Spotlight On… Actor, Director and Producer, Nigel Harman

Nigel Harman has become a familiar name and face following his popular appearance in EastEnders as Dennis, the Son of Dirty Den. Since then he has gone on to appear on stage and screen as well as turn his hand to Directing and Producing. He has just finished a short run at Birmingham Repertory Theatre in What’s In A Name and Break A Leg caught up with him to chat about the play, his varied career and what his next ventures are going to be.

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Nigel as Vincent in What’s In A Name

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, Nigel, tell me about What’s In A Name and what you think the strengths of the production are.

It’s basically a play about a family getting together and sharing a few too many home truths. We’ve all been at that dinner party where a little bit too much wine is consumed and that thing that you shouldn’t say, you end up saying and it leads to a whole myriad of discoveries. The strengths of it are that is incredibly funny in places, I think most people come along and recognise the characters, they feel like they know them and that they have a friend like them. I also think that the structure of the play is brilliant, so we’re always climbing up a mountain until we reach the end and get to the top.

What sort of audience reaction have you had to the piece?

Really warm, the Birmingham experience has been brilliant. From the moment we started it wasn’t a case of the audience sitting back and judging whether this is funny, they have come to enjoy themselves. Some nights people in the audience are laughing so much that they lose it and we have to wait before we continue. The whole experience at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre itself including the audience themselves has been a warm and supportive experience.

What challenges present themselves when playing a central character like Vincent?

He never leaves the stage, so when you’re on you’re on and you’ve got nowhere to hide if it’s all going wrong.  All of the actors at some point drive the play but Vincent does a lot of driving. You just have a good time and put all that aside once you’re out there. I set the scene for the audience which is quite nerve-wracking if I’m honest. All five of us have responsibility in the play so it doesn’t make it feel like I’m on my own.

Moving to your television career, what are your highlights from your days in EastEnders?

I remember when Les Grantham came back and we did a week of special episodes, there was me, Les, Letitia Dean and Scarlett Johnson who played my sister, that was a highlight because it was an important piece of story telling at the time. I’m proud of the reaction that the show got and my character got at the time, too. Although when I won spectacle wearer of the year and I pointed out that I had never worn spectacles I started to think that things were a little bit weird. It was a mad and crazy time, nothing has come close to that kind of intensity, because you’re there all the time and you’re on the telly all the time. It’s nice that the character is respected and loved, it makes walking down the street a lot easier!

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Nigel as Mr Green in Downton Abbey, not such a loved character as Dennis in EastEnders!

Will there be any more series of Mount Pleasant in the future and was it as much fun to film as it looked?

We are doing a ninety minute special and then I think that will be it. I will be going off to film in two weeks’ time. I think we’re just doing a farewell. Is it as fun as it looks? Yes! hat’s because we all get on so well, we have a laugh and the scripts are really tight. The filming days are really long but we still find time to enjoy ourselves! It works as a show because we all respect and laugh with each other all the time, so when the cameras roll we just carry on doing that.

You’ve turned your hand to directing theatre productions, how does that compare to performing?

It’s a lot less stressful, you make the structure, you make the foundations and you make them as slick and tight as possible but ultimately you then hand over to your actors and say it’s over to you now. I love it, I love being part of the whole process, sometimes with acting I really want to be involved in the conversations that have nothing to do with me. Being a Director is brilliant in that you can shape something from the ground up and have your own vision, work with designers, lighting designers and sound teams to create a piece of work, I find it fascinating, very rewarding and it engages me in a level of conversation I don’t really get from acting. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about acting again as I have been doing more directing than acting the last year or two and I’ve enjoyed acting. I forgot what it was like to stand there before the first preview and think “why am I doing this?”.

What’s next for you after this play finishes?  

Well there will be the special one-off episode of Mount Pleasant which will be ninety minutes long. I might be directing a musical in London in the summer. I know for sure that we will be touring with Shrek again which opens in Edinburgh in the second week of December, it will be on national tour for a year. Taking that show out to people’s home towns is brilliant and when we did it a couple of years ago it went massive. It was so much a part of the local community in every place we visited – I loved it.

