An episode of Casualty which rendered me speechless (which is no mean feat!) and made me hungry for the next episode, which we’re having to wait four weeks for! Although, the promo video for the anniversary special will tide me over, as it looks like it will be something extraordinarily special.
Back to last night’s episode, it seems there is more to Grace’s friend Carmel Sims (Sydney Wade) and her brittle mother, Steph (Tonicha Lawrence). A trampoline accident in Carmel’s back garden triggers a cacophony of events which ultimately result in the cliff hanger that left me open mouthed I silent horror. Connie (Amanda Mealing) sets out to get to the truth of Carmel’s situation, with misleading information from Grace (Emily Carey) and the young patient herself. It’s not until Jacob (Charles Venn) uncovers the truth with due to the nature of his improving relationship with Grace, that Steph’s character is discovered and Carmel’s feelings of worthlessness, thanks to her mother, are revealed. Amazing performances by both young actresses.
Alicia (Chelsea Halfpenny) has returned, in the meantime and returns to work with Dr Chao (Crystal Yu) with trepidation and a renewed determination. I’m glad to see this character return and also pleased that she stood up to Dr Chao, maybe some mutual respect will ensure from now on. But then and again this is a drama!
Plus there’s a return to Holby for Glen (Owain Arthur) and we discover that he has a brain tumour, when Robyn (Amanda Henderson) learns of the secret, surprisingly, the romance is back on! It’s good to see Holby’s favourite nurse happy, but how long will happiness reign? Alicia at least has the opportunity to show some of her capabilities when she takes the lead in a procedure to help Glen recover some of his sight.
Everyone is gearing up for Charlie’s (Derek Thompson) 30 years at Holby celebration, and it certainly looks as though it’s not going to go off without a hitch. Or, more accurately, a life-changing disaster.
Following the manic car chase started by a crazed Steph, we have been left in suspense as to Connie and Grace’s fate… I can only say congratulations to all involved, this was an episode that took on a rollercoaster ride all of its own.
Daisy Boulton is currently starring in the tour of Present Laughter by Noel Coward, here’s my exclusive interview with the talented young lady, herself.
Thank you for chatting to Break A Leg, Daisy, tell me about your character in Present Laughter and are you enjoying the tour so far?
I am playing Daphne Stillington, a 24 year old debutante, who has fallen hook, sink and liner for Garry Essendine, a hugely successful and famous theatre actor. I am really enjoying the tour – yes! Such a talented and lovely group of actors and company of creative.
What did you think of the script when you first read it? How familiar are you with Coward’s work?
I loved Daphne and thought it would be such fun to play….if I manage to pull it off. I saw ‘Hay Fever’ in the West End a few years ago and thought Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Freddie Fox were fabulous. It’s a joy to have the opportunity to play such complex and brilliant writing and revel in it’s the hilarity.
Have you a favourite line or scene?
When Liz says ‘I feel a sinking’ in explanation for asking for a cup of coffee. I have found myself finding many a tongue-in-cheek, apt moment to use the line.
What made you decide to become an actress?
Doing The Dreaming as a kid with the NYMT and years later watching Harriet Walter play Cleopatra opposite Patrick Stewart at the Novello Theatre.
Who inspires you as a performer?
Well…..Harriet Walter, Cush Jumbo playing Anthony in Julius Caesar at the Donmar and then taking on a regular lead in The Good Wife, which is the show of my dreams to be in. Julianna Margulies for that matter! Katie Sagal in Sons Of Anarchy. There are many pretty amazing performers, female and male who I am inspired by.
What do you think the most valued lesson is that you’ve learned in your career, so far?
Never stop thanking my family and friends for their relentless love and support!
Any advice for aspiring actors?
If you get a knock, get up, dust yer self off and go again. It’s never straight forward.
Finally, what can the audience expect from Present Laughter and what would you say to encourage people to come and see it?
Sam West is a fabulous Garry. It’s lots of fun. It’s brilliant, brilliant writing. It’s an insight into the world and life of Noel Coward as it is the closest to an auto-biographical play. The hidden depths and subtleties have been important to us as a company creating it, Stephen Unwin, our director said how like Chekhov Coward is and I agree. It’s moving and sad in many ways as a play but through great humanity and therefore laughter. Humans are quite funny really after all.
Huge thanks to Daisy for her time and I’ll be seeing the play to review when it arrives in Malvern, can’t wait!
Lucy Williamson has an impressive list of credits to her name, musical theatre is certainly a genre which comes easily to her and I remember her appearance in Fame back in the 90’s. Taking on the role of Violet Chandler in The Fix has been a challenge for her, but it’s one she’s embraced and it’s led her to a nomination for an Offie award. I caught up with Lucy while she was metamorphosing into the determined Widow!
Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, Lucy, do tell me all about The Fix and your character.
The Fix is a musical written by John Dempsey and Dana P. Rowe, Cameron MackIntosh has the rights. It was originally performed at the Donmar Warehouse in 1997, Sam Mendes directed it and John Barrowman starred in it. I think it was possibly the wrong time for it, it was ahead of its time. I know Michael Strassen who directs this one did The Fix a couple of years ago at The Union Theatre and again very successfully, but I think the timing this time around is just brilliant for it. It’s a dark humoured political romp, with a few twists and turns that you don’t expect.
I play the part of Violet Chandler, who is mother of Calvin Chandler is pushed into the spotlight agaist his will to be the next President of the United States after Violet’s husband is found in a compromising situation.
Was she a role that you had previously considered playing?
I didn’t get to see it when Michael Strassen did it previously, I was doing something else at the time, he’d approached me and I couldn’t do it. When he was doing it this time I was very excited that he asked me to do it and I didn’t know anything about the show or the character. I didn’t want to watch anybody else do it, I preferred to put my own take on it. As soon as I realised what a great showcase of a role it was, which wasn’t until we opened and I realised how tired I am(!), obviously I know it’s a dream role and one that I am grateful for.
What’s your favourite moment in the show?
I like the number Harvard because I have to stay so insular throughout the show and that’s the one moment I’m let out of my cage. It’s a nice moment for the audience, too because it brings light relief. It gives them the opportunity to enjoy another element of the show rather than the general darkness that’s ensuing. I do also love the lift scene, it’s one of my favourite scenes because I can be bitchy but in a humourous way.
What are your dream roles?
On stage: Mama Rose, Mrs Lovett, Grizabella, Norma Desmond and I would love to play Violet in The Fix on a West End stage. On television or film, it would have to be a period drama. Something by Jane Austen or a programme like Downton Abbey. I would love the opportunity to do that.
Who inspires you as a performer?
As an actress, Dame Judi Dench. Personally, I would choose Michael Strassen as he is genuinely the most inspiring Director I have ever worked with. He pulls things our of me that I didn’t know were there. I’m inspired by everything around me and always striving to learn my craft.
Finally, what would you say to encourge potential audience members to buy a ticket and come to watch The Fix?
Fra Fee gets his chest out! Kate Parr who plays Deborah and is in the ensemble comes on in a pair of suspenders , pants and a bra. If you’re looking for something for the weekend, Bob’s your Uncle!
I’d to like to thank Lucy for her time, a fantastic lady to interview and I have my fingers crossed for that Offie!
July 4 – 31 2016 – The Theatre Room, London, EC2R 8AB
Star Rating ~ ****
Mary Seacole is a historical figure whom I had no prior knowledge of, but this one woman show summarises the highlights of her life and career, wonderfully. A physician with a successful track record, she was frequently on a quest to further her knowledge and restless to be on her travels.
Performed at The So & So Arts Club as part of the Women and War Festival, Cleo Sylvestre stars in the title role, she is also the writer, together with Judith Paris. Sylvestre’s audience interaction ability grabbed my attention from the beginning, in a show of this nature where it’s an intimate space, I think it’s vital for the performer to draw you in. It was certainly a key element for me to be able to feel as though I was developing a mutual ‘relationship’ with ‘Mary’ herself as her tale was told.
I thought that the direction (this piece was directed by the Founder of The So & So Arts Club, Sarah Berger) was subtle yet apparent throughout and added to the smooth ebb and flow of the monologue. The set, though atmospheric, was occasionally a hindrance, which probably would not have been so evident in a larger space.
Overall, it’s a thoughtfully written piece which is performed from the heart and there is room to develop it into a longer and multi-character play, too. Congratulations to The So & So Arts Club for bringing an important figure to my notice, for Mary Seacole is as treasured a part of history as Florence Nightingale.
It’s fair to say that this episode centred mainly around Dawn (Sharon Rooney) and her bewildered fiancé Russell (Will Merrick) as the poor lad is trying to fathom how best to let his betrothed down gently.
Yes, Dawn is certainly getting carried away and flashing her cash on the big white wedding she has her heart set on, and Russell is tired of being dragged along in her wake. A conversation with Brian (Peter Wight) results in a cancelled engagement. However, Dawn’s ensuing conversation with the ailing Butcher goes some way towards helping the love birds reunite. Thankfully, say I, as they do seem to be made for one another!
