not just froth on the top of a cappuccino
delighted generations in the TV sitcom Hi-Di-Hi
and with her one woman shows. Now she takes the
role of the nurse in a modern production of Romeo
and Juliet, which comes to The Swan this month.
it like doing Shakespeare for the first time?
It's the same approach as doing an entertainment
show, preparation is everything. But I have never
done this flowery language' before, so it
requires a bit more concentration. If you get
your haths' and your doths' mixed up, it can be
dauinting as it ruins the rhythm. Essentially it
is the same as any other show, but the
concentration factor is phenomenal.
do you think about your character?
She is very similar to lots of characters I have
played before. She is sympathetic, as she bonds
with Juliet, but she is also very light hearted.
She is very bawdy at times, and gets away with
talking about sex a lot. I call Shakespeare the
Bawd, he's not the Bard, as his characters are
always talking about sex. All of Shakespeare's
characters essentially had to entertain stand-up
audiences, who were completely drunk.
you relate to that?
Of course. I started in working men's clubs,
where they introduce you and get your name wrong.
You are singing away, and people stagger in front
of you with their drinks, dropping them, then the
cleaner comes and mops it up while you are
singing My Way.
main thing is, you have to have focus, and the
ability to soldier through any situation.
anything make you nervous?
Opening night. It never gets any easier, because
all the work that everyone has put into it
yourself and other performers, backstage,
lighting it all has to come together at the time.
I give myself a good talking to, and think how
marvellous that you have an audience who can
appreciate all the hard work. So a good telling
off usually does the trick.
is your most enduring memory of being a teenager?
Wearing a fantastic striped green mini-skirt
right up to my bum, fabulous boots, and a halter
neck top, sitting on a bar stool in the Hippo
Club and falling off it.
were definitely the breakthrough generation.
Elvis had come along, and broken the music mould,
and designers had done the same with fashion, and
we were so lucky to be liberated. We had those
fantastic clubs with peep holes in the door, and
you had to say can I speak to One-Eyed Pete
please' to get let in.
did you learn at school apart from lessons?
Team efforts and camaraderie will get you through
life. You need the strength of everyone around
you. Also that everybody deserves the same
chance. I couldn't deal with kids being bullied
or picked on. In those days it was dealt with
quickly, and it doesn't seem to be the same now.
do people most often get wrong about you?
They probably don't imagine that I am a deep
thinker on things, but I am. I don't live my life
on that deep level. But I am not just the froth
on the top of a cappuccino.
makes you turn off the TV?
A lot of things have no substance. The same
boring trailers make you feel that you have
watched the episode already.
makes you go weak at the knees?
Any man with fabulous thighs or shoulders.
Although that sounds so vacuous.
is your most treasured possession?
Apart from my family, my voice. I was at primary
school at the age of five, and there was an
audition for the choir, and you got a tap on the
soldier if you were suitable, and I was over the
moon when I got selected.
being on stage gives me most pleasure.
adore musical theatre, so the ideal thing is to
dance, sing, make people laugh and cry all at the
same time. When I am playing Shakespeare, there
are a lot of monologues, and I have to stand and
listen, which is hard. My mind can't wander, and
I need physical discipline. It makes a nice
change. When I come off stage, I am bursting with
was the turning point in your career?
I was on the TV show Opportunity Knocks when I
came second to the singing dog. I couldn't
believe it. I was swept away with disgust.
the Simon Mayo radio show, 20 years on, the man,
who was a headmaster at a school, admitted on
that he got all the kids at his school to vote. I
lost by 1000 votes and there were 1500 kids in
the school. He said he couldn't sleep at night.
real turning point came when I was doing
Godspell, and I got spotted by a top agent, which
is a bit boring but very important, as it turned
round my career. Also Hi-Di-Hi of course.
advice would you give to anyone wanting to get
into the industry?
Be prepared for tremendous competition. People
have been led to believe that you can get success
overnight, but it only happens to a few. It is
nice for some people, like Will Young, who has
staying power, but a lot of people are five
minute wonders. There should be a fairer way than
there is at the moment.
would be your epitaph?
I'll leave it at that.