Cressida Bonas

Actress’s Notebook

Actress's Notebook
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Our upstairs neighbours are not the sort of people you want to have run-ins with. They have regular moped deliveries and I see packages exchanged through blacked-out BMW windows. I once knocked on their door to ask if I could borrow a potato masher. They looked at me as if I were mad. They seem to sleep all day and do all sorts at night. I usually go to bed to the sound of floor-board drilling. I wonder what they are hiding: are they supplying illegal stuff for the next generation of Tory leaders?

The other night, at about 5 a.m., I heard a banging noise, followed by shouting at the front of the house: ‘POLICE, POLICE.’ What had I done? I peered out of the window. Officers were bursting into the house, heading for the upstairs flat. They started kicking in the neighbours’ front door. Somebody jumped from a balcony to escape. It was all very exciting. I saw flashing blue lights then six burly men being handcuffed and taken away in a van. A young female officer told me that it was a raid and to go back inside. My boyfriend told me to stop being so nosey but I stayed close to the window, twitching the curtains.

Strange things happen to me in the early hours. Travelling around India last year, we had a midnight intrusion; a woman broke through our bedroom window. She jumped on to our bed and grabbed my feet and began some rhythmic chant, as if removing a curse. She had long grey hair and hands like claws. It was seriously frightening. After we got her out of the room she sat outside and continued to chant while running her fingernails up and down the door. Was she a witch? Does this sort of thing happen regularly?

I was asked recently to speak to the London partners of the law firm, DLA Piper, about the acting profession. They have a guest speaker every other month and this time they wanted someone from the arts. It was daunting — surely, I thought, I’ll bore them to tears — but I was honoured to get the call. When I told my mum she asked if she could come and watch — she’s used to sitting in the front row when I’m in a play. I told her: ‘It’s not really that sort of thing, Mum.’ My dad thought I should start by telling a lawyer joke he knows about a horse and a man forming a ‘stable relationship’. I wasn’t so sure.

When the day arrived I was nervous. I imagined the lawyers to be serious people who worked in dark, Dickensian places with quill pens and ink stands. I was wrong. These lawyers work in a bright office overlooking the Thames. They were charming and later an email came in from one of the partners telling me how surprised he was to find that our two disciplines — acting and legal work — have so much in common. We both work on a pitch or audition that might never be won. We both feel elation when we win a case or part, and disappointment when we don’t. Perhaps my job isn’t so unique.

Last week, I did some modelling for Kiki McDonough’s jewellery business. It was for her new collection. We were in a studio all day. Kiki masterfully controlled proceedings. A whole day having your photograph taken is quite monotonous, so I started to dance. Apparently, a video of my dancing will be used as part of Kiki’s new campaign. When you work on a shoot, you don’t get to see many of the images. I anticipate the sight of my dancing in jewels with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. I hope there was no faulty footwork.

The following day, I went to see The Glass Piano at the Coronet Theatre, written by Alix Sobler and directed by my friend Max Key. Alexandra of Bavaria is under the delusion that she swallowed a glass piano as a child after she was abandoned by her mother. She’s too frightened to move or make the slightest disturbance in case the piano shatters inside her. It might seem a very peculiar metaphor but I found it moving. It spoke to my anxieties about failure, falling and loss. I’ve always been terrified, for example, of losing my mum — I used to say ‘please don’t go’ every time she put me to bed. I worry each time she gets in the car to go somewhere. I can’t bear the thought of life without her.

Why is our existence so full of fear? At 5 a.m. today the neighbours returned and so did the police. I’m back doing time at the window. Cressida Bonas talks to Lara Prendergast and Olivia Potts on Spectator Life’s food podcast. Later this year she will appear in an ITV drama about the White House Farm murders.