Su Is A Medium Rare Talent 

Su Pollard roared through Billingham only a few months ago as the fiercest Miss Hannigan ever to terrorise Annie and the other little musical orphans.

Her performance helped make sure the show had a near sell-out run. Now she is back at the Forum Theatre from Tuesday, crystal ball gazing as the optimistic central character in the very new comedy, A Happy Medium.

It is set among the hereafter world of spirits and this is troubling the friendly, boisterous, talkative Su. "I wonder if they have tea bags in the hereafter. I hope they do, I love tea. I have had six cups already and I'm going to have another soon."

As we are talking at 10.30 in the morning, this is quite an intake but Su has never been one for happy mediums.

She is excited by the newly opened production. "It's visually funny, looks good and has wonderful effects.

"It's not Shakespeare, it's straight in your face fun but there's nothing in it that people would consider offensive and it's only two hours long so the audience won't be fidgeting."

Su plays Ellen Small, a woman with big ideas who wants to make contact with her dead sister. "Ellen used to be a cabaret singer and sings a lot. At the end of act one, she thinks she has been given a gift. She thinks she is going to be the world's first singing medium."

She hopes it will not offend spiritualists as writers Dorthy Paul and John Bett spent a lot of time talking to them to get the terminology right. Does she believe in the afterlife herself?

"I would really, really like to and everyone wants to speak to their dead grandad. I don't think there's any evidence but it would be really good fun.

"Think of the people you would meet - where would you put them all? Imagine seeing someone who was always ill and thinking 'I'll have to ask her how she is again'."

Ellen is far removed from Miss Hannigan but Su likes it like that. And what a Miss Hannigan.

"When I was last in Billingham I think I was in Iceland and someone said 'My Clarissa was scared of you.' I saw her in the street later and I think she was more reassured by then. I gave her 5p to buy a lollipop.

"It's nice to do a varying range of parts and I think there's always part of yourself in all of them."

She first caught the eye on Teesside in an early Cameron Mackintosh production of Godspell. This famously led to a food fight with the producer. He threw cakes at her shouting "These are yours." She responded "They're fairy cakes, they must be yours."

"He has forgiven me now and we laugh about it but I came off worse," she points out. "He threw one down my party frock and I was covered in cream and coffee."

She sang Turn Back O Man in the show and Sir Cameron, now the world's leading theatrical producer, asked her to perform it again on the special tribute album made to salute his career.

"He asked all the individuals who had sung in his musicals to do their version so I was more than happy to do it. It was a great compliment."

Away from the stage she has just got involved with one campaign, and may soon be starting another. Firstly, she is anxious to warn people about heart problems that could kill them.

"I don't want to be judgmental because if it's hereditary and if it's in your family, there's nothing you can do about it. But heart disease and heart attacks have affected my friends and family in the past and that's given me a shock into realising how little we care for our hearts.

"It's made me realise that it's so important to stay healthy and make sure you can enjoy your life to the full. The way I look at it, you need to have everything in moderation. It can be so easy to drink, smoke and eat too much. But if you stop and think more often then you'll be helping yourself."

Her other campaign is slightly less serious. "I'm going to campaign to get better hotels. They must be clean, warm in winter, and more geared to women. I want more female attendants - and hair driers that dry more than one strand of hair at a time."

By Keith Newton

Newcastle Evening Gazette
March 2004