Q & A with Su Pollard: by Kerry Ann Eustice

To give you a taster of how Leisure's encounter with Hi De Hi star Su Pollard went, let's just say the conversation started with the actress mistaking News Shopper for Happy Shopper.

"I've obviously got the wrong bloody thing, the wrong end of the stick," she laughs when I explain News Shopper isn't a supermarket-owned magazine.

On hilarious form, Su was in Bromley to promote her new show Shout, also starring stage starlet Claire Sweeney, which opens at The Churchill theatre this week.

Just like her legendary character Peggy Ollerenshaw in holiday camp comedy Hi De Hi, she's bubbly, talkative and very funny.

Tell me a little about Shout, Su. 
It's great to acting in something that's really feel-good, for the performers as well as the audience. It's lovely as well because loads of people can identify with the 1960s. Even the younger ones have got some sort of story which has been passed down from their aunty.

I actually play an aunty. Aunty Vonnie, Claire's character Ruby's aunty.

Ruby just wants to try her luck in London. She gets restless and wants to have a new adventure. So she rings her aunty Vonnie and asks, can I come and stay with you until I get sorted'.

What does your character get up to? 
It's set in a hairdressing salon, because Vonnie's a hairdresser. Her salon is called Best Cuts, which makes me laugh because it's off her husband Bert, who's a butcher.

Aunt Vonnie decided when she was Ruby's age she didn't want to kick her heels in Mansfield, she wanted the bright lights.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, she met her husband who persuaded her to stay in London. Basically that's the premise of the whole piece. We're just having a celebration really of the sixties and how innovative it was.

Are you a fan of the music? 
Oh, very much so. I was so lucky because I remember nearly every single number. So of course, it was great for me because I had memory tunes in my head.

It was fantastic to listen to all these numbers and think I remember that, I love that song'. The nicest thing is even if you didn't know this kind of music there is no reason why you couldn't like it. It's not complicated; they're good tunes and feel good.

And the show has great choreography because it's all the 1960s stuff. And it's fun. A lot of it is quite quirky. I've already lost about 4lb.

Do you like the outfits? (Our interview takes place straight after a photo shoot and Su is dressed in full 60s gear) 
Yes, I must admit I do. Although poor aunty Vonnie has to wear slacks and a tabard in the salon. But the she goes on her holidays and she transforms. I can't keep wearing these, it would do me head in.

Just look at the colours. You saw so many colours in the streets in the 1960s but now you look at people and, it's really for practical reasons, but they're nearly all in black.

Look at those lyrics in Colour My World, it's a Petula Clark song and even the lyrics are full of colour. It was a fabulous, fun era to be a part of. It was a great decade, the 1960s.

Do you get to wear your trademark specs? 
I've had to really wear all these type of things (inspects her huge, zebra-print specs). It's like secretary glasses, that sort of shape. So I do have to stick to the period. Yyou can't match the 1960s with something from 2008.

Claire admitted to accidentally calling you Peggy in rehearsals. How does this make you feel? 
I don't mind. Because the thing is if you've been associated with something which people have really liked and was popular then I don't think there is any reason why you shouldn't embrace that. It's nice. And people still watch it now.

It's no good stamping your foot and thinking oh god, I've done all sorts of other things'. It's like Michael Crawford He doesn't mind talking about Frank Spencer because it was very good to him.

Do you have fond memories of the Hi De Hi years?
Oh fantastic. I remember just laughing so much. Every single day we laughed and laughed. The camaraderie of it, it was such a good team. It was a team effort and it was just lovely to do such quality work. The writing was all spotless.

My mum and dad would watch the show sometimes with me and I would love to see them rocking back and forwards. How lovely. Fan-bloomin'-tastic.

Are you still in touch with your cast mates? 
Oh yeah. I saw Ruthy about two weeks ago, saw Paul, went to Jeff's wedding. So we're all good mates, which is nice.

You went through so much together. I mean I remember Ruth's children were only about two and they're 30-odd now, married with kids. So you go through life together. We'd confide in each other. Friendship binds you together.

