A Few of my Favourite Things…

As an entertainment and lifestyle blogger I’m always asked about my favourites, especially when I interview performers and creatives, I put the spotlight on them and more often than not the cheeky devils turn the tables on me! What’s my favourite musical, favourite play, who do I aspire to be? So, in the same way that every good website has a FAQs section, I thought I’d let you all in on my favourite things!

Favourite Musical

I’ve named this blogpost A Few of my Favourite Things, not because The Sound of Music is top of the list in the musical theatre stakes – although I do have a place in my heart for the show and I loved the incarnation which toured fairly recently and starred the superb Pippa Winslow and Zoe Ann Bown.

I digress, Blood Brothers is my all-time favourite musical. I can watch it over and over, I could watch it back to back and never get bored. I jump at the gunshot every time, I cry at different scenes but I do always cry. My favourite songs from the show have never changed, ‘My Child’ and ‘Show Upon The Table’. Musical theatre numbers at their best, give them a listen!

Narrowly missing the number one spot are:

  1. Phantom of the Opera (favourite Phantom is the mighty Ramin Karimloo!)
  2. The Girls (‘Silent Night’ sung by Claire Machin is quite a moment…)
  3. Mamma Mia (the ultimate feel-good musical and the current West End cast are insanely good)

Favourite Opera

Opera is a recent addition to my list of happy places and it’s all thanks to a chance viewing of The Mikado on Sky Arts. I saw opera star Yvonne Howard playing the role of Katisha and she blew me away. From there I was checking out her credits and finding myself gripped by classical opera in a way I never could have imagined.

My current favourite opera is Falstaff, I saw it at Garsington Opera very recently and it’s continued to resonate. I have a long-standing love affair with Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, they’ve been on my radar since I was a kid, however, Verdi’s Falstaff is something else. Comedy, poignancy and Italian language – it’s a treat for the eyes and the ears.

Favourite Play

Farce is my bag, when it comes to non-musical theatre I gravitate towards a laugh out loud comedy. Ray Cooney is one of my best-loved playwrights and recently I had the great pleasure of reviewing his production of Move Over Mrs Markham. It’s the king of farce and with the perfect cast, which the version I watched this year undoubtedly possessed – makes for a perfect night at the theatre for yours truly!

Favourite Film

I’m a Disney fan and a Harry Potter geek, so choosing a favourite film is nigh on impossible. All the Harry Potter films would be one answer, all the Disney films would be another answer.

If I move away from those particular passions and opportunities for geekery, I’d have to go with the hilarious American Pie movies. I can’t choose between them because the cast stays almost consistent throughout all four of the main films from the franchise. If there were major alterations to the line-up I think that would affect my judgement, however the proverbial dream team appear in them all (barring the lack of Chris Klein as Oz in the third film – which I might never get over!). I have met Thomas Ian Nicholas too, at a comic con – something else I may never get over. Truly.

An addition to my list of films which I can re-watch with alarming regularity is a surprise entry. I didn’t expect to love Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance anywhere near as much as I did. The royal family are portrayed by a cast of exceptionally talented actors and I can’t recommend it highly enough. You can read my review here: Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance Review

Favourite Television Programme

So tricky to narrow this one down so I’m going to pick one (or more!) from each genre. If we’re talking about Soap Operas then it has to be Coronation Street (closely followed by Hollyoaks). The Street is a continuing drama that never loses momentum and some of the old favourites still reside there.

ITV Home Fires

One of my all-time favourite television dramas was Home Fires on ITV. The fact that it didn’t get a third series was bewildering and it still has a place in my heart. Unforgotten recently trumped it for Sunday night TV but I also love Call The Midwife, I can’t wait for the Christmas special. These dramas all have excellent casts who gel and make the show thoroughly watchable.

No modern day sitcom comes close to the classics I grew up watching. Hi De Hi!, You Rang M’Lord, Keeping Up Appearances. There’s nothing there to beat them, the opportunity to watch them on Gold is a god-send. Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em is equally up there with the best comedies in my humble opinion. They are all on my must-watch list and half an hour of any of these shows can turn my frown upside down.