However, as always, in this supremely cleverly written programme, there is more than one drama occurring. Pauline’s (Penelope Wilton) world is spinning on its axis when PC Daniels (Ben Bailey Smith) drops the bombshell that he is indeed, her son. Much as she tries to deny this to his face, it is evident from her behaviour that he is telling the truth. So next week will be interesting!
Steph (Sophie Rundle) comes a cropper as she breaks her own golden rule and visits the house of a caretaker who claims to have a wife who would be cheered up by a party. Disaster is avoided, but her husband Terry (Karl Davies) leaves the culprit in no doubt of his feelings towards the attack on his wife. This plot development seems to go some way towards reconciliation for the troubled couple, but I don’t expect their road to be an easy one, and maybe we’ll be left in limbo as to who Steph will choose. Given the writers’ penchant for a cliff hanger, Steph might continue to be torn between her marriage plight and PC Daniels.
For years Mrs Brown has gathered a loyal fan-base from performing live in theatres nationally and internationally. The BBC series turned the touring comedy into a phenomenon and with a movie hot on its heels, the loveable mammy, together with her family, has enjoyed extraordinary success.
Last night (Saturday 23 July) the BBC aired a live episode of Mrs Brown’s Boys which contained all of the usual slapstick and expletive humour, with the glorious addition of the cast’s experience of working live theatres. It was quite something, Brendan O’Carroll who plays the mammy herself, was on top form, ad-libbing. He predictably took the show into his own hands and of course, plaguing Rory (Rory Cowan) by raising the matter of Mrs Murphy’s pussy. Poor Rory!
The misconstrued storyline regarding Betty (Amanda Woods) and Mark (Pat Shields) and their bedroom problems was such a simple yet magnificently effective plot. The banter with Winnie (Eilish O’Carroll) continues to be a highlight as usual, with the batty neighbour mistaking a mirror image of the two of them, for a pair of old ladies. Cathy’s(Jennifer Gibney) there as the voice of reason as usual, and there’s much of what O’Carroll seems to do best, going on – riding on furniture! It’s not a fully fledged episode of Mrs Brown without Dermot (Paddy Houlihan) and Buster (Danny O’Carroll) in costume at some stage, either. Penguins, on this occasion.
I think the BBC’s gamble paid off and more of the same wouldn’t go amiss. It’s because the writing never fails to bring a huge smile to my face, huge belly laughs always ensue, too and this brilliant live episode has given me a taste for more Mrs Brown. So, please Mr O’Carroll, I’d like some more, please!!
Claire Price is well known on our screens for playing Miriam in Home Fires and she starred as Penelope Wilton’s daughter in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. She has also trod the boards, extensively. I caught up with Claire to find out all about her experiences on Home Fires and what it was like to join a star studded cast for Marigold Hotel.
I loved Home Fires, what have your favourite memories of the show, been and what drew you to the character and the show?
I’m so glad you loved Home Fires because I loved making it. It really was one of the most fulfilling and happy jobs I’ve done, with a brilliant crew and creative team, and a cast that has become genuinely close over the last two years. I have lots of fantastic memories of us working together, or sometimes just sitting around on set, held up by rain, waiting to film, chatting and laughing about stuff. I auditioned for a different part originally – and I didn’t take to Miriam when I read the script! It was an odd coincidence that I found myself at the National Archive a few days after that first meeting, helping my partner research his next book, The Secret History of the Blitz, looking at domestic crime in London during that period. There was a particular case that caught my attention, the story of Jack Brack, a low level criminal with a congenital heart defect who was judged unfit to serve in any capacity. His friends came up with a scheme to make money out of his condition, so for a fee, Brack would take medicals on behalf of men who wanted to avoid military service. Eventually the Police became suspicious of the number of men who seemed to have the same rare heart defect and the scam was discovered. In the trial notes, I found the story of a mother who lost her oldest son in the First World War, and offered Brack her life savings to keep her youngest son out of the Second. I had no idea that happened during the war, and no idea that tens of thousands of mothers left their sons off the 1939 Register, as Miriam does. I looked at Miriam very differently after that, she became more real to me, more brave and tragic in her attempt to hold things together. Then I got a call from my agent – the producer, Sue de Beauvoir, and director, Bruce Goodison, wanted me to come in again and this time, read for Miriam. Like so many other things about this lovely job, it was all strangely fortuitous and from that moment, everything fell into place.
Have you a favourite episode or scene from Home Fires?
I particularly loved doing a scene in the first series. Home Fires is a very realistic drama, but in this scene, when Miriam sees the soldiers running past and thinks she sees David, Will Attenborough as David was amongst them, in a soldier’s uniform, so the audience were in Miriam’s head for a split second, sharing her anxious perspective. I loved that! Then she comes back into the butcher’s shop and has to explain to Bryn what just happened, and she knows it’s mad but it’s real to her. That sequence was full of feeling and I was encouraged to take Miriam’s distress quite far.