Thanks to Nigel for talking to Garry McWilliams (in the absence of Helen!) – we wish him every success with everything that’s coming up in the future. If What’s In A Name has another run, we highly recommend it.  

Photo Credits: Broadway World, ITV, Birmingham Repertory Theatre

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Spotlight On… Star of La Ronde, Amanda Wilkin

Amanda Wilkin is currently starring in Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde at The Bunker (book tickets here: http://www.bunkertheatre.com/whatson ) which is running until 11 March 2017. I chatted to Amanda about the production:

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Amanda stars in La Ronde

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, Amanda. Tell me about the piece and your character(s)

La Ronde is in a new adaptation by Max Gill. In the play we see moments between characters of different social status, who are exchanging a moment of intimacy. In the original script by Arthur Schnitzler the audience watched characters like The Whore, The Soldier, The Poet. But in ours the audience will meet The Doctor, The Prostitute, The London Bus Driver, etc. There are ten characters in total, and I can’t tell you who I’ll be playing…because I have no idea! We are a cast of four learning every part and we will find out by way of a roulette which character we’ll be playing before each scene throughout the performance. It effectively means that any character can be played by an actor of any gender or colour.

What was your initial impression of the script?

After reading the play, I was struck by how the play accurately brings loneliness to the surface and the transaction of contact – are we ever really equals when we have sex? What happens when you are desperate to be touched? And to what extent do we wish to be dominated in love, to be destroyed by another in order to feel something? It’s a brilliant script – I was blushing while reading some bits and felt quite miserable in other moments.

What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?

I’m hoping the audience will think about what they consider a ‘normal’ relationship, what we demand from relationships, what boundaries have been formed by what society tells us is acceptable. I hope they will be able to think about what discrimination they have while watching it; do they judge that character more because of their physique, or sexuality? I also hope that the audience will be intrigued by the thought of a different combination of actors playing that scene – would it have changed their mind about the narrative of that moment if they looked different, or their sexuality were different?

Did you have any ideas about what you wanted to bring to the role(s)?

I’ve just been concentrating on making these ten characters so individual and detailed. And embracing my body. This is not a gender or colour blind production. In fact, it’s the opposite. The audience will be acutely aware of my gender and colour. So it’s about not shying away from that.

How does the space lend itself to the piece?

The bunker is a brilliant new space and very intimate with 110 seats, which is perfect for this play because you’ll be able to see us sweat… probably want you want in a production like this!

What would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket?

This could be the most unique show you’ll see because there are six versions of every scene, and therefore thousands of versions of this show. Every performance will be different. If you are looking for plays with more equality and diversity on stage, then come and watch this. We are a cast of four. Two women, two men, two white, two non-white. And we can play any part if the roulette picks us in a performance. Now that’s the kind of show I’d book to see.

Thanks to Amanda for an insightful interview, wishing you every success with the rest of the run.

Spotlight On… Actress, Raquel Cassidy

Raquel Cassidy is an actress I first became familiar with when she burst onto the scene in Teachers, the next television programme to bring her to my attention was Downton Abbey, some years later. Miss Baxter was one of my favourite characters and her blossoming friendship with Mr Molesley (Kevin Doyle) was one of my best loved story lines. Raquel has since gone on to star as the iconic Miss Hardbroom in The Worst Witch and has also appeared in Silent Witness. I was fortunate enough to chat with Raquel about her career to date and what might be her next venture.

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 31/10/2016 - Programme Name: The Worst Witch - TX: n/a - Episode: First Look (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: **Strictly Embargoed until 00:00:01 31/10/2016** Miss Hardbroom (RAQUEL CASSIDY) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Matt Squires
Miss Hardbroom (RAQUEL CASSIDY) – (C) BBC – Photographer: Matt Squires

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, Raquel, I’d like to start by talking about The Worst Witch as it was my favourite childhood book. What was it like to play such an iconic character as Miss Hardbroom?

