West End Journey: Sienna Miller
| By James Astles
Sienna Miller is currently tantalising audiences at the Apollo Theatre in Benedict Andrews' take on the Tennessee Williams classic Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. She stars as the frustrated and unfulfilled Maggie trying to rebuild a connection with Jack O'Connell's tormented and most likely repressed Brick. Much has been made of both stars' nudity during the show, but Miller herself has implored audiences that although Andrews' staging is a bold and eye-catching opening to the production, she hopes to be ultimately judged on her performance.
For many Miller is the one time love interest of Jude Law and more likely to have been seen on the style pages of magazines than on stage or screen. However she has insisted that she wanted to be an actress since she was a young girl and has always felt a strong connection to theatre. She states that her mother actually went into labour with her whilst watching the Nutcracker Suite in New York as she was "kicking like mad".
Although born in New York City her family relocated to London when she was one year old. She went to school in the UK before studying for a year at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York. She was signed to Select Model Management in London and was starting to make a name for herself in print and with TV roles when her celebrity exploded due to a much publicised romance with actor Jude Law whom she had met on the set of the 2004 film Alfie. Although she didn't have major roles in that film or Layer Cake with Daniel Craig which came out the same year, the tabloids were already touting her as someone to watch thanks to her intriguing love life, stunning looks and innate fashion sense - she was one of the original faces of fashion trend 'boho chic' alongside Kate Moss.
Although over the years she has had a fair amount of well-received film output such as playing Andy Warhol's muse Edie Sedgwick in 2006's Factory Girl, Hitchcock's leading lady Tippi Hedron in HBO's 2012 film The Muse and 2014's American Sniper, she has only had five major theatre roles. She made her West End debut in 2005 as Celia in Shakespeare's As You Like It at the Wyndhams Theatre. Overall her performance received lukewarm responses from the critics. Although The Guardian's Michael Billington proclaimed "Miller may be a celebrity but she can still act", Paul Taylor of The Independent bemoaned "She approaches an emotion with the finesse of someone beating a carpet" and that she "brings to it all the ripe professional stage experience that can be mustered from appearing in three movies."
Determined to be taken seriously as a theatre actress Miller earned better plaudits for her turn as Miss Julie in Patrick Marber's After Miss Julie on Broadway in 2009. When she returned to the West End in 2011 for Trevor Nunn's revival of Terrence Rattigan's Flare Path at the Theatre Royal Haymarket the reviews were once again more favourable. Indeed The Independent's Paul Taylor seemed to be this time won over stating her performance was "genuinely heart-tugging in the subtle way it communicates this young woman's struggle between patriotic duty and extra-marital desire." Henry Hitchings of The Evening Standard said "she brings to her role just the right mixture of glacial poise and agonised tension" whilst Variety's Ray Bennett deemed her performance "lithe and assured."
Further praise was heaped on her performance as Sally Bowles in the Broadway production of Cabaret in 2015, when she took over from Emma Stone in the show's final six weeks. Now back in the West End with Cat, Miller seems to be making yet more strides with the critics. Paul Taylor was once again impressed dubbing it a "commanding performance", whilst the Evening Standard's Fiona Mountford described her performance as "faultless".
Perhaps Ben Brantley of Variety summarised her theatrical journey so far the best stating "Ms Miller, a survivor of relentless tabloid scrutiny and a Hollywood that eats beautiful actresses for breakfast, channels her natural grit and gameness to dazzling effect" and that she "at last has a stage role she was born for, and she owns it unconditionally".
Don't miss a chance to catch her in action at the Apollo Theatre where the show runs until 7th October.