FLICKY HARRISON chats to Corrie star Susie Blake about tackling an iconic television sitcom on stage

SUSIE Blake, best known as Bev Unwin from Coronation Street, says the last time she was in Swindon she had one of her best experiences on stage.

She was performing at the Wyvern Theatre, with her good friend Jenny Eclair in Grumpy Old Women, which she said was great fun and so exciting to do.

“It was the communication with the audience, the whole suspension of disbelief, but also like being in the kitchen with your mates. Each night it was as if it was happening for the first time,” she said.

“Jenny and I are great pals and trust each other on stage. We had no story, no character and little set so we had to rely on each other’s responses. Good old Wyvern... I’m so excited to be coming back.”

Susie will be joining a seven-strong cast in Swindon, including Joe Pasquale as Frank and Sarah Earnshaw as Betty, in the stage production of the famous 1970s TV comedy Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em.

When we spoke, Susie was avidly learning her script following the first read through, preparing for the three-week rehearsal run. “I am literally sitting here with my script,” she said. “It is so exciting that first week. It is not Chekov but we do as much work on it as if it were.”

Susie plays the mother-in-law. She said that while she was a fan of the TV series she had deliberately not watched any of the programmes leading up to this production. She wanted to come at her role from a fresh angle.

“Because of her situation she is not like the original TV mother-in-law character. She is looking for love and turns up with her new boyfriend. She is not subtle - she wears false eyelashes as it is set in the 1960s, and likes a drink,’’ said Susie.

Unlike her character, Susie has given up drinking and lost weight so she can perform the energetic stunts on stage, alongside Joe Pasquale.

“I knew I had to be on the ball because it is so fast, you don’t have time to think,’’ she said.

The stage version has been written by the director Guy Unsworth and Susie says that at the read-through there were 30 people around the table, laughing all the way through.

She has worked with Sarah Earnshaw before, in the West End production of Wicked, but said she didn’t recognise her at first.

“I had only seen her in yellow ringlets and here she was with long auburn hair. I wish you could hear her sing in this show because she has the voice of an angel,’’ said Susie. “I loved doing Wicked; it’s that moment when you hear the orchestra strike up - it’s so exciting both for the audience and the cast.’’

Coronation Street was Susie’s home from 2003 to 2006 and she describes it as ‘the most amazing experience’. “I have such great respect for the crew and the actors, they are all multi-talented.’’

Another television role brought Susie up close and personal to some wild animals and her cousin Hayley Mills on the drama Wild At Heart. It was filmed on location at the Glen Africa Country Lodge, a 1,500-acre game reserve and sanctuary that is home to a host of African wildlife, including lions, giraffes, elephants, cheetahs, hippos and buffalo.

“It was quite traumatic in more ways than one, especially working for the first time with my cousin Hayley, and when I was doing a flirtatious scene I suddenly spotted these giraffes and warthogs. The producer patiently told me they had been brought in for the next scene!

“It was out of this world working on that. There was a cheetah which had a little dog that followed it around. I loved that little dog.’’

Now Susie and Hayley live near each other and get together frequently. “We have a lot in common apart from acting,’’ said Susie.

Susie admits that being one of the ‘Mills family’ - the film star John Mills is her great uncle - mean’t that it was almost a given that she would become an actress.

“I didn’t think so when I was young, but Juliet and Hayley both went to Elmhurst Ballet School and I think I must have got in at half price as I joined them there,’’ she laughed.

  • Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em is at the Wyvern from Wednesday, February 21 to Saturday, February 24 and tickets are £28.50 - £38 from 01793 524481 or visit www.swindontheatres.co.uk