Interview by Jenny Itzcovitz
Actress, Carol Harrison will be starring in The Thunder Girls, a fabulous new play opening at The Lowry in Salford, Manchester on 24th September 2019. We caught up with Carol to find out more about the play, and some of her stunning roles in TV shows including EastEnders, Brush Strokes and Get Back. Carol also talks about her experience of ageism and overcoming it, how she became a writer, and how she shared her craft and experience as a teacher of Script and Screen at Brighton and Hove College.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and where you come from?
“I come from the East End of London. I was born only nine years after the war and everywhere was full of bombsites.
“My dad left for good when I was six so my mother was a single parent, and we were really very poor.”
How did you become an actress, who inspired you, and what was your first acting role?
“I am often asked why I became an actress/writer, and I have come to realise that it is because I wanted to live in my fantasy world forever, as it was so much better than the reality of my life.
“My only outlet was drama. I took myself off to youth theatre and suddenly I found something I was good at.
“I was inspired by the great films of the Sixties like This Sporting Life. Rachel Roberts was one of my favourite actresses.
“I got my first professional acting job in the early 70s. It was with a socialist theatre company. Here I could perform and also be true to my beliefs, trying to create a better society.”
You’ve appeared in some great TV shows including the BBC Sitcom ‘Brush Strokes’ as the lovely Gloria, alongside Karl Howman. What was it like to work in such a popular long running series? Do you have any favourite or special moments?
“By love of comedy blossomed in the BBC sitcom Brush Strokes. I auditioned for the part of Gloria. Initially she was only going to appear in one episode, but the producer and writers liked my interpretation of the character so much they wrote her into more episodes. I ended up playing the glorious Gloria for seven years!
“One of my favourite episodes is where I arrive at Jacko’s wedding in a sports car with my new beau, Gilesy.”
You were also stunning in EastEnders as the feisty Louise Raymond, the mother of Tiffany – Martine McCutcheon. There were some powerful storylines including the affair with Grant – Ross Kemp. What did you enjoy most about this well loved soap? Can you share a few anecdotes?
“Being a true East Ender myself, I was thrilled when EastEnders came along in 1998.
“Louise was sassy, independent, outspoken and scandalous. I was determined to make her great like the EastEnder, Elsie Tanner from Coronation Street.
“I wanted to show her complexity and her damage and not make her a two dimensional character. By the audience reaction and also my peers, I feel that I achieved that.
“It culminated in EastEnders winning a BAFTA for the first time.”
What do you like most about acting on television? Are there any strong or sympathetic characters that you are most proud of playing?
“One of my favourite roles was Loretta in the comedy Get Back where I starred opposite Ray Winston as my husband, the ill-fated Martin Sweet.
“It was a brilliant comedy about a couple who had done well in the 80’s, then were hit by the recession of the 90’s.
“They lose everything and have to go back and live in a council flat with Martin’s objectionable father. It was incredibly well observed, very funny, and with a ‘stonking’ cast.”
In recent years, you’ve battled with ageism, when your role as Louise Raymond in EastEnders was not renewed, despite the fact that you helped the show win a Bafta award. Can you tell us about this and how it emboldened you to start writing and taking different roles?
“I had looked forward to further developing Louise’s character in EastEnders but unfortunately I found out (in the newspaper) that my contract was not going to be renewed. I was 44 and at the top of my game – or so I thought.
“What followed was a very dark time. Acting had always been my first love. However, like love, it was suddenly unrequited. My personal life was in tatters. I was alone with a child, I was heartbroken and then suddenly my career took a nose dive.
“It soon became apparent that there were very few decent parts being written for working class women of my age. The handful that I was offered were stereotypical ‘cougars’ and all shared the same description of the character, ‘mutton dressed as lamb’.
“I couldn’t hang on forever waiting for the phone to ring, I had a child to support – I had to survive. So I went back to my writing, embarked on a course at the University of Arts and graduated with an MA in screenwriting in 2001.”
What advice would you give to other women who are struggling with ageism at work or in everyday life?
“Try to keep believing in yourself.”
After leaving EastEnders you took a Master’s degree in Screenwriting and went on to teach Script and Screen at Brighton and Hove College. Can you tell us more about this? And what it was like to share your craft?
“It’s such a wonderful feeling to see your students’ careers soar and a couple of them went on to do MA’s themselves as they said I had changed their lives.
“It was such an honour and privilege to share something I love so much and see it influence the lives of others. When your work is your love, then it’s not work at all.”
September sees you appearing as Chrissie in ‘The Thunder Girls’ at The Lowry, Salford, together with Beverley Callard, Coleen Nolan and Mina Anwar. Can you tell us more about it, and the themes of the play?
