Matilda Ridgway plays Sister James in Doubt: A Parable. We fired 10 questions at her as we gear up for opening nighT

(Image: Robert Catto)

What drew you to this play?

Faith and trust are fascinating to me. Our ability to have faith that someone/ something is there. That they will catch us, whether it's a god, or a lover or a friend. 

You can never truly know another person and yet we build lives around each other and trust we will stick to our words. It's an amazing leap of faith and optimism. 

When you have trust in a relationship and don't try to pull it apart too much it's amazing. And yet what if you need answers? In so much of life we are encouraged to rigorously and objectively examine something and yet in matters of trust and faith we are told to not pull at the thread lest the whole fabric unravel. Faith and trust are given without evidence, without certainty. That cognitive dissonance is amazing to me. 

What’s the biggest challenge about taking on this role?

Research. I've been trying to speak to as many people as possible, several women religious have given me their time and patiently answered my ridiculous and ignorant questions with heavenly patience. It's a life I really knew nothing about except for watching Sister Act a million times as a kid. So there's lots of misconceptions I'm having to correct.

I have also been reading a lot around the Royal Commission which is difficult research; those questions around structural secrets, how much did people know and how much did they suspect is really upsetting. 

You’ve performed at the Old Fitz before, what is it about this space that actors love?

The audiences are lively, the space is intimate and there's a genuine sense of community. Right back from when Rock Surfers were building it, there's a real workmanlike unpretentiousness to the whole shebang. It's really wonderful to be a part of. Redline have pulled off such an extraordinary feat, they have made this little theatre at the back of a pub one of the most exciting theatre venues to be at. I'm so proud to be a part of it.

Has there been an improvement in opportunities and roles for women on our stages? What can we be doing to create more opportunities?

I believe the slow march of history is a civilising one. 

WITS has done some really extraordinary work since its inception in late 2015. They stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before them. 

Small skirmishes and battles make a difference and then we do the few steps back dance until the next push. I'm so proud of the work all of the WITS women have done to push for greater representation of women. I believe it has made a difference. I do think advocacy works. I still want to see more diverse voices at the head of organisations and programming and on the posters and in key creative roles. The ecology of the arts needs biodiversity or it will atrophy and die. 

What’s something people don’t know about you?

I come from circus people.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Nutella from the jar.

Is there a dream role you’d love to play?

Lucky, Homebody, Rosalind.

Do you have any advice for actors right at the beginning of their careers?

Go and see everything you can, read as many plays and essays and articles as you can. Find out what you like. Hold onto your personal taste. Follow your pleasure. Make work. Make lots of it. 

Have you ever danced in the rain?

Yes. Most memorable on Jefferson Ave with all of the kids from across the road and there was a man with me who I was very in love with. It was a sun shower  and we danced in our underwear. It was really great. 

What would you name the autobiography of your life?

Matilda Matilde Tilly... blah blah blah whatever your name is.