Favourite Actor

The name Stephen Beckett is one that immediately springs to mind, the admiration dates back to The Bill, Coronation Street and now last year’s Prospero in The Tempest at Stafford Castle and most definitely Mamma Mia at the Novello Theatre – Bill Austin is a part that was surely made for him. I didn’t know he could sing either so he’s most definitely an all-rounder de force.

I also need to add the incomparable Daniel Taylor to the mix, not only is he my favourite Sammy in my favourite musical, Blood Brothers – he’s also the best Tommy Cooper impersonator ever. He looks good in a dress, I can attest to that as I saw him as an Ugly Sister in Cinderella last year… just to clear that up! Seriously though, I don’t think there’s anything he can’t do.

As for screen actors, I hand the accolade to Seann William Scott, he is also better known as Stifler from the American Pie films and I think he’s got one of the most wonderful faces! Even when he’s voicing the role of Crash in Ice Age, I can picture him recording the voice of the character. I think his forte is comedy, although when he’s in a more dramatic role he still holds my attention – what an actor!

The actor I first admired when I was a telly addict child is Jeffrey Holland, Hi De Hi! was a must-watch in our house and I was smitten with Spike. Jeff is a chameleon when it comes to acting, there’s much more to him that meets the eye.

Favourite Actress

If we’re talking on stage then Sarah Jane Buckley without hesitation. In musical theatre she is exceptional, in pantomime she’s perfection and I first discovered her when she played the role of the unstable and, let’s face it, quite scary Kathy Barnes in Hollyoaks. I’ve always felt that the sky’s the limit for this super-talented lady. Sarah Jane is my best-loved actress on stage and on screen, without hesitation.

Through watching Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance I discovered two actresses who were previously unknown to me and whom I now intend to keep my eyes peeled for in future. Deborah Ramsay portrayed Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Parisa Fitz-Henley played Meghan. I’m a royalist and their performances in particular resonated upon first viewing of what is now one of my favourite films and I am eager to see their faces on screen again soon.

A cheeky mention must go to the wonderful Judy Buxton too, she was one of my favourite actresses when I was growing up with watching some of the best sit coms on television and she is a power-house on stage, the epitome of versatility.

Favourite Singer

Too many to mention, however with my newly discovered love of opera the first names out of my mouth are those of Yvonne Howard and Marcus Farnsworth. The latter grabbed my attention and never let it go when he starred in the ENO production of Iolanthe at the Coliseum earlier this year. The former wowed me in The Mikado, Iolanthe and Falstaff, I’ve also heard her sing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ in Carousel thanks to YouTube. Glorious!

I can’t finish the favourites post without a mention going to Ramin Karimloo, he was my first Phantom and he’ll always be my Phantom. Vocal ability that pushes boundaries, he’s a force of nature.

Photo Credits: Blood Brothers (Bill Kenwright Website), Falstaff (Clive Barda), Cast of Move Over Mrs Markham (Ray Cooney),  Stephen Beckett in The Tempest (Stafford Shakespeare Festival),  Sarah Jane Buckley as Mrs Lyons in Blood Brothers (with permission from Sarah Jane Buckley), Deborah Ramsay as Camilla in Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance (Lifetime TV), ENO’s Iolanthe (Clive Barda), Ramin Karimloo (Sourced from Broadway World)

 

 

Move Over Mrs Markham ~ The Mill Theatre, Sonning

Move Over Mrs Markham stays at The Mill Theatre until Saturday 2 June 2018 – book your tickets here: www.millatsonning.com/shows/move-over-mrs-markham

Star rating: *****

You won’t find a finer farce playwright than Ray Cooney, in my humble opinion, and this production of Move Over Mrs Markham (which he co-wrote with John Chapman and has directed himself) is a perfect of example of why this genre of playwriting has stood the test of time. It’s no mean feat to pull off the perfect farce, however here we have a cast de force who have embraced the direction from their ‘maestro’ and they’ve really done him proud too.