I’ve never had so much fun in anything, it’s the whole spirit of the story and the interplay with the Cackle sisters, the magic – being able to click your fingers and close doors is brilliant and being able to say to the wonderful art department “I don’t think she’d hold her own book or turn her own page”. I made sure I didn’t watch Diana Rigg as Miss Hardbroom, it wouldn’t have been Miss Hardbroom who was in my head it would have been Diana. I came quite fresh to the show and Jill Murphy who wrote the books was great, she came to the read-throughs, she gave me an idea of what her picture was but she was very much on board with me going for it and having fun. I think I was a bit nervous because I knew that I was taking on someone that a lot of people know so well from the stories and other productions of The Worst Witch.

As a character I think that she has a very true heart and ultimately wants the witches to be the best that they can be and there’s an awkwardness to her which is great fun to play as well. She’s made herself into this statue of a teacher and sometimes that gets a bit ruffled so it can be fun to be able to be a bit buffoon-like.

I’m going to move on to Downton Abbey now as it’s another favourite of mine, the movie rumours have been on-going for some time, is there an update?

At the moment it’s something that we would all like to do but there are a lot of people that are very much in demand, to get together at the same time and in the same place and I think that’s going to make it or break it. When a few of us met at the SAG awards you could tell that we would all very much like to do it if we can, partly because it would just be fun to get together again I think. However once people are out of contract and they have other contracts to honour it becomes very difficult.

What are your highlights from your Downton days?

They range from the very light to the very dark, there are light-hearted moments such as dancing below stairs and we’re all getting the steps wrong or once we’re off camera Kevin (Doyle) starts doing this crazy jig. Or there’s laughing at the back of the church when you’re not supposed to, also when we were just sitting around the table those hours could be very long or they could be very good fun. The darker moments I enjoyed were when Baxter was between a rock and a hard place, where the choice that the character was going to have to make was either going to damn her or damn someone else. That was a very human story line and Baxter had to test herself on what was the right course of action, should she take the easier path to save herself?

What did you think of the development in the friendship between Mr Molesley and Miss Baxter and would you like to see the relationship explored further if the movie happens?

The thing about movies is you’ve still got 20+ characters jostling for air time and as Miss Baxter and Mr Molesley take so long to do anything they would need a movie just for themselves. I think there’s more room for them to explore but as long as they have one another in their lives they probably don’t expect much else as characters.

Moving on to Silent Witness, you’ve recently done a couple of episodes, were you familiar with that show before you guest starred in it?

No not really, I did watch it years ago, it’s a great quality show and I have enormous respect for it now that I’ve done it as I’ve seen the amount of work that goes into it. There’s a lot of care and love that goes into it from the actors playing the main characters and after twenty years you’d think they’d be reigning it in a bit, but not at all, they’re really on it. I worked with David Caves and Emilia Fox and they question constantly, trying to find the truest way of telling the story. They were lovely to work with as well.

What led you into an acting career?

I think I wanted to do it from when I was about 4 years of age, I used to watch films with my mum a lot, there wasn’t an abundance of television shows when I was little so I watched old movies which were beautiful to look at. I loved watching things with my mum and I suppose I wanted to be in the movies, from as long as I can remember I always wanted to be an actor. I tried to join troops and go to Drama School and I was gently led back to a more sensible path. Eventually, many years later I finally woke up and said “ahh I’m a grown up, I can actually do this now if I want to” and I had a lot of support from my parents, actually.

I remember you starring in the television show, Teachers – would you say that it was one of your big breaks?

It was definitely my big break on TV and I auditioned for three big shows at the same time as Teachers. I couldn’t believe it and it was new so nobody was judging it. It was everything it looked like it was on screen, if you see what I mean? It was mad and we were young, having fun. Members of the cast were close friends off screen as well as on so the chemistry was there.

Finally then, what’s next for you?

I’m doing a little part in the final series of W1A so it will be great to see Hugh Bonneville again and I know some of the other actors on the show, too. Worst Witch also want to do another series so that will take me up to halfway through the year. After that, who knows, something new maybe? They need a new Doctor Who!

Huge thanks to Raquel for chatting to me, it was a privilege to be able to talk about some of her experience and I can’t wait to see another series of The Worst Witch.