And none of us, and we could have if we'd wanted to, never spilled the beans on each other. Could you imagine if I was to say something like, So and so had five affairs'. No. We always vowed that we'd never. There are a lot of things, what we got up to when we went out and had a few bevies for a start. We all do whatever job we've got.

All I remember it was the most fantastic fun of the whole era. Fantastic.

Do you feel you've been lucky career wise?
I can't grumble. I've been very fortunate to work with some very good people whose standards are very high. So they teach you there's nothing wrong with the diamond standard, either. I've had good fun always doing it and hopefully I will carry on in the same vein.

Anyone in particular?
I liked Simon Cadell when he played Mr Fairbrother; he taught me a lot about cameras. He was extremely helpful. There are lot of people along the way you learn from. But really, a lot of people don't know about directors, but there are so many good directors who really help you when they see that you've got potential.

So I suppose you learn from each person. I've been dead lucky.

Have you had chance to work with any of the Hi De Hi cast since. 
We've done a couple of sketch shows together and some charity work. And then of course a few of use went on to do You Rang M'Lord? But mostly we don't work together so much now we just socialise really. It's really nice we can still do that. We've done pantos together.

Did you do panto this year? 
Yes, I was in Malvern playing the Wicked Witch in Snow White. Unfortunately, I don't get asked to do principal hall any more. I've moved on, darling.

What is it you look for in a role? 
If I feel a script's good and I like what I've been offered, I think yeah great that sounds nice. I'll give that a go.

I look for good dialogue. You've got to say the same thing twice a day for X amount of weeks. It's got to be well written. It's got to be a good story.

And when you know you've got the basic things to start from then it's marvellous to take off and create something within that piece. Otherwise, you're only as good as your tools, you see. If you've got something you feel gives you something back, that's half the battle.

Do you ever get the chance to collaborate or offer your input?
Yes, especially on something like Shout which is not a play, not really a musical, it's almost like a revue. If you wanted to suggest something for your character or say to the writer, I've just had a thought, can I run this by you please?'. They may say yes we'll use that, it's not bad' or they might say thanks for the offer darling, but it's not going to quite work'.

Certainly in panto they welcome your input. Because it sounds more natural if you say it in your own speak, as it were.

Have you got any exciting work in the pipeline? 
I think Shout is exciting because I think they want it to come to the West End and I've also got a couple of things I've been asked to do but I don't want to say too much.

Go on
We're not allowed. We can't. I haven't signed on the dotted line yet.

Once I got in terrible trouble. It was a TV thing we were doing, it was a game show and all hush-hush.

And I just happened to blurt it all out and of course the producer called me into the office and said excuse me, we've not even done the pilot yet, so what do you think you're doing?' I got cleaned which, in theatrical speech means I really got into trouble.

That's a good term, cleaned
Yes it's good. Cleaned. Wiped the floor with somebody.

Have you been offered any reality TV shows? Will we be seeing you on I'm a Celebrity?
I've been offered five times now, I'm a Celebrity. But I'd be no good. I'm the wimp of the world. I've only got to look at a grub I'd be no good.

I'd never get any meals. I'd be starving within a day.

I think you'd be great. 
But you'd have to try and be bubbly to get through, however long you're on there, a bloody month or however long it is. She gasps No make up, no eye shadow, no mascara, I'd go mad.

You could always smuggle some make-up in? 
I would. I'd have to shove it in one of my orifices in my body.

You'd get cleaned for that. 
Yes, I'd get cleaned. Ha ha.

Did you know both you and Claire are Rear of the Year award winners?
In that case we've got to be pictured with our bums. That was about 20 odd years ago. It was marvellous; you get a nice free pair of jeans. It's great, fabulous fun.

And you get this little plaque with an outline of your bum on. This gold-plated plate, like a tray. So when you offer guests a drink you can say here's my bum on the tray'. Ha ha. I'll mention it to Claire. Show us your bum, darling'.

Any parting words of wisdom?
The only thing I want to add is about this show. You'll come out and however fed up you are or depressed life is for you, you'll come out and a great cloud will be lifted. You'll have a fantastic time.

News Shopper
February 2008