The story has been set in the 1970’s and revolves around the Markhams and the Lodges – Lodge and Markham is a publishing firm run by Henry Lodge (Andrew Hall) and Phillip Markham (Mark Curry). The action is set in the static environment of the Markham’s London flat which is in the process of being refurbished by the wildly flamboyant Alistair Spenlow (Delme Thomas). It’s easy to see why Spenlow’s sexuality is questionable, however his mutual goosing with au pair, Sylvie (Una Byrne) seems to suggest he’s heterosexual through and through. While Spenlow and Sylvie are plotting an evening of slap, tickle and goosing – Henry’s wife, Linda (Judy Buxton) who is aware of her husband’s constant philandering, has been planning some philandering herself. She’s met a man at a Tapestry class called Walter Pangbourne (Jeffrey Holland), so Linda is keen to get between the sheets with her new love-letter-writing beau. After she’s had a cup of tea that is, she can’t do anything until she’s had a cup of tea. The sheets that she has in mind belong to the Markhams, so Phillip’s wife Jo (Finty Williams) is in the unlucky position of helping her friend out. Throw into the mix that Henry has yet another girl on the go, whom he plans to bed at the Markhams place. It’s a hot-bed of will they/won’t they, partner swapping confusion and hilarity. Doors are opening, closing and characters are racing frantically about the place in an attempt to maintain the subterfuge. We’re frequently reminded of the publishing business at the heart of the tale, never more so than when Olive Harriet Smythe (Elizabeth Elvin) makes an appearance, in search of a new publisher for her children’s books – a publisher who isn’t all about sex!

Mark Curry is a revelation and ideally cast as the over-worked, hapless Phillip Markham, he doesn’t know if he’s coming or going – quite literally, in fact at times he’s not even sure who he is! Finty WIlliams is a superb match as his wife, Jo, she conveys so much with one look or gesture and keeps the flow of the farce fantastically. Delme Thomas captivated me in his role of Alistair Spenlow, a flick of the eyebrow and a delighted expression on his face was enough to have me rolling in the aisle and his energy was boundless. Andrew Hall was debonair and cool as Henry Lodge, he commanded authority and the twinkle in his eye enhanced his characterisation of the role. Judy Buxton’s comic timing as Linda Lodge was spot on throughout, every move was measured and precise – she’s the perfect fit for a farce of this calibre. Matched, of course by her real life husband, Jeffrey Holland who played business-card wielding Walter, predictably brilliantly. Holland played Walter as the epitome of confusion, especially when he thought he was going to have some fun with Linda and she was in search of a teapot before he could get any further! Elizabeth Elvin was a sheer delight as the bumbling author, Olive Harriet Smythe, she’s the cherry on the cake amongst a cast who are all at the top of their game.

The set design was pure seventies with nods towards the luxurious elegance which Jo Markham was trying to achieve and Phillip Markham was not ‘feeling’. Numerous exits and entrances are a must for this fast-paced piece and there were plenty available.

If you want a fun, light-hearted, albeit slightly complex belly laugh-inducing farce to get your teeth into – this is the one to go and see. I’d watch it again if I could! Hilariously witty, tongue-twisting humour, slightly un-PC, yet it doesn’t seem to matter. Catch the limited run while you can.

 

 

Brassed Off ~ Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Brassed Off runs at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until Saturday 2 September 2017 – book tickets here: Brassed Off Tickets

Star rating: *****

Brassed Off marched into the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre this week and it’s setting the stage alight with uplifting live music City Of Wolverhampton Brass Band and stellar performances from a tight knit cast.

The production is based on the true story of the impending closure of the mines in Grimethorpe and the Grimethorpe Colliery Band which is at the heart of the tale. With characters whom many will be familiar with from the film version which starred Pete Posthlethwaite and Ewan McGregor – the stage version does not disappoint. In fact it more than does justice to the plight of the miners in my humble opinion and as a piece it also stands for solidarity, unity and integrity.  It’s far from a happy-go-lucky tale though as it doesn’t shy away from dealing with health, both physical and mental. Comedy drama and it’s very best under the careful and considered direction of Gareth Tudor Price.

