Tamsin Greig is in a new play.
Nothing particularly unusual about that, you’re probably thinking.
But Labour of Love, which opens this week, has involved a particularly intensive rehearsal period for the actress.
Tamsin had to stand in at the last minute for Sarah Lancashire, who pulled out of the project due to illness.
Which meant that when Tamsin took over the role, she had to learn an entire play… in two-and-a-half weeks.
“I just lent very heavily on Martin [Freeman, her co-star],” the actress told BBC Radio 4’s Front Row.
“I lent on his knowledge of the play, the subject matter, the characters, and I just sort of did a lot of programming, like you would with a computer program, just putting the lines in.
“I’m desperately trying to remember 97 pages of dialogue learned in two weeks and remember where the spray cream is, so I’ve got my head down.”
Labour of Love, written by James Graham, tells the story of an MP who is trying to modernise his party (you can guess which one from the play’s title).
Greig plays his election agent and office manager in the comedy, which is set in North Nottinghamshire.
“James Graham knows what he’s doing, he knows what he feels and thinks and he has a very strong vision,” she says.
“And the play is so beautifully constructed that, actually, it’s just a case of ‘wind me up’ once the lines are in and let me go, and the play will do its own thing.”
The main issue with the play, the actress adds, is trying not to laugh on stage.
“There are a lot of moments in the play where I can’t actually look at Martin, because it’s too dangerous.”
Martin also warns about the risk of “corpsing” – theatrical slang for breaking into uncontrollable giggles on stage. “There are a couple of dangerous corpses in this cast,” he says.
The Sherlock actor also discussed the perception that everybody who works in the entertainment industry is politically left-leaning.
“I think it’s often assumed that everybody in our business is liberal left, but then people surprise you,” he says. “At my grand old age I don’t assume anything any more, and I wouldn’t judge anyone because of it.
“It’s much braver in our industry to say actually ‘I vote Conservative’ than it is to say ‘I vote Labour’, so I would have a lot of respect for someone who wasn’t Labour [getting] involved in something like that.”