I loved all my scenes with Dan Ryan, particularly the scene where Miriam and Bryn read the telegram telling them David is missing. That’s the kind of stuff you want to play as an actor, ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, trying to find a way of bearing the unbearable.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is one of my favourite films. What was it like filming with so many big names and what was your personal highlight?
They were lovely! Very funny and generous, and we laughed a lot. I learned early in my career that movie stars are just actors underneath everything, anxious to do the job right. And if I appeared intimidated by them, that would make things awkward. So I make a point of being normal. It must be a lot of pressure to be very famous, to know that people have such enormous expectations of you.
Dame Judi Dench was invited by the Royal family in Jaipur to visit a newly refurbished floating palace, and she asked if she could bring the other women in the cast as her guests. So we were collected from our hotel, driven to an idyllic lake in the heart of Jaipur, loaded onto boats and taken over the water to this magnificent palace. That was a stunning experience. I also had an incredible day visiting ancient Hindu temples with Seema Asmi (who plays Anokhi in the films) and… Richard Gere! He was completely charming, self-deprecating and kind.
I really loved working with Dame Penelope Wilton (I played her daughter in the film). She is one of my favourite actresses – her performance as Hester in The Deep Blue Sea had such an effect on me. After doing a scene one day, we had some time off and went round a local market together, buying herbs and spices. When I got back to London, I made some incredible curries with those spices!
Who inspires you as an actress? Have you any heroes?
Penelope Wilton! She can be simultaneously so funny and so painfully real. I would stay after finishing my own scenes in Marigold, in order to watch her film hers, because she is so creative, so truthful, and always tries new things, layering and developing as she goes. I was also very inspired by a magnificent actress, Susan Fleetwood, who died quite young. I saw her play Arkadina in The Seagull, and can remember every moment.
Do you have a preference between performing on stage and on screen?
I think like most actors really, I prefer theatre. Theatre belongs to the actor and television to the director. No one can edit your performance on stage, once you’re out there, it’s all down to you. But I have prioritized doing TV and film recently, because it’s hard to live on a theatre salary and the ideal situation is to have a good mix of both. Theatre is emotionally & physically tough, with a mountain that has to be climbed every day, and twice on matinee days. You have to be match fit for plays, with strong breathing and diction, always alive in the moment, always ready and never anticipating anything even if it’s the 95th performance. TV is different, with long days, lots of waiting then short intense bursts of pressure and some very early starts – when filming Home Fires, we were sometimes picked up from our hotel at 5 am, because curling everyone’s hair took HOURS! That means waking at 4 or 4.30, after poor sleep in a hotel bed. So the days are long, but in a show like HF with so many characters, the pressure is distributed and no one ends up doing too many days in a row.
There are some great writers for television, Simon Block’s scripts were a pleasure to act. But theatre has such a huge and venerable history, such an extraordinary canon of writers. I think though, there will be more work for middle aged women on TV. Shakespeare is a done deal and there are not many hefty and brilliant parts for 45 year old women in there – which explains the increasing number of all female productions. It’s television that can respond to what its audience wants. And more and more, that is as yet untold stories and women’s stories. It’s why Call The Midwife is so popular, and why Home Fires caught people’s imagination so strongly. And why it’s such an enormous shame it’s been axed.
Are there any roles you’d love to play or shows you would like to be a part of?
In theatre, I would love to do more Ibsen and Chekhov. Ibsen is my favourite playwright of all, I’ve been in two of his plays, Brand with Ralph Fiennes at the RSC and The Lady from the Sea at Birmingham Rep. They are profound plays and work on many levels. But I’m also more and more interested in doing contemporary plays, like Stephen Waters’ Little Platoons that I did at the Bush Theatre a few years ago about the free school movement. Or David Hare’s The Power of Yes about the banking crisis. Hearing audiences GASP as they suddenly understood how and why the bankers made the mistakes they did, was truly exciting. It felt like being part of the news.
I’ve also started doing some new comedy on Radio 4, with Robert Newman last year, and The World of Simon Rich which is on at the moment on Thursday nights. I love working with comedians, they have a very different approach to actors and it’s a challenge to keep up with them. I actually performed at one of Rob’s live gigs to try out material he was working on for the show. He improvised and I had my lines written down. I had to listen really hard to know when to come in. It was an adventure!
What’s next for you?
Nothing at the moment…An actor’s life!
Favourite things (just for fun, let me have your first reaction to these questions, please):
High Noon with Grace Kelly and Gary Cooper.