“I actually shed a little tear when I was offered the part of Chrissie. I have waited twenty years for such a brilliant and fulfilling role to come along. Now here it is.
“The Thunder Girls is a true celebration of women. All four of The Thunder Girls actresses are over 50, one of the most under-represented demographics in the UK entertainment industry.
“The play is based on a book of the same name and the author has first hand experience of the music industry, so it’s really a behind the scenes look at what happens when bands like the Spice Girls get back together.
“I play Chrissie, the lead singer of The Thunder Girls, who broke up the band to pursue a solo career, ditching the other girls and stealing one of the other girl’s boyfriends.
“She hasn’t spoken to the others for 30 years while she has been in the limelight at their expense, so there is a lot of bitterness and anger being directed at Chrissie at the reunion dinner from hell! I can’t wait to play her!”
What are you most looking forward to about appearing on stage with such a wonderful cast?
“Everything! I cannot wait to surround myself with all the wonderful and talented women involved in this play and sharing our collective creativity.”
How are you preparing for the play? Are there many rehearsals?
“I am channelling my inner Bananarama/Spice Girl already by watching videos of 80s girl bands!”
What costumes will you wear? Are there any special props or effects? What can audiences look forward to?
“We don’t need any props or effects! My character Chrissy is the most successful and fashion conscious, so expect some gorgeous dresses darling!”
What hobbies and pastimes do you have when you are not performing?
“Mainly music. I love seeing live bands – R&B, Soul and anything Mod.”
What is your ideal day out when you get time off with friends and family?
“My ideal day is spending time with my family and friends, sharing good food and drink. Music, dancing and catching up with mates, what can be better?”
Do you have a special message for readers of Sixtyplusurfers?
“Never give up on your dreams – it’s not too late. Just keep fighting!”
Carol Harrison is starring in The Thunder Girls play, opening at The Lowry in Salford, Manchester on 24th September 2019.
Tickets are available from www.thelowry.com
Or call the box office on 0843 208 6000.
Theatre Royal Bath Production
Felicity Kendal to Star In ‘The Argument’
Theatre Royal Bath is presenting The Argument by William Boyd, its third Summer Season production, with Felicity Kendal starring in the role of Chloe.
The production, directed by Christopher Luscombe, will run in the Main House from 7th to 24th August with the opening night for on 12th August.
The Argument delves into what it is to dispute with those we love and offers a biting take on human dynamics. This is an often hilarious, darkly comic and compelling exploration of how it is the tone in which words are said which has such potency.
Pip and Meredith are having a disagreement about a film they’ve just seen when Pip’s phone rings and a full-scale row about their marriage breaks out. In the course of ten arguments, we follow the repercussions, as Meredith’s parents, Chloe and Frank, her best-friend Jane, and Pip’s best-friend Tony, take sides and end up embroiled in arguments of their own. Vitriolic, razor-sharp and veracious, the arguments rake over past prejudices, expose unjust judgements and reveal difficult truths.
The Argument will run in addition to the previously announced Blithe Spirit by Noël Coward, directed by Richard Eyre and starring Jennifer Saunders as well as Anton Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya in which Rupert Everett makes his directorial stage debut and will also play the title role in a new version by David Hare.
Felicity Kendal CBE is one of the UK’s best-loved actresses, best known for her role in the BBC sitcom The Good Life. She has appeared in previous Theatre Royal Bath productions, including A Room with a View, Hay Fever and Relatively Speaking.
Her roles in Much Ado About Nothing and Ivanov at the Strand Theatre won her the 1989 Evening Standard Award for Best Actress. Other stage credits also include Waste and the Seagull (Old Vic), Indian Ink (Aldwych), Heartbreak House (Theatre Royal Haymarket), Tartuffe (Playhouse) and Arcadia, The Second Mrs Tanqueray, Othello and Amadeus for the National Theatre.
Christopher Luscombe’s (Director) recent credits include The Nightingales and Nell Gwynn, winner of the 2016 Olivier Award for Best New Comedy. Other productions include Love’s Labour’s Lost, Much Ado About Nothing and Twelfth Night for The RSC, The Merry Wives of Windsor and Nell Gwynn for Shakespeare’s Globe and in the West End, Enjoy, When We Are Married and The Madness of George III. He is an associate artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
William Boyd OBE (writer) is a novelist, short story writer and screenwriter. His many novels include An Ice Cream War, Restless and Sweet Caress. His works have received several awards including the Whitbread Book award and Somerset Maugham Award for his novel A Good Man in Africa.
His work Any Human Heart also won the Prix Jean Monnet de Littérature Européenne and was longlisted for the Booker Prize.
