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Beloved for her role as Dorien in the smash-hit TV show Birds of Feather, Lesley Joseph is starring for the first time in Calendar Girls the Musical, having appeared in the play twice before.

Describing the story as “inspiring and life-affirming”, Lesley says of the musical: “Audiences feel moved and uplifted. It’s not a typical musical, but it definitely has broad appeal. People need escapism. They love the story, and of course Gary’s songs are knockout."

Lesley Joseph talks to Vicky Edwards about telly, panto and what her first thought on waking is.

What is Calendar Girl’s broad appeal?

I always say that it might not be a show for everybody, but I do think it will be for most people. Life has a way of catching you short and fundamentally this is an extraordinary story. A lot of people who come have recovered from cancer or lost people to cancer, so they identify with it. The musical also expands the characters – in the film and the play you never really got to know the husbands and the children. It is also very uplifting.

Are audiences vocal in their appreciation?

We get brilliant audiences, but the further north you go the more vocal and uninhibited they are in showing that they are having a good time.

How do you cope with being naked on stage?

It is very cleverly done, but God help the audience if my knitting runs!

Which do you prefer doing: theatre or television?

I absolutely adore doing television, but I do love working with a live audience and theatre is probably my first love.

You are regularly in pantomime. What induces you to be involved in such seasonal chaos?

I love it! Panto is an art and not nearly as easy as it looks. I recently saw a friend of mine, Allan Stewart, doing his one-man-show in London and I was completely blown away by his talent and versatility. He can sing, dance and act and he knows how to drive a story and to pull the audience’s strings. You need that mix of skills for panto.

What is ‘down time’ for you?

Being at home, seeing friends and just living an ordinary life. I do yoga twice a week and work out as much as I can. On tour with Calendar Girls Friday is usually a day with only an evening show, so that is a day for shopping, tea rooms and catching up with friends around the country.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to act?

Always have something else that you can do and don’t go near it unless you really want to act. It’s the most overcrowded business and it is tougher than ever before. You’ll suffer rejection – you go up for thirty commercials and you might get pencilled for one – so you need to toughen up. And I never read reviews. You can have ten that say you’re amazing and one that says ‘what the Hell was she doing?’ and it will be that one that sticks in your mind.

You recently finished a West End run in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein; you’re doing Calendar Girls, then going into Annie and panto looms at the end of the year. Do you enjoy being so busy?

Yes, but I still wake up every day thinking I’ll never work again. But that’s every actor’s life.

© Vicky Edwards

Book here to see Calendar Girls, 15th-19th October.

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