Phoebe Campbell on Alma Mater at the Almeida

Photo: Marc Brenner

Kendall Feaver’s Alma Mater, a culture war play about a sexual assault allegation between young activists and the older generation, arrives at the Almeida Theatre next week. The production, directed by Polly Findlay, unites a strong ensemble cast that features Lia Williams as Jo Mulligan, the first female master in her prestigious college’s history, who is pitted against a young student, Nikki, played by Phoebe Campbell, after an alarming incident on campus.

Campbell was last seen on stage in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s West End transfer of Hamnet at the Garrick Theatre, and will be known to Game of Thrones fans for starring as Rhaena Targaryen in the House of the Dragon TV series.

With Alma Mater currently in rehearsals, we caught up with Campbell to find out more about the play, how they have approached playing Nikki, and how Feaver’s writing has drawn them in.

Photo: Marc Brenner

Q&A with Phoebe Campbell

What can you tell us about Alma Mater?

Alma Mater is an immense battle of ideologies, expertly written by Kendall Feaver. So all I can really say is, welcome to the boxing ring.

How have you approached playing Nikki?

The characters have all been given such rich lives on the page, so really, it’s been diving into that and fleshing out Nikki’s life in every way that I can. It’s honestly been a joy. It’s very rare to be given a female part who takes up so much space, has such unfiltered dialogue, and demands to be heard. A lot of the work around my character has been allowing myself the time and space to serve the text and all of Nikki’s big thoughts.

What was it that attracted you to the production?

I know I keep talking about the writing, but the writing!! Sexual assault is such a hard topic to tackle in regard to showing different viewpoints. I didn’t think it would be a debate I would personally be interested in engaging with, as it’s important we regard sexual assault as black and white. However, the play chooses to shine a light on each individual’s approach to the aftermath, the lasting effects of traumatic situations and the cost of speaking out. It’s brilliant, nuanced, sensitive, brave, and balanced. It’s a lesson in empathy.

Photo: Marc Brenner

What has the rehearsal process been like so far?

Good! Very, very good! I’m having an incredible time. It’s hard in the best way and everyone is wonderful. It is a very inspiring room to be in, I’m in awe of every single person. It feels like such a huge gift to work in this room and Polly Findlay is utterly magnificent. She is a force in the industry paving the way for how a rehearsal room should be run, and how difficult topics can be broached. She runs the room with so much generosity, kindness, joy, and positivity. She’s honestly a genius and inspires me to be better but also makes me believe that I can be better.

How do you think audiences will react to the play’s themes?

Hopefully, it will instigate and open up conversations. It’s such an important topic to discuss to eliminate shame, to educate, and to learn. I think it will touch a lot of people in the audience, hopefully people will feel seen and heard.

Alma Mater is at the Almeida Theatre from 11 June to 20 July