His stage work also includes Longing, an adaptation of two Chekhov short stories.
The Argument is presented by arrangement with Lee Dean.
For more information visit the website at www.theatreroyal.org.uk
Southport Flower Show
Bruno Tonioli to Open Southport Flower Show
Strictly Come Dancing judge Bruno Tonioli will cast his critical eye over the sunflowers and sweet peas rather than the samba and salsa as he opens the 2019 Southport Flower Show.
The TV favourite is to welcome visitors to the seaside event as it celebrates its 90th anniversary this summer with a giant garden party.
Bruno has been a main judge on Strictly since the BBC show first started in 2004 following a hugely successful career as a dancer and choreographer and also judges on the US show Dancing With The Stars.
He will be appearing at Southport on Thursday 15th August for the opening of Britain’s largest independent flower show.
Bruno says, “I can’t wait to see everyone in Southport this summer and help celebrate the 90th anniversary garden party.
“One of the highlights of every Strictly season is when we visit this part of the UK for the Blackpool Tower Ballroom show – but it is always in November and the weather is usually a bit wet and windy.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the seaside at Southport in the sunshine and hopefully I can learn a bit about how to look after my own garden at home.”
Bruno was born in Italy and moved to England in the 1970s where he made his name as a dancer and choreographer working with some of the biggest names in showbiz.
He worked on videos and stage shows with Tina Turner, Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Boy George, Duran Duran, Freddie Mercury, Sting and Bananarama.
The Southport Flower Show is famous for its fabulous floral displays, show gardens and competitions for amateur growers which have attracted visitors to the resort for more than eight decades.
The showpiece Grand Floral Marquee features displays from Britain’s top growers and other highlights include the food festival and entertainment for all the family.
Bruno will join a host of famous names at Southport this year including TV gardener Matthew Wilson who will be sharing gardening tips and advice with visitors.
General Manager Ray Roukin says, “It’s our 90th anniversary this year and Bruno is the perfect person to get the garden party started.
“We’re proud the show has been such a success for 90 years and generates a significant boost to the regional economy.
“Everyone is really looking forward to welcoming Bruno to Southport.”
Southport Flower Show, which last year attracted over 50,000 visitors, runs from Thursday 15th to Sunday 18th August.
For up to date information about the Southport Flower Show 2019, celebrity announcements, details and ticket bookings visit www.southportflowershow.co.uk
Win Victoria Series Three on DVD
Sixtyplusurfers has teamed up with ITV Studios Global Entertainment to offer two lucky readers the chance to win Victoria Series 3 DVD Box Set.
The critically-acclaimed Series Three of historical drama, Victoria, is available now on Blu-ray and DVD. It is also available on Digital Download.
Created by writer and producer Daisy Goodwin, the brand new series sees actress Jenna Coleman (Doctor Who) reprise her role as the young Queen, alongside Tom Hughes (Paula) as Prince Albert.
Joining the leads, Laurence Fox (Lewis) plays charismatic and wayward Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston, whilst Tony and Olivier Award nominee Kate Fleetwood (Harlots) takes the role of Victoria’s mysterious sister Feodora, who makes an unexpected return into the Queen’s life.
In addition, actor and comedian John Sessions (The Loch) stars as Prime Minister John Russell, whilst Lily Travers (Kingsman) plays the Duchess of Monmouth. Nicholas Audsley (The White Princess), David Burnett (The Mummy) and Sabrina Bartlett (Versailles) also join the cast as new characters.
Starting in 1848, the third instalment of the lavish drama depicts a turbulent and uncertain time for both Europe and the monarchy. With revolutions on the continent and the Chartist movement reaching its peak in London, Victoria is under pressure from the government to leave London for her own safety.
Special Features include an interview with the Costume Designer, A New Dynamic in the Palace, The Great Exhibition, Kids on Set, Behind the Scenes: Bathing in the Sea, and Behind the Scenes: Boxing in the Park.
RRP is £24.99 for the DVD and £29.99 for the Blu-Ray.
Victoria Series Three and Victoria Series One-Three Box Set are distributed by ITV Studios Global Entertainment and are available from Amazon and iTunes.
For Your Chance to Win
Tell us the name of the actor who plays Prince Albert in ‘Victoria’?
a) Jude Law
b) Tom Hughes
c) Daniel Radcliffe
d) Richard Madden
To Enter the Competition
Tell us the name of the actor who plays Prince Albert in ‘Victoria’? Then send in your answer together with your full name, address and telephone number by clicking on the Sixtyplusurfers link below:
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Blithe Spirit at Theatre Royal
Jennifer Saunders Stars in Blithe Spirit
Jennifer Saunders, one of the UK’s most popular comic actors, makes her Theatre Royal Bath debut as the preposterous clairvoyant Madame Arcati in Noël Coward’s classic comedy Blithe Spirit.