Jeffrey Holland gives one of the performance of his career as Danny, the man at the helm of the band. I would have believed that he had been conducting for years and his wry comic timing adds an extra dimension to the character. I’ve watched Jeff in many, many different roles over the years, I find it easy to forget that it’s Jeff playing the part and always find his performances believable. Christopher Connel was a great match as his son, Phil, a man who is hiding the pain of poverty and has an endless stream of bailiffs at the door. Connel played the part with subtlety and only brought Phil’s flaws to the fore when the timing was right. Miriam Grace Edwards also put in an excellent performance as Phil’s wife, Sandra – she had chemistry with Connel and also with Ash Matthews who was a joy to watch as son, Shane. I particularly enjoyed the scenes between Holland and Matthews as granddad and grandson – a formidable team!

The sound from City Of Wolverhampton Brass Band is spectacular. Clara Darcy as Gloria is a revelation, she played the fugelhorn and I had goose bumps, what an incredible tone.

I can’t recommend the show enough, it truly is a journey that I suggest you take, go and follow the loveable band members and their posse around fourteen villages, in an attempt to win a marching band contest. Get swept up in the passion of the protestors who are against the closure of the mines. Laugh with the miners who have a ‘wet’ to forget the stresses of work and the band! One of the best shows I’ve seen at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre.

Waiting For God ~ Malvern Theatres

Waiting For God is on UK tour, you can find the tour dates and venues here: Waiting For God

Star rating: *****

Waiting For God was a television comedy series that I thoroughly enjoyed watching when it was on our screens, Stephanie Cole and Graham Crowden were a dream team in my humble opinion. I wondered if a stage version would work but I’m delighted to report that it’s a triumph. Nichola McAuliffe and Jeffrey Holland surpass the comedy pairing of Cole and Crowden and the production far exceeded my expectations.

Diana Trent (Nichola McAuliffe) is a battle axe de force, whinging, moaning and throwing controversy into the mixed pot of senior citizens who reside at Bayview Retirement Home. Having lost her ‘neighbour’ she has a new friend to play with in the form of Tom Ballard (Jeffrey Holland) whom she develops a fondness for and together they become a quirky yet workable ‘couple’. Their lives are punctuated with Tom’s boring son Geoffrey (David Benson) who endures an eternal battle with his wife Marion, she drinks and sleeps her way through her existence. Then there’s Diana’s niece, Sarah (Joanna Bending) who relies on her aunt far more than Diana wishes her to, involving her in all aspects of her life including the arrival of a new great niece. Of course there’s also ‘the idiot’ Harvey Baines (Samuel Collings) who ‘attempts’ to run the place whilst simultaneously fending off the attentions of Jane Edwards (Emily Pithon), his loyal and besotted assistant.

The piece has been constructed from a selection of plots from the original television series, I recognised the stories that were used. However you don’t need to have seen the television series to be able to enjoy this production. It’s a laugh out loud comedy with intricate and clever dialogue which is delivered expertly by the cast, McAuliffe and Holland in particular who have some incredible opportunities to demonstrate their remarkable expertise. McAuliffe teases out the key character traits with subtle and effective intonation, her comic timing is a skill that I was aware she possessed in abundance, but this role fits her like a glove. Holland matches her in every aspect and they form the proverbial masterclass, together. Collings and Pithon are also a well cast pairing, they each bring all of the basic elements that I was previously familiar with to their characters and also put their own stamp on the roles.

The set is quite reminiscent of the setting used for TV to the point that it felt as if the series I know and love had been recreated on stage and helped to set the scene, tone and atmosphere instantly. It’s extremely versatile scenery too which lends itself to the various scene changes.