I’m not a vegetarian anymore, but I was for years and always loved Mildred’s in Soho. Incredible food.
Weirdly, kick boxing. I have a fantastic DVD and do it in the house. I’m not sure it’s so much fun for the neighbours in the flat below, but I love it. I also do embroidery, but I’ve been working on the same one since filming Rebus. That’s nearly ten years ago. I really need to go a little faster than that.
Guys & Dolls or Fiddler on the Roof.
An Arundel Tomb by Philip Larkin.
A terrific interview from a terrific actress, I hope we see Claire treading the boards or indeed, on our screens again soon.
So, Brian’s (Peter Wight) time wasn’t up after all, following last week’s harrowing episode where the hapless Butcher was left for dead, complete with the flashy engagement ring that he couldn’t afford to buy for Pauline (Penelope Wilton) all those years ago. Although it seems that the secretive businessman couldn’t really afford the ring, now – and while he’s flashed his cash on this piece of bling, the meat supplier is no longer happy to bring the goods without money up front. What does this mean for Pauline and Brian? It means that Pauline resorts to selling naughty knickers and remote controlled vibrating dildos!
Dawn (Sharon Rooney) is distraught when she finds out that her young kid brother is not being looked after properly since her departure from the family home. She can’t help but feel that he’s her responsibility and is desperately seeking a solution.
After an afternoon fumble with PC Johnny (Ben Bailey Smith), Steph (Sophie Rundle) returns to her husband Terry (Karl Davies), although I suspect that many of us were shouting at the telly after this decision! Her mother is still harping on at her to take him back, and appears to have got her way, for now.
Poor Nita (Angela Griffin) is devastated to learn of her husband Kieran’s (Don Gilet) part in Brian’s misfortune, and I expect that will be further investigated next week. A blot on their relationship that they might never recover from, perhaps?
The writing from the pens of Messina and Rusling continues to impress me, they’re a tour de force and they’ve created, in my opinion, one of the best television dramas that ITV has seen for a long time. Kudos, ladies – this is nothing short of perfect.
Clare Calbraith burst onto our screens in 1960’s drama heartbeat, she has skipped around a variety of periods, since then. Downton Abbey was her home for a short time and then she shot to fame in Home Fires. I caught up with Clare to ask her all about her illustrious career to date.
Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, Clare. Starting with Home Fires, it was a wonderful series and I am a fan of the show, what are your favourite memories of filming it and what did you think of Steph?
I have only good memories of working on Home Fires. Genuinely the most extraordinary bunch of people I’ve ever worked with, we still spend an unhealthy amount of time together, even though the series is over!
And I loved Steph, chopping wood, shooting, driving tractors and barely ever having to wear painful high heels. The amazing Chris Coghill and Brian Fletcher in my Farrow family…dream job.
Any favourite scene that stands out?
Actually one of my favourite scenes was one I wasn’t in, when the village comes together to help with harvest. Against the backdrop of Samuel Sim’s wonderful music, I loved it, a may have shed a little tear.
Moving on to Downton Abbey, did you have fun on the show?
I had a great time on Downton, it was already a massive hit when I joined so it was a little nerve wracking but Hugh Bonneville was a joy to work with, a privilege to play a tiny part in such a wonderful show.
Heartbeat, is one of my earliest memories of your appearances on screen, how did you like playing a Doctor and did you enjoy working in and around Goathland? Any particular memories you can share with me?
Oh gosh Heartbeat was pushing 20 years ago now, it was kind of my training ground, 12 hours a day, full on for 11 months of the year. I had a ball, met one of my best friends, we had amazing guest artists every week that were far more experienced than me, a real learning curve.
You’ve also notably appeared in Doctor Who audio dramas, how does working on an audio piece compare to on-screen? What are the main differences with the way you take on a character?
Audio is honestly a gift. Its playtime without all the vanity and insecurity than being on film brings. I don’t know any actor that doesn’t love it.
Are there any roles that you have a burning ambition to play in the future?
My ambitions change with every job. After TV I’m desperate to get back to theatre and vice versa. If I can keep working I’m happy. If I get bored (or I guess if people get bored of me) I’ll stop. You need to love it. Too many people would kill to make acting their job, if you don’t love it, move aside, because someone at least as good as you is probably waiting in the wings.
What’s next for you now that Home Fires has finished?
Next I’ll be on the new series of DCI Banks which I think airs in August or possibly a little later, a very different character for me so it was really great to get my teeth into. After that who knows, I’ll miss Home Fires of course but am excited to see what comes next.
I’m so grateful to Clare for a lovely interview and look forward to DCI Banks!