The production brings together a distinguished and multi-award-winning creative team, directed by former National Theatre director Richard Eyre with design by Anthony Ward and lighting by Howard Harrison. Lisa Dillon will also star as Ruth Condomine, with further casting to be announced.
Written in 1941, Coward’s inventive, witty and meticulously engineered comedy proved light relief and a popular distraction at the height of World War II when it was first staged. The show had a record-breaking run in the West End and on Broadway and remains one of the playwright’s most popular works.
Novelist Charles Condomine and his second wife Ruth are literally haunted by a past relationship when an eccentric medium inadvertently conjures up the ghost of his first wife, Elvira, at a séance. When she appears, visible only to Charles, and determined to sabotage his current marriage, life – and the afterlife – get complicated.
Jennifer Saunders is well known as one half of the comedy duo French and Saunders, for which she and Dawn French received a BAFTA fellowship in 2009, and for the hit comedy series and subsequent film, Absolutely Fabulous, which she also wrote and starred in. She has received numerous awards including two Emmys, five BAFTAs and four British Comedy Awards. Other recent credits include Lady Windermere’s Fan (West End) and the BBC series Jam and Jerusalem.
Lisa Dillon starred as Mary Smith in the BBC series Cranford. Her stage credits include Richard Eyre’s Private Lives in the West End, the RSC’s The Roaring Girl and The Taming of the Shrew, A Flea in Her Ear and Design for Living at the Old Vic and The Knot of the Heart and When the Rain Stops Falling at the Almeida.
Noël Coward was an English playwright, composer, actor, producer and director. His dramas include Hay Fever and Private Lives. For film, he wrote and directed the Academy Award-winning In Which We Serve and the screenplay for Brief Encounter.
Blithe Spirit is presented by arrangement with Lee Dean. It runs from Thursday 13 June to Saturday 6 July.
Theatre goers should also put a date in their diary for Uncle Vanya from 18 July – Saturday 3 August at Theatre Royal Bath.
Rupert Everett returns to Theatre Royal Bath where he last appeared in The Judas Kiss in 2012 and which went on to transfer to the West End, and following recent critical acclaim as Oscar Wilde in The Happy Prince which he also wrote and directed. Everett will direct his first stage play and lead the cast in Anton Chekhov’s theatrical masterpiece Uncle Vanya, a playful story of unrequited love, loss and misplaced dreams, in a new version by the playwright and screenwriter David Hare.
It’s late summer, at the close of the nineteenth century. In the heart of the Russian countryside, Vanya and his niece Sonya have worked for years to manage the ramshackle estate on behalf of his brother-in-law, a retired professor. When the professor arrives with his stunningly beautiful young wife and announces his plan to sell the estate, all their lives are thrown into turmoil.
Rupert Everett rose to fame in Another Country which earned him his first BAFTA nomination. Since then he has played many leading roles including in the multi-award-winning film My Best Friend’s Wedding, The Importance of Being Earnest, An Ideal Husband, Dance With A Stranger, The Madness of King George and St Trinian’s. His stage credits include Blithe Spirit on Broadway and Pygmalion and The Judas Kiss in the West End.
Theatre Royal Bath is based at Sawclose, Bath, BA1 1ET. Box Office: 01225 448844
Science Entertainment Show
Brainiac Live! is delighted to announce that the show that laughs in the face of science is coming to London’s West End for a strictly limited season from 31st July to 1st September 2019. Tickets for Brainiac Live! are on sale from the Garrick Theatre Box Office. Tel: 0330 333 4811.
Based on the much loved, popular science entertainment TV show, the live show is a breathless, fun and fact-filled exploration of the weird and wonderful world of science, that through a series of high energy experiments delves fearlessly, and perhaps a little foolishly, into the mysteries of science. Expect exploding dustbins, supercharged spinning chairs and the ultimate Airzooka challenge!
Since 2008 Brainiac Live! has played to packed houses across the UK, blowing the minds of hundreds of thousands of children and their families. Headlining top sciences festivals as well performing in theatres across the globe, the live show has thrilled fans of all ages.
Andy Joyce, Number 1 Brainiac and director of the show says, “After performing the show across the UK and everywhere from Abu Dhabi to Australia, we are so excited about bringing the show back to the heart of London at the Garrick Theatre.
“I can’t wait to see the amazement on the children’s faces, when they see our daredevil experiments but remember DON’T DO THIS AT HOME!”
Tickets are on sale now from www.BrainiacLiveLondon.com