An experience at the theatre that is guaranteed to have you rolling in the aisles, while packing a punch with a deep-rooted poignancy and a strong cast who have made the show their own. With just five weeks of the tour left, don’t miss the chance to see this masterpiece.

Dong Ding Murder Me On High ~ Lichfield Garrick Theatre

Dong Ding Murder Me On High has completed a short UK tour.

Star Rating: ****

Playwright Peter Gordon’s popular character, bumbling officer of the law, Pratt (David Callister) is back and he’s a Sergeant. It’s Christmas Eve and it’s anything but peaceful in the residence of Sir Walton Gates (Jeffrey Holland).

Mark Little and Jeffrey Holland as brothers, Archie and Walton.

The family are beginning to arrive while Personal Secretary, Morag McKay (Natasha Grey) is trying and failing to finish her work so that she might go home for the festive period. Emma Gates (Carly Day), (daughter of Sir Walton who acts like a stroppy teenager ever though she’s far older, in years at least), arrives with a new man in tow, James Washinton (Oliver Mellor). She’s spoiling for a fight with her step-mum, Grace (Anna Brecon), Sir Walton’s second wife, and has unwittingly brought Grace’s ex beau with her. Cue sneaking around and snogging in true bedroom farce style. Sir Walton is expecting his brother, Archie (Mark Little) who has travelled from Australia for a family reunion having been an outcast. The scene is set for a trouble-some family Christmas, and then there’s an addition to the predicted chaos, Pratt arrives with his colleague, Mary Potter (Polly Smith) to collect for charity. Why the police would do this on Christmas Eve? Who knows, but naturally an incident of some description is required for Pratt’s arrival. If it were real police business it’s highly unlikely he would show up!

It’s all slapstick humour and mistaken identity thanks to Sergeant Pratt’s general incompetence. However an offer from the Sergeant to perform a dangerous magic trick as part of his charitable efforts sets off a murderous chain of events. Hilarious consequences along the way? Guaranteed!

David Callister as Sergeant Pratt

I have seen David Callister play Pratt before, he epitomises the role and the audience were behind him all the way. Polly Smith was by far one of the stars of the show, her welsh accent was spot on and as a sidekick to Callister, to watch her performance was like a masterclass in itself. Jeffrey Holland was on fine form as Sir Walton, finding amusement in the situation and oblivious to the money grabbing reasons his wife, Grace has married him for. I enjoyed his interactions with his brother, Archie, and Holland is always a strong member of any cast, in my experience. Mark Little was predictably whacky as Archie, over-the-top Australian in every way, also in a way that piqued my curiosity – which was well placed as it transpired. I also enjoyed Oliver Mellor’s portrayal of James, the cad-like character who appears to be up to something.

Anna Brecon and Oliver Mellor as Grace and James
Photographs By: Sean Dillow.
http://www.TheBigCheesePhotography.co.uk

With a Pratt mystery you get the standard plot of a whodunit but with comedy to die for (pardon the pun) and an investigating officer who cannot string a sentence together without misplacing words. It’s a clever and well-crafted script that leads the audience wondrously up the garden path… where you’ll most likely find Sergeant Pratt lying face down in the gravel having tripped over his own feet!

 

Secondary Cause of Death ~ Malvern Theatres

Touring production which finishes on Saturday 12 March at Malvern Theatres.

Secondary Cause of Death has landed at Malvern Theatres for the final leg of its tour, written by Peter Gordon and produced by Talking Scarlet. This features the bumbling Inspector Pratt who makes an appearance in a trilogy of Gordon plays (Death by Fatal Murder and Murdered to Death are the other two).

Set in Colonel Charles Craddock’s Country Manor House, Bagshot House, the guests of the Colonel are embarking upon a murder mystery style ‘parlour game’ which is hosted and written by Cynthia Maple (sister of Joan Maple, a nod towards Joan Marple, presumably!). Included in this charade are Count Puchlik of Puszczykowo from Poland, Lady Isodora Pollock who takes great delight in taking part in the game, over-acting like crazy. There’s also Henrietta Woolmer-Cardington who is an army captain and appears to be nice but dim – or is she? Lily Tuthill the cook who looks ready to skin a rabbit at a moment’s notice, and Cardew Longfellow, an actor employed by Miss Maple, who just happens to pay a resemblance to the Colonel – or does he? Either way, the bodies start piling up and the race is on to find out whodunit.

