Lesley Joseph is best known for her role as Dorien Green in Birds of a Feather, among many other TV and theatre appearances. Though, she is currently touring the country as Miss Hannigan in Annie – which stops by at the Ipswich Regent Theatre next week; and whilst prepping for a matinee show in Belfast she stopped for a quick chat with me…
Hello Lesley, how are you?
Yeah, I’m great thanks – I’m getting ready for the matinee as we
Well, thank you for taking the time to chat to me today. Let’s get straight into it then… so you’re returning to the iconic role of Miss Hannigan in Annie, which you’re playing at the moment – what is it about the role you love so much to return to it? Tell us a bit more about her…
Well, it’s an amazing show. It’s a show which can sometimes introduce kids to the theatre, and hopefully that will be a theatre audience of the future. Hannigan is a wonderful part, it’s a character part. She’s a villain, but you sing and dance – and for me that’s great. It’s not really a dance-heavy role, but its real character dancing, and she’s just a great villain.
I first did it in 1997 at the Victoria Palace Theatre, and it’s been resurrected a few times since – but it’s such a great role for women. It’s an iconic role and an iconic musical actually. It’s an amazing musical, and this is a particularly good production of it. It’s been updated – not in terms of changing anything; but just in terms of the set, it’s very Matilda-esque and it’s a joyous part to play. It’s always nicer to play the Baddie!
She is a great character. As for the show, why should people come and see it?
Ahh, you know what – it’s a family show. It’s a show you can take your grandmother or your granddaughter to. The whole family can go and enjoy it! And there are some musicals like West Side Story and Sound of Music that have lasted for years because they’re good, and Annie is an amazing musical. It’s a very carefully crafted one, about America in the depression.
But it’s also great for children, you can bring anyone from 3 to up to 97 and beyond, as it’s got something for everybody. It’s not all sugar and sweet, my character is not very nice. Although, I think she’s misunderstood. Plus I think this particular production is a wonderful production, it really is. There’s a lot of singing and dancing in it. The last show I did before this [Calender Girls – The Musical] didn’t have as much dancing in it, but this is full of it, and it’s a great evening out and the audiences love it.
Well, I’m sold! What is your favourite moment in the show, or song to perform?
Oh probably Easy Street! It’s a classic, and what they do with this – when you get to the Easy Street reprise in Act 2, they have put a dance number in with it as well. Normally, it’s just a couple of beats of the song, but with this production they’ve actually put a dance break in with it so I love it, and I love the whole musical.
It is a classic! You have actually been to Ipswich with Annie before on the previous tour; so do you have any memories of Ipswich, or connections to the town?
I tell you what – I love history, I’m very into Henry VIII and all his period at the moment, and I’ve been reading Hilary Mantel. And of course, [Thomas] Wolsey is connected with Ipswich and one of my favourite memories was suddenly going to Ipswich and finding a statue of Wolsey. I’ve just read Wolf Hall which I absolutely adore, and I’ve just ordered the last book of the triology. So yeah, I was quite excited when I first came to Ipswich.
Nice! We do have good history. As you’ve toured quite a bit – what are the best and worst parts of touring?
It’s difficult, as you’re in a different bed every week and you have to get used to a different theatre. It can be quite tiring, sometimes you don’t open until the Tuesday which means you have matinees Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday so it can be quite tough vocally and physically. And when you’re touring in a musical, really you don’t have much of a life outside of it because it’s so tiring. It is quite tough, but it’s also really rewarding because you travel around the country and people get to see the show that can’t make it to town [London]. And all over the country, there are some fabulous theatres so I love touring. I really do, and it’s very satisfying.
Do you have a favourite place to perform in?
Not really, no. I think everywhere has its own unique side. You can go to Manchester and its huge, or you can go to tiny places – and you get Matcham theatres and modern theatres. But everywhere you go when people love the show, it’s really so satisfying to go and great to take theatre out of town.
Yeah, that is lovely. Most people associate you with TV, but you’ve done a lot of theatre more recently. Do you have a preferred medium?
Yeah, I think if you told me I had to choose one or the other, I’d choose theatre.
Yeah, it’s the thrill of live theatre isn’t it?
Yeah, and I love working with an audience. I love comedy, and I love that every day is different and every show is different. But on the other hand I also love Television. I did a pilgrimage with BBC2 last year where we walked to Rome and met the Pope. You know, it’s great to have things like that as well. I love chopping and changing. I had a radio show for 3 years, so I love it all really; but I think if I had to choose it would be the stage.
In which case, do you still have any dream roles you’d love to fulfil?
I would love to some of the great ladies in Chekhov I haven’t done that for a long time. I did The Cherry Orchard years ago, but I’d love to play some of the great roles in Chekhov. That would be wonderful, that would be a dream for me. But, whether I can have them or not who knows…
Never say never. Is there anyone you’d still love to work with?
Erm, no – nobody specifically. I can’t say there’s anyone I’m like ‘Oh gosh, I’d love to work with them’ but I just find every company I go into there are people that I think ‘oh my goodness, I love working with you’ and I’ve been very lucky that I’ve worked with some wonderful companies and met some amazing people. So yeah, I consider myself very lucky.
That’s nice. To round off our chat – as you’re on the final few venues of the tour, what’s next for Lesley Joseph?
What’s next is I have two weeks off, then I head up to Birmingham to do Pantomime. The wonderful thing about that is we’ve got all the Palladium’s sets and costumes from last year and they are absolutely stunning, and it’s a really good cast so I’m really looking forward to that.
Amazing! Well, good luck with that and the rest of the run in Annie – and I look forward to seeing you in Ipswich next week.
Ah thank you and brilliant, that’s lovely – I hope you enjoy it. Lovely to talk to you.
And you, thank you again for your time Lesley.
Catch Lesley Joseph as Miss Hannigan in Annie next week, from 5-9th November at the Ipswich Regent. To buy your tickets, visit ipswichtheatres.co.uk.