More Than Just A Fashion Statement

FAMED for her flamboyant fashion sense and larger-than-life personality, Su Pollard is one of showbiz’s most colourful characters. STEVE BURBRIDGE caught up with her ahead of her stop-off at the Sunderland Empire to find out what gives her that insatiable zest for life.

‘YOU’LL have to excuse me if I’m a bit verbose, you know what I’m like, I don’t just answer yes or no.’

It’s a little unconventional for an interview to begin with a warning, but unconventional is an adjective that is often associated with the 59-year-old former Hi-De-Hi star.

The actress who made her name as scatter-brained chalet maid and wannabe Yellow Coat Peggy Ollerenshaw, in the award-winning sit-com, is once again starring as Miss Hannigan, the hard-faced, drunken orphanage boss in Annie.

As whacky as ever, Su sparked a sensation earlier this year when she was photographed wearing a denim ra-ra miniskirt, fluffy jacket, pink patterned tights, fluorescent yellow leg-warmers, leopard-print shoes and a studded dog collar.

‘And I was only popping to the shops for a pint of milk!’ she laughed.

‘My bold fashion statements are an extension of my confident personality,’ said Su. ‘You see, I have always been adamant that everyone should be free to present themselves however they want.’

‘I would be totally naive if I didn’t expect to raise a few eyebrows. But if I brighten someone’s day I feel really chuffed, and I love it when I get whistled at by builders. If they don’t, I’ll walk past again until they do.’

Her unique sense of style has also contributed to Su’s success.

She vividly remembers meeting David Croft and Jimmy Perry, the creators of Hi-De-Hi, for the first time.

‘I went in a bowler hat with a feather in it, a long skirt, a fabulous sheepskin coat, and smelling of patchouli oil. I think they thought I was barmy.’

That fateful meeting led to her being cast as Peggy Ollerenshaw in the BAFTA award-winning comedy series that ran for eight years.

‘I loved Peggy. She was a very vulnerable character who would do anything for anybody and just wanted to get on in the world. The opportunity to play a character like that was so nice and a privilege, really.’

Su was born in Nottingham and, in her youth, sang in working men’s clubs before completing an apprenticeship at the city’s Arts Theatre.

In 1974, she appeared on Opportunity Knocks and was pipped to the post by a singing Jack Russell dog.

Her interest in acting developed at an early age and when she was six she performed in the school nativity play, which also provided her first taste of comedy.

Whilst standing on a box, to announce the arrival of the Angel Gabriel, she fell through the lid.

‘Although nobody was laughing maliciously, they were laughing at the incident,’ said Su. ‘I thought: ‘Oh, that makes me feel quite nice and warm.’ That was probably quite a catalyst really.’

The response of a live audience is one of the main reasons why Su prefers stage work to television. She has played leading roles in many great productions including Godspell, Grease, Me & My Girl, Sweet Charity, Little Shop Of Horrors and, most recently, Shout!

Her latest stage appearance sees her reprising the role of mean orphanage manager Miss Hannigan in the musical story of the world’s favourite orphan, Annie.

‘It’s great being in Annie because I just love the music so much and it’s fantastic to be able to play a part you don’t have to glam up for.

‘Miss Hannigan doesn’t like the kids at all, she can’t stand them and they can’t stand her. But, poor cow, she’s not got a lot going for her and she’s taken to the drink because her life is meaningless.’

‘She’s desperate to find a man but she’ got no chance, so you do feel sorry for her really.’

In a career that has spanned thirty-five years Su has been consistently busy, encompassing West End runs, national tours, cabaret, pantomimes and end of pier summer seasons.

But her upbringing has ensured that her feet remain firmly on the ground.

‘My Dad has always been one to say ‘If you’re going to do something then do it with good grace’.

‘I think that’s particularly apt in showbiz. You hear horrendous stories about fans waiting outside theatre stage doors for ages to see celebrities and then they just sweep past and ignore them. I mean, that’s appalling.

‘You see, I just like people in general and most people are very kind and I just want to have fun with people, to be honest.

Thanks to Steve Burbridge
Sunderland Echo
August 2009