What’s refreshing about this is that it’s a farcical murder mystery and the ‘garden paths’ it leads the audience up are not only numerous, but all result in great hilarity. Inspector Pratt (played by David Callister with comic genius) moves from accusing no-one, declaring an obvious murder to be the secondary cause of death to announcing himself as the culprit (although he plans to plead innocent). It’s been a long time since I laughed out loud with such frequency during an evening at the theatre, and at a murder mystery of all things!

Judy Buxton is perfectly cast and puts in an excellent performance as Cynthia Maple, she’s the epitome of the formidable busy-body who sets the hapless Inspector straight. Liz Garland could be likened to a chameleon in her role as Henrietta, seemingly innocent but with a wholly different persona behind closed doors, Garland is an actress to watch out for, she shines in this production. Polly Smith is equally well cast as Lily Tuthill, the south western cook with her Mrs Overall style gait who is also not what she seems. David Janson brings a Manuel from Fawlty Towers quality to the role of the Count, he has some excellent slapstick scenes with Callister. Then there’s Jeffrey Holland, who demonstrates one of the many reasons why, in my opinion,  he’s one of our finest actors and remains so after years in the business, he switches seamlessly between the Colonel and Longfellow, his diction is precise and each character is played as an individual.

Secondary Cause of Death finishes its run in Malvern on Saturday 12 March and that is where the tour ends, so get your tickets by visiting this link: http://www.malvern-theatres.co.uk/

 

 

And This Is My Friend Mr Laurel ~ Mill Arts Centre, Banbury

Reviewed by Helen McWilliams

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Heart-warming, informative and a superb evening at the theatre, ‘And This Is My Friend Mr Laurel’ is a one-man and one-act play written by the talented combination of Gail Louw and Jeffrey Holland (who stars as the man himself). It’s an autobiographical piece, as much about Oliver ‘Babe’ Hardy as it is about the ‘much-married Mr Laurel’.

With an extremely minimal set which encourages the audience to use their own imaginations (in more ways than one, given that this is a single-hander), the story takes place during one of Stan’s visits to Oliver’s bedside after he has suffered a stroke (Stan suffered a stroke, too – the previous year). We are almost led to believe that this was a one-off visit, whereas (as we are told at the end of the play) Stan actually visited a severely debilitated Oliver for eleven months, until his side-kick’s death.

Holland has Laurel’s characteristics to a tee, the play cleverly switches seamlessly between Mr Laurel as himself and Mr Laurel in one of his ‘Sketches’ where Holland plays both Laurel and Hardy, to astonishingly accurate effect. It’s astounding how a spotlight and a bowler hat alters the atmosphere of the piece, entirely.

A variety of emotions are conveyed while Stan is engaging in his one-sided conversation with Oliver, Holland is able to move the audience from laughter, to tears, to stunned silence.  It was clear that he held everyone’s attention, indeed at times one could have head a pin drop.

This truly was a memorable theatrical experience and a fitting tribute to both actors. The Q & A with Jeffrey Holland (after the interval) is an added bonus and his passion for the duo is evident. The show recently triumphed at the Edinburgh Festival and it’s easy to see why!

For tour dates, please see this link:  http://www.jeffreyholland.co.uk/Jeffrey_Holland/Mr_Laurel.html

Spotlight On… Helen McWilliams

Here’s your opportunity to get to know me 🙂

*** Spotlight On… Helen McWilliams ***

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Why did you start ‘Break A Leg Review’?

