The former Birds of a Feather star talks to Freetime about menopausal women, stand-up and knitting.
What appealed you about starring in the touring production of Hot Flush!?
I’ve done it twice before, and I just couldn’t resist doing it again. It has gone down so well with audiences. It’s the only show I’ve ever done where on the first night we overran by 15 minutes because there were so many laughs. Of course, that could have just been me overplaying it! It’s a hybrid show – it’s got music, drama, stand-up and revue. But the main thing is that it’s very, very funny.
What do you think the show offers to an audience?
Its sense of humour is very near the knuckle and that really appeals. One of the characters has a moment with a Rampant Rabbit and you don’t get much more near the knuckle than that! It’s part of a genre of theatre that connects with hormonal housewives and hen parties. They are people who want to leave their troubles behind and come out for a real laugh. Hot Flush! speaks directly to that audience, and that’s why it works so brilliantly.
You play Myra in Hot Flush! Can you describe her to us?
Myra is middle-aged and frustrated. Her husband has gone off with a bimbo, and so, like a lot of women her age, she’s trying to find a new life for herself. She’s wisecracking, but also vulnerable. You have to let the audience see different layers to a character. Myra is in this gang of four women who are going through everything together. By the end, you see them singing and dancing together. They’ve all been on a journey together and they want to celebrate that.
Hot Flush! is a musical comedy – how did you find the musical part of Hot Flush!?
I’ve loved it. I may not be the greatest singer in the world, but I can sell a song. I’ve previously starred in The Boyfriend and Thoroughly Modern Millie, so I know my way round a musical.
You obviously have a real love of theatre?
Absolutely. I’m a theatre girl – I grew up loving it. I love standing in the wings waiting to go on and seeing the scenery change. I used to do very serious, kosher acting, but then I went down the comedy route. That’s top of the tree for me now. I just love working with an audience. I’m a pure theatre animal.
What other theatre productions have you enjoyed appearing in?
Every sort of theatre is valid, and I love doing it all. I once did Harold Pinter’s Home directed by Sir Peter Hall. The play is magical. To be able to do that and then shows such as Hot Flush! or The Gingerbread Lady about a recovering alcoholic or Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is truly wonderful.
How do you relax?
I’m a very good knitter. I recently knitted myself a dress, and it was only meant to be a jumper! I also love walking – I walk everywhere. I love doing the great London walks, learning about Charles Dickens or Jack the Ripper. I also love shopping. Every single job I do, I buy myself a present. When I finish a job, I think, “Right, now I’ve earned myself a pair of shoes!”
Finally, will men feel excluded if they come to see Hot Flush!?
Not at all. There is a very funny moment where Myra goes speed-dating. People might be snobby about Hot Flush! But it’s great entertainment, and it sends audiences out with a smile on their faces.
Hot Flush! is at the Harrow Arts Centre, Uxbridge Road, Hatch End on Saturday, May 24 at 8pm. Details: 020 8416 8989, harrowarts.com