NATHALIE Armin always wanted to be an actress. Despite a fleeting desire when she was a child to be a fashion designer, acting was all she ever really wanted to do although she admits it wasn’t her parents’ first choice of career for her.
“My dad was very disappointed,” she chuckles at the memory. “I think they hoped I would grow out of it, but it didn’t happen.
“I remember auditioning like Billy Elliot, travelling to London on a coach to Central School Of Speech And Drama – fortunately I got in!”
It turned out to be a good choice of career because Nathalie has enjoyed a steady stream of work on both stage and screen since graduating including roles in TV shows Doctors, Spooks, Holby City and most recently the Bafta award-winning The Lost Honour Of Christopher Jefferies.
She is currently exploring the world of addiction in Stephen Adly Guirgis’ explosive and high octane drama The Motherf**ker With The Hat.
The production, in which she plays recovering addict Victoria, has just opened on the Lyttelton stage at the National.
It is something of a hat trick for the Crystal Palace-based actress as it’s the third play in a row she has done on that particular stage this year following hot on the heels of the hugely successful Dara and Behind The Beautiful Forevers.
“I absolutely love the Lyttelton – it’s my favourite,” she enthuses. “I’ve been so lucky because it’s the third play I’ve done here and Stephen Adly Guirgis is one of my favourite playwrights so I’m really excited.
“It is so different from the previous two I was in. This one has a very small cast whereas the others were huge ensemble pieces. Also, this is more about feelings and failings rather than huge global issues of faith and capitalism."
Nathalie describes the play, which received six Tony nominations when it premiered in Broadway in 2011, as “poetic, profane, and very funny”.
Set in New York it centres on two couples, Jackie and Veronica and Ralph and Victoria and has as its themes, love, fidelity and addiction.
Jackie is the central character and at the start of the play we find him out of jail and clean thanks to his sponsor Ralph. Jackie feels as though things are looking up, not least because of his relationship with Veronica who he’s loved since he was a teenager. It seems nothing can come between them – until he finds a hat.
“It’s an amazing play,” says Nathalie. “It’s about a group of people who are all recovering addicts living extreme lives and failing and succeeding in love as they collide and separate.
“It’s an incredible musing on love and failed love - any kind of love - and falling short of your and other peoples’ expectations.
“My character Victoria is angry – the reasons for that will be apparent when you see the play, but she too is a recovering addict.
“It feels as though she has made bad choices in her life, including falling in love with Ralph, and she ends up feeling as though she’s missed out in some way.”
To get into the part, Nathalie says she had to read up on addiction and self destructive behaviour.
“I have no experience of addiction and have thankfully never been to Alcoholics Anonymous but I think most people will relate to aspects of the emotions and feelings the characters have,” she says.
“I think we all do things that make us feel pain or humiliation at some point in our lives. I think my way in was to look at what is it that I do that makes me feel not so great.
“It’s a very demanding part to play, very intense, but it's been fascinating and great fun.
"Letting rip is always really good - especially after Dara and The Beautiful Forevers where I played very contained characters!
“But all the people in this story are dynamite and pushed to various degrees. It’s ferocious, full of drama and terribly explosive and very funny.
“It is also beautifully and brilliantly written, although it’s profane and there is a lot of swearing in it so you need to be prepared for that, and it’ll get you right in the stomach.
"I hope the audience will be gripped.”
But what about the hat I ask? She laughs and says simply: “It is found in someone’s apartment and sets off a chain of events.... it’s the catalyst so I can’t give too much away – so you’ll have to come and see the show and find out!”
The Motherf**ker with the Hat is on at the Lyttelton at the National Theatre until Thursday, August 20. tickets from £15. Visit www.nationaltheatre.org.uk or call the box office on 020 7452 3000.