I was contributing as a reviewer and interviewer to another online review site, I told one of my favourite actresses (during an interview) that I was considering setting up my own site, and she was very encouraging about it. I had been building up a network of contacts around the  West Midlands and wanted to continue to do that for ourselves, with Garry (my husband) in tow. Garry takes a backseat these days as his own career is taking a few exciting turns. I owe thanks to Tracey Childs who was the actress encouraging me to ‘go it alone’!

What piqued your interest in becoming a writer?

I was always interested in writing stories when I was a child. However entertainment journalism became a career goal due to the vast amount of theatre shows that my parents took me to see from a young age, coupled with the fact I was a little telly addict  (and still am), I was hugely inspired by many actors and actresses and the idea of being able to promote them via articles and interviews was appealing.

Who inspired you in your youth when you were first thinking about this career?

Judy Buxton, Tracey Childs, Felicity Dean, Sandra Huggett, Liz Robertson, Carol Royle and Cath Shipton were my real heroes when I was in my youth and all of them remain  my heroes. They’re my magnificent seven!

I was and still am hugely inspired by Robert Daws, Sylvester McCoy, Jeffrey Holland and Derek Thompson.

What is your ambition for the site?

My ambition for this year (2015) was to include interviews with authors as well as actors and other industry-related individuals. The new ‘Spotlight On…’ page has drawn in a few more excellent interviewees from many walks of the arts. Our links with London theatres have opened up this year and I hope to expand on that, which is a huge ambition for the site. I wanted to interview as many of my personal heroes as possible, as well. That is happening and overwhelming me, constantly!

What are you writing in your fictional ‘career’ at the moment?

I’m so busy with this site and working for ‘Union Times’, ‘Theatre and Performance Magazine’, I have let the fictional work take  a lower priority, for now…

What is your advice for budding writers?

Write about what you know, network with other writers and have your work read aloud to see if it works. It should always be an enjoyable experience, not a chore – and try your hand at a number of genres, you might surprise yourself!

Favourite Things (quick-fire questions):

Favourite Actor?

Oh, I love so many actors – I’m going to have to say Jeffrey Holland AND Robert Daws. Both appeared in hit television shows which were a big part of my youth. They’ve both gone on to great things, too!

Favourite Actress?

Nooooo, don’t ask me! Ok, Carol Royle AND Judy Buxton – I’ve loved them both since I was a little girl, seen them on television and in Judy’s case, I’ve seen her on stage many times. (I have a short list of ten favourite actresses, so this was hard!!!).

Favourite Television Programme?

Home Fires

Favourite Play?

This changes so often, this year (2015) my favourite play has been ‘Harvey’.

Favourite Musical?

Rocky Horror Show and Phantom of the Opera. I am hopeless at choosing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spotlight On… Jeffrey Holland and Judy Buxton

June’s Spotlight On…

*** Jeffrey Holland and Judy Buxton***

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I’ve now seen ‘The Ghost Train’ and thoroughly enjoyed it, can you tell our readers a bit about the story and your characters?

Judy: It’s about a group of travellers who miss their connection because of a ‘silly ass’ who’s hat blows off, so he pulls the communication cord. I play Miss Bourne, a rather feisty old lady who does get worried when she hears a ghost story told by the old station master, she ends up drinking rather too much alcohol and spends much of the play in a very comfy position on the table.

Jeffrey: I play the crusty old Station Master and the travellers want him stay with them to look after them because they’re in a remote location. They do end up persuading him to stay. The way we do this play so that it works, is straight down the middle, Arnold (Ridley, the writer of the play) was adamant that is must be played straight. There are some twists and turns the end, of course that I can’t possibly reveal!

Jeffrey, you started your career here at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry, what’s it like to be back?

It’s wonderful to be back, I was here for five years in rep and then I think the last time I was back here was with ‘Allo Allo’ with Judy. It’s changed so much, the area is different, especially with the Millennium Bridge. It’s not my Coventry anymore or my Belgrade but it’s great to be back here.

Do you enjoy working together?

Judy: Yes we love working together, we haven’t for about four years, but we work together very well. When we’re each playing our characters there’s no hint that we’re married.

