It will be a surreal moment when Jessica Hayles steps onto the Oxford Playhouse stage as Rosalind in As You Like It, because this was the very building that inspired her acting career.

But then hers has been an interesting and inspiring story. Arriving in Oxford in 2008 to live with her auntie while she re-evaluated her life, she "wanted a change of scenery," and landed a job in the Playhouse ticket office, not a coincidence perhaps considering her theatrical aspirations.

It did of course mean that she had a smorgasbord of live theatre right there on her doorstep and she gorged on it in every spare moment . "It was the first place where I watched theatre regularly and I saw so much. I would just sit in the auditorium during my breaks taking it all in and it taught me all about the workings of the stage and the theatre. It helped me really get to know theatre and the different genres of its productions. Because you don't learn about the audience at drama school.

"So yes the Oxford Playhouse was absolutely a seminal place for me and still is. That's why coming back there will be so special.

After that she enrolled at The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, in Cardiff, graduating in 2012.

Not that Jessica has been idle since then. Roles include being sucked through the floor to her death as a zombie in Series 8 of BBC's Dr Who, playing the imaginative and wacky Snow Queen at Bristol Old Vic Theatre, in an all-female Richard III and a sell-out run of Early Doors by Not Too Tame Theatre, of which Jessica is a founding member.

"I've done well," she admits when pressed: "I consider myself quite lucky because I've been on TV and the radio. But I also have a thick skin and a great support system. You need one in this industry."

Now preparing to take the Playhouse by storm, Jessica is preparing for her role with Shared Experience, the former Playhouse's artists-in-residence. "I just love the way the company works. Their productions are so visceral, bold and physical. Just to be working with them is a privilege.

Bearing in mind that Rosalind has more lines than any other female Shakespearian character, it's still a big challenge. "Our As You Like It is modern, short and concise and they have transposed the ducal kingdom to a political scenario. So we wear modern dress, the set is contemporary and the whole thing is much more imaginable.

"Yes it's still wacky and liberating, with live music and some really strong components, textually as well as visually. But Rosalind's part is so well written and quick witted that it's a pleasure to perform.

"So even when I'm not really in the mood, the moment I get on stage I get totally lost in the part."

More than that, Jessica is keen to make Shakespeare more accessible to everyone, especially young people. "When I was at school the teachers made out that Shakespeare was so mysterious and academic that I was quite afraid of it, even at drama school.

"But having done an all female version of Richard III and having got into the text, language and rhythm of his work I absolutely love it and I want to bring that inclusivity to the stage. Because Shakespeare was such a genius, and his work is so layered, that it begs to be shared with everyone. And I want the audience to have that experience - to make it accessible and enjoyable, because As You Like It is a comedy after all."

As for what's next, Jessica says one day she'd like to play Juliet, Cleopatra and even Lady Macbeth. "But more than anything I'm enjoying myself right now and being on tour is so exciting.

"The highlight will be coming back to Oxford Playhouse though. It's going to be wicked seeing how the audience responds. I think they are going to love it."

As You Like It

Tuesday November 14 - Saturday November 18.

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