starring Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Jonny Flynn and Michael Gambon. Sally Hawkins is one of the Executive Producers. Some of my other films will be released this year such as a comedy feature film “Love Possibly” directed by Che Grant and Michael Boccalini in which I played the lead female character Lana. Another film to be released this year in cinemas is “You, Me and Him” with David Tennant directed by Daisy Aitkens. I had a small part there playing a cheerful gym instructor.

The Bromley Boys will be released in Cinemas on June 1st 2018 and on home entertainment from 25th June. Tickets are available for the world premiere at Wembley Stadium on May 24th, for more information please go to https://thebromleyboysfilm.eventbrite.co.uk

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  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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