Jeffrey: We’ve always  thought the same, we approach our work the same way. We’re similar that when we’re on stage playing our characters, that’s what we doing – and of course we save a fortune on phone bills!

What inspired you both to become actors?

Judy: I was sent to nursery school at the age of two, we had a German teacher so to ensure we didn’t pick up her accent we had an elocution teacher. I used to recite a lot of poems and it all started from there. I attended weekend drama classes and entered festivals, I think I did all the things that my mother, herself would have liked to have done.  I then went to Rose Bruford College at the age of 18 for a three year course.

Jeffrey: I became an actor as a result of my raging hormones, I was a member of a boring church youth group with my friend Peter, he suggested we go to a local drama group for something to do. I “I’ve never acted before in my life” and the last thing I wanted to do was to look stupid, but he told me there were girls there! I sat down, started reading a play, heard laughter and thought “I like this, I’m having some of this” and something went PING! That was it, I had the bug.

Judy, I first saw you in ‘On The Up’, what are your favourite memories from your involvement with the series?

Judy: Great memories of working with Joan Sims, crying with laughter, she always ended up crying with laughter which is catching, isn’t it. We had lots of giggles. Dennis (Waterman) of course I’d worked with before and we got on really well, he’s great to work with because although as you would imagine, he’s one of the lads – he’s friendly with everyone including the crew and knows everybody’s name. It really was a great cast, but it didn’t seem to take off. It was a nice character to play and people would say ‘you’re not like her, at all’. Funnily enough, it was at a Rose Bruford reunion that I didn’t particularly want to go to that I was offered the audition for the part of Ruth. It had to be run past Dennis Waterman for approval, first so they rang him up and I got his approval to play his wife!

Jeffrey, what are your favourite memories from ‘Hi De Hi!’?

Great memories of lots of laughs, especially with Su Pollard and the cast, I don’t have good memories of being thrown in the pool, it was freezing!

My favourite show was ‘You Rang M’Lord’, though, the role of James was a gift, it was a straight role in a situation comedy. I loved the set and the costumes, I also enjoyed ‘Oh Doctor Beeching ‘ and thought it was a shame that it wasn’t given the right time slot so the ratings were poor.

What’s next for you both after the tour is finished?

Judy: I’m going to be in a short play written by on the South Bank, I think that’s sometime in July.

Jeffrey: Details of the play will be on Judy’s Facebook page.

And what’s next for you, Jeffrey?

Jeffrey: I’m going to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with my one-man biography show ‘And This is My Friend Mr Laurel’, it’s a lifelong dream to play Stan Laurel, and I was in Edinburgh with the show, last year. It’s going on tour to UK venues in the Autumn.

Judy: And I’m going to be his roadie!

Are you going to be appearing in pantomime this year?

Jeffrey: No, we’re having a break this Christmas.

Judy: We might be able to have a nice holiday!

Favourite Things (quick fire questions):

Favourite Co-Star?

Judy: Oooh, I know! Jeffrey Holland!

Jeffrey: Ah, Ok then, Judy Buxton!

Favourite medium – theatre, television, film or radio?

Jeffrey: Having both done sit-coms, I’d say theatre, because of the audience feedback and laughter.

Judy: Yes, I agree with that as it’s different every night and it’s great to hear the laughter.

Jeffrey: I think most actors would say theatre is their favourite.

Favourite playwright?

Jeffrey: Ray Cooney

Judy: I was going to say Ray Cooney!

Favourite musical?

Jeffrey: West Side Story

Judy: Jersey Boys

(there was some deliberation after Jeffrey and Judy answered the last question as they have recently really enjoyed ‘Gypsy’ at the Savoy Theatre, so this is also their favourite musical!)

Follow the links to Jeffrey and Judy’s websites here, where you will find all information of their forthcoming work: http://www.jeffreyholland.co.uk/Jeffrey_Holland/Jeffrey_Holland.html http://www.judybuxton.co.uk/

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