Jill Halfpenny has taken on the role of the infamous Beverly in Abigail's Party at the Wyndhams Theatre, and London Theatre Direct have this exclusive interview.
You are a former student of Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, at what age did you first know you wanted a career in this field?
I knew I wanted to act very early on, to be honest I can't actually remember a time when I didn't.
I started to perform professionally at about 11, and then it just went from there.
The TV film of Abigail's Party was so iconic, was it daunting taking the role on the stage? Had you seen the original or any stage productions before you were asked to do it?
Thankfully I hadn't seen the film or any other stage productions , I'd only seen the odd clip here and there which meant that I could really start from the beginning and make it my own. I knew how dear people held the original in their hearts and how people loved Alison's performance, so it was daunting but when I met her she said to me "it's yours now so take it and have fun with her". Needless to say I took her advice!
The play is set in 1970's, do you think the themes in the play are relevant in today's society?
The themes are so relevant today, perhaps even more so, because of the enormous amount of choice we have today we are constantly questioning our place in society and our relationships .We very much live in a consumer world where ‘Keeping up with the Jones' ‘ has never been more apparent.
How would you describe the character of Beverly?
Beverly is bitter, sad frightened bossy and extremely insecure which she masks with a confident outer shell - a lethal combination!
What other Mike Leigh productions have you seen?
I have seen quite a few Mike Leigh films but never anything on stage. I grew up loving his work and I have to say I think Vera Drake may be my favourite. I think Imelda is stunning.
You are very well known for your roles in EastEnders, Waterloo Rd and have given an award winning performance as Paulette Bonafonté in Legally Blonde and played Roxy Hart in Chicago, do you find stage or screen work more fulfilling and what is the difference of doing a play and a musical?
Working across the different genres is what I've always done and apart from technique (voice, camera work etc) there is no difference. I enjoy it all, but if had to choose it would be the straight stuff.
If you could choose any role on the stage in a past or current show, what would it be and why?
I couldn't choose, it's too hard! I have got so many ambitions about future roles and when I get them I'll let u know!
Finally is gin and tonic your chosen tipple in real life, you get thorough a lot of it in the show?
Yes we do I spend most of the interval I the loo! However my tipple is vodka lime and soda.