Photo Credits: BBC and ITV

You can purchase the show on DVD here (click the image):

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s On Stage Awards 2017 ~ Highlights

What’s On Stage Awards hosted its Winners Concert on Sunday 19 February 2017 at Prince of Wales Theatre and it was a star studded occasion glittered with many worthy winners and a few surprises along the way. Here are some of the highlights:

Sweeping the board with their Nimbus Broomsticks ~ Harry Potter and the Cursed Child bagged a number of awards that Aragog would be proud of, eight! Best Actor in a Play for James Parker, Best Set Design and Best New Play amongst the trophies that left the building with the cast and crew of the popular, fast-selling production.

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Charlie Stemp as Arthur Kipps in Half A Sixpence

Half A Sixpence Bags More Than Half A Penny ~ Emma Williams snagged the award for Best Supporting Actress In A Musical, and rightly so, she’s a force to be reckoned with in any production. Charlie Stemp who plays the lead role took home Best Actor In A Musical, which is an amazing accolade and well-deserved too. Best Choreography also went to this musical revival, although I’ve yet to see it, I’ve seen enough to know that this was the right winner.

A Dream Come True for The Dream Girl ~ Amber Riley has won rave reviews for her portrayal of Effie White in Dream Girls and the reviews have reflected the votes, as the girl did good and picked up Best Actress In A Musical. Worth coming over to the UK for, Amber?

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Dream Girl Amber Riley Bags Best Actress In A Musical (Credit: Star Magazine)

The Girls Dared… And Won! ~ The Girls have had a smasher of a week, and it started with the win on Sunday when they picked up Best Regional Production. The hype around this musical has been palpable and I am so pumped to see it that I might burst. This was by far my favourite win of the evening. It slightly made up for the fact that I was sad to hear that Michele Dotrice had pulled out, albeit temporarily (she’s back now!). Gary Barlow has a bumper hit on his hands. Sunflowers ahoy!

With One Look ~ What’s On Stage are renowned for putting on a great #stagey show #dear and topping off the evening with Ria Jones giving her Norma from Sunset Boulevard was the icing on the cake. I’m not so sure about with one look, but I do know that with one note from Ms Jones I have goose bumps. Her stepping in as understudy to Glenn Close was a highlight of 2016 for me and it was therefore right and proper that she had such a prime role in the What’s On Stage Awards concert. Bravo!

For full list of winners visit: http://www.whatsonstage.com

Evita ~ New Wimbledon Theatre, London

Evita stays at New Wimbledon Theatre until Saturday 25 February 2017 and then continues a tour of the UK, to book tickets visit: http://www.kenwright.com/evita  

Star rating: ****

“I’m their product it’s vital you sell me, so Machiavell me…” and my word did Emma Hatton sell herself as leading lady, Eva Peron. I was previously unfamiliar with Hatton’s work, but I can honestly say that she is my favourite actress so far to play the legendary role. Eva Peron was an icon in her time and deserves to be played by the best.

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Emma Hatton as Eva Peron

Evita is one of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s classic musicals and Don’t Cry For Me Argentina is widely known. This particular incarnation of the production was fast, furious and had a distinct Argentinian flavour running through it. From the choreography which was slick, commanding and dazzling in equal measure to the powerful sound of the orchestra who played every musical number so beautifully, it’s undoubtedly an Argentine rose of a piece.

In previous productions I have been disappointed with the actor playing the role of Che, which has affected my enjoyment as he is the Narrator and therefore a pivotal role. In Gian Marco Schiaretti the perfect Che, fiery, brooding and with diction that was so abundantly clear that had I not have been familiar with the musical, it wouldn’t have taken long to have gotten the gist of it. I’d go so far as to say that a shining star has been discovered in this triple threat performer. Kevin Stephen-Jones was a good choice for the role of Peron, I thought, imposing and with a notable light and shade to his performance.

Natalie Langston was the presence I was drawn to in the ensemble, whether she was playing an upper class ‘snob’ or a peasant, she was making the most of her part. It was unsurprising to discover that she is the alternate Eva, and although I cannot speak personally, I suspect that she would be rather brilliant in the role, too. The ensemble as a whole failed to capture my interest, they appeared to blend into the background a little too much at times.

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Emma Hatton was Eva Peron and Gian Marco Schiaretti

Don’t Cry For Me Argentina should be the highlight and Hatton did justice to a song that has been sung by so many. Rainbow High was my personal favourite though, the determination of Eva’s character shone through in this number. You Must Love Me was highly emotive too and the pinnacle moment of the musical.

