I was there: Helen Mirren performs in The Duchess of Malfi (1981) - Roundhouse - Celebrating 50 Years


1980 – 2081

As a school student in 1980, Julie Wickham came to the Roundhouse to see The Duchess of Malfi starring Helen Mirren.

Helen Mirren and Bob Hoskins in Duchess of Malfi 1981

Credit: Trinity Mirror/Mirrorpix/Alamy Stock Photo

I came to the Roundhouse as a 6th Former from Malmesbury school in Wiltshire to see The Duchess of Malfi. We were studying The White Devil by Webster and were lucky enough to have a fantastic English department who took us to see as much theatre as they could and took us on a trip to London especially.

I found the Roundhouse really intriguing – it was so unusual to be in a round building. I remember looking down from our seats on a very scantily clad Helen Mirren wearing next to nothing – it was quite shocking really!

In the interval there were lots of famous people milling around and a group of us spent the time celebrity spotting (we saw David Essex looking absolutely gorgeous but we were too shy to go up and say hello).

It was dark by the time the play finished and we had a bit of a shock when we returned to the carpark and found our school minibus had been broken into. We were really scared and stood in stunned silence, but then Carol, one of our group, broke the tension by declaring out of the blue “isn’t it nice now the leaves are on the trees” (I’ll never forget that!). It made us all laugh.

I look back on that play as the most impactful performance I saw in my teenage years. I went on to get my English A-Level and take a Teacher Training Degree in English and Drama. I’ve taken many school groups to see live theatre since – its so important. And I’m now helping my son through his English GCSE too.