Based on a true story, there’s no shortage of ups, down, trials, tribulations and it is a theatrical experience that as a rule, renders me emotionally drained if I connect with the show fully. That was certainly the case last night, I was moved to tears by the heart-felt performances from the lead actors and the spirit of Argentina was alive at New Wimbledon Theatre. It’s a history lesson and creative master-piece rolled into one.

Photo Credits: Pamela Raith

Spotlight On… Writer of Puppy, Naomi Westerman

Naomi Westerman is a playwright and actress, she has written a piece called Puppy which is in VAULT Festival this year on Thursday 23 February and Thursday 2 March. I nabbed an exclusive interview with the lady herself, and do follow this link to book your tickets to see Puppy: http://www.vaultfestival.com/event/puppy/2017-02-23/

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Tell me about the piece and your inspiration for it.

The majority of my plays are pretty political – this one is too, but it was a bit of a long process getting there. It was inspired by something completely random. I was walking home one night and noticed some graffiti that read “Dogging ->” I live in Barnes, which is very posh, and you never see things like that. I went home and wrote a ten-minute comedy sketch about middle class doggers in about an hour. The sketch was performed at a shorts night and went down well, so I submitted it to the VAULT Festival who asked me to extend it to an hour. I realised I had a lot more to say about sex, queer sexuality, female sexuality and the politics of sex, so the full play ended up being about a lot more than dogging and middle class manners.

Was it easy to put it all down on paper?

The original ten minute sketch was very easy. Extending it was harder, especially as I was writing to a specific length. There was so much I wanted to put in, but I didn’t want it to be too crowded or chaotic. I made the decision to make the relationship between the two women the focus, and show the politics of the play through the characters.

Is it translating well from page to stage?

Yes, I think so – I intentionally wrote it to be fairly anarchic and non-naturalistic in places, and to allow room for directorial vision. It was also important to me that there be no female nudity on stage, which involved finding different ways to represent the sex and porn scenes. Rafaella Marcus directed an extract of one of my plays at Southwark Playhouse last year (Courting Drama paired us in a weird speed-dating event) and I immediately loved her feminist principles and her bold, experimental approaches to staging more traditional texts. I knew she would be the perfect person to direct Puppy, and the more I see of rehearsals the more I’m reassured of this.

How is the space lending itself to the piece?

Puppy is actually at Morley College, which is not part of the Vaults space itself. I do have another play on in the Vaults proper (Claustrophilia, a kidnap drama, which suits that space perfectly). Morley College definitely wins on the comfort front – we have a proper dressing room, and a balcony level which the director and cast have been playing around with.

What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?

I want them to think twice about attitudes to female sexuality, which is still very much controlled and demonised by a societal mindset still stuck on the virgin/whore dichotomy. Puppy is sex-positive and feminist and confronts some of the difficulties in reconciling sexual empowerment with the potential for exploitation. But mainly I hope they laugh.

Finally, any advice for budding writers?

Read as many plays as you can. See as many plays as you can. Write as much as you can. Never wait for inspiration to strike, just start writing. Redrafting is the hardest part of writing a play, but the most essential. And send your plays off – there are dozens of theatres in the UK that accept unsolicited submissions, and zillions of opportunities to have work staged on the fringe or in shorts or scratch nights.

Huge thanks to Naomi for her time, it was a pleasure to interview you and really looking forward to seeing the play next week.

 

Spotlight On… Actress & Star of VAULT Festival’s Puppy, Jo Wickham

Jo Wickham first caught my attention in my favourite production of 2016 (that I still work into every day conversation on a daily basis), Steel Magnolias at The Hope Theatre. Jo played Truvy and gave a performance to rival that of Dolly Parton in the film version.

Next, Jo is taking a few roles in a play called Puppy which is written by Naomi Westerman, this is part of VAULT Festival 2017. In an exclusive interview with Break A Leg, Jo tells us about the latest piece she’s starring in and discusses her various credits to date, including her career highlights.

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, I’m going to kick off with Puppy at VAULT Festival. Tell me about the play and your role in it.

Puppy is about two young women who meet whilst doing a little ‘light recreational dogging’ they start a feminist porn company together and eventually take on the patriarchal establishment. It sounds pretty serious and thematically it is, but most importantly it is really, really funny.

There are six of us in the play in total. The two young women that play the roles of Jaz and Maya, the protagonists and the four in the ensemble of which I am a part, that create all of the other roles.

What can the audience expect?

To laugh, a lot! There is nothing sleazy about the play at all except perhaps the way in which the ‘adult entertainers’ are perceived by the the wider world.

The opening dogging scene is what initially attracted me to the project, Naomi Westerman’s writing and the resulting direction by Rafaella Marcus is nothing short of hilarious and has to be seen to be believed. The unfolding of Jaz and Lily’s relationship is so beautiful and real, Naomi has a real gift in capturing the subtleties of everyday conversation and infusing them with meanings that pack a real emotional punch.

There’s a little political history in there too and the audience can also expect to see Nick Clegg in a new light!

What are the vital elements that a script and a role has to have to entice you to do it?

A script has to move me in some way, if it can affect me emotionally when reading it, then I hope that I’ll be able to begin to translate those feelings onto the stage. Also if I can clearly see the characters and the story in my head when reading, then I know that its a work I am going to be able to get on with!

The size of the role in terms of lines that the playwright has written is irrelevant, the size of the role in terms of emotional depth and punch is far more exciting to me as an actress.

Steel Magnolias, my favourite production of last year which still makes me smile, now. What are your highlights of playing Truvy in the show and why do you think it was so popular?

Like most people that are familiar with ‘Steel Magnolias’ I had seen, (many times), the film starring Dolly Parton, Sally Field and Shirley MacLaine etc. and loved it. Even to the point where I was using some of the quotes (“built for comfort, not for speed”!) in my everyday speech. Playing Truvy in such a well regarded piece was an absolute gift but also a little daunting. The role was played so beautifully by Dolly Parton in the film that people will sometimes expect that exact performance in the theatre. As an actress you have to try to not think about that performance (as glorious and memorable as it is), and use the text, your own research and your own experience as a the basis for creating the character and hope that the audience goes with you. I like to think that I did Truvy justice.

As for why it is so popular? I think because it is so beautiful, so sad and so, so funny. People like to be moved when watching a play and with ‘Steel Magnolias’ you get every single emotion laid bare in front of you on the stage. I had no idea when I started the project that the story was real, that these characters were based on real women and that Robert Harling was ‘Shelby’s’ younger brother watching these events unfold as a young boy. I think that this truth is the real key to the stories popularity.

If you could play Truvy again, would you?

In a heartbeat.

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Jo as Truvy in Steel Magnolias

If you could play a different role in Steel Magnolias, who would it be and why?

All of the women are so well rounded and beautifully written, each with absolutely cracking moments that, being greedy, I’d like to play them all! I’m a bit (!) too old for Shelby and Annelle now, but I love to be able to see what I could bring to the other parts. With M’Lynn, its her unwavering strength and emotive final scene that are compelling to me. Ouiser’s cutting disdain for others and smart mouth is a real treat for any actress to play. Whilst Clairee’s dignity and wit and zingy one liners are just superb!

What inspired you to become an actress?

I went the long way round! From a young age I’ve always dabbled in acting, my first taste was at about 5 years old playing the witch in ‘Sleeping Beauty’ at my school. I can still remember being pulled out of playtime to rehearse my solo with music teacher Mrs Bull! During the holidays I went to ‘Libby and Bills Drama Class’ which I absolutely loved and have fond memories of. I also used to go to summer schools at East 15 and when older I joined WOADS an amateur dramatic society based at the Kenneth More Theatre in Ilford. Later in my twenties, I joined another company there called Sideshow with whom I learned so much about working in theatre. I did a drama and theatre studies degree after my A Levels and up until the age of thirty I was a drama teacher and later head of Performing Arts at a further education college. It took until then to realise that acting was what I had to do, so I said goodbye to my final salary pension and went to East 15 to train as an actress!

Are there any particular roles that you would LOVE to play?

This is such a hard question to answer! Yes. No. All of them!

The ones that spring to mind are Madame Thenardier in ‘Les Miserables’, any of Shakespeare’s women that I am right for, I also hear the part of Doctor Who is going(!). A dream come true would to be in a ‘Star Wars’ film, any part, I’m not fussed! The Jason Howland musical ‘Little Women’ is going into the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester in the autumn, it is an absolutely stunning piece and I’d love to be considered for Marmee. I’ve also been involved in a lot of new works recently, so to be able to originate a part in a play, musical or on TV is really exciting to me. I’ve also always fancied myself as a grizzled and hard bitten TV detective!

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Jo as The Baker’s Wife in Into The Woods

What have been your career highlights so far?

Playing Truvy obviously, as soon as the play was announced at the Hope Theatre I wanted the part so badly! I feel incredibly lucky to have got it. Playing the Bakers Wife in ‘Into the Woods’ was another career highlight. I adore Sondheim and I even did my dissertation on ‘Into the Woods’, so to play her years later was a real dream come true. One of the best parts of my job is meeting new people and creating exciting work and sometimes being lucky enough to leave a job having made life long friends.

Finally, what would you say to encourage people to come and see Puppy?

Its hilarious, crackingly written, will teach you something new, starts at 6:30pm and lasts an hour!

Break a leg, Jo! Can’t wait to see this next week. Thanks also for your time and a brilliantly insightful interview. Delighted to be able to have featured you.

Here’s a link to book tickets to see Jo and the rest of the amazing cast in Puppy: http://www.vaultfestival.com/event/puppy/2017-02-23/ – it’s being staged on Thursday 23 February and Thursday 2 March 2017.

 

The Good Karma Hospital, Episode Three ~ Review

The Good Karma Hospital is now halfway through its series and I am still slightly underwhelmed by it. I am getting to know the characters and feel that the way in which each storyline is wrapped up neatly (apart from the plots that belong to the main cast, of course) is quite an effective touch. I’m still baffled by Greg (Neil Morrissey) and his purpose other than to serve booze and have it off with Lydia (Amanda Redman), will all become clear or is this the sum total of the character? Anyway, here are a few highlights of the episode:

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Bhang!

AJ’s Harem ~ AJ (Sagar Radia) has been a rather naughty fellar, moving from young female tourist to young female tourist and declaring his love for them before they depart for their journey home. His misdemeanours find him out as he breaks the heart of yet another starry eyed young lady who is willing to stay in India to be with him. Tut tut!

Lydia ~ She’s still a closed book, not much of her character has emerged for me to be able to make an assessment of her yet, but she has softened somewhat and has become less like Connie Beauchamp of Casualty! Her relationship with Greg is a mystery and yet the way she chooses to be with him must come from a deep-rooted past history. I felt by the end of this instalment that there was a flexible side to her persona which may have opened up as a result of the Dementia story line that she had been so immersed in during the episode.

Baby Blues ~ A baby dumped on Lydia’s doorstep triggers a myriad of emotions for Ruby (Amrita Acharia) when she is quite literally left holding the baby and finds herself in the middle of a heart-breaking story. The baby’s mother had been told by her parents that she could not keep the baby and therefore he had been taken from her in the night. The harrowing situation causes Ruby to open up to Dr Varma (James Floyd) about her pregnancy a couple of years ago, which resulted in a miscarriage. The back-story behind her split with her beau begins to come to the fore and Acharia gives a very believable performance.

Stourbridge vs India ~ Maggie (Phyllis Logan) is living her days in India to the full, indulging in a shot of bhang and encouraging her husband (Philip Jackson) to do likewise. The pair of them are in the festival spirit and Maggie appears to be blissfully happy as she sports her sari. However, in typical Phyllis Logan fashion, there is a seamless transition from care-free to bordering on hysteria at the renewed thought that she hasn’t got long left to live. I have to hand it to her, she has embodied the role and given it her all, as always.

Temple of Love ~ When Gabriel (Dr Varma) takes Ruby to the temple (which comes as a surprise to her) and her past begins to surface, the spark and chemistry is palpable. Please can we have some romance on the cards? It’s definitely brewing!

Verdict this week? ~ Still growing on me, but my opinion improves with every episode!

Photo Credits: ITV

 

 

 

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