I’m not just froth on the top of a cappuccino

Su Pollard delighted generations in the TV sitcom Hi-Di-Hi and with her one woman shows. Now she takes the role of the nurse in a modern production of Romeo and Juliet, which comes to The Swan this month.

What's it like doing Shakespeare for the first time?
It's the same approach as doing an entertainment show, preparation is everything. But I have never done this flowery language' before, so it requires a bit more concentration. If you get your haths' and your doths' mixed up, it can be dauinting as it ruins the rhythm. Essentially it is the same as any other show, but the concentration factor is phenomenal.

What do you think about your character?
She is very similar to lots of characters I have played before. She is sympathetic, as she bonds with Juliet, but she is also very light hearted. She is very bawdy at times, and gets away with talking about sex a lot. I call Shakespeare the Bawd, he's not the Bard, as his characters are always talking about sex. All of Shakespeare's characters essentially had to entertain stand-up audiences, who were completely drunk.

Can you relate to that?
Of course. I started in working men's clubs, where they introduce you and get your name wrong. You are singing away, and people stagger in front of you with their drinks, dropping them, then the cleaner comes and mops it up while you are singing My Way.

The main thing is, you have to have focus, and the ability to soldier through any situation.

Does anything make you nervous?
Opening night. It never gets any easier, because all the work that everyone has put into it yourself and other performers, backstage, lighting it all has to come together at the time. I give myself a good talking to, and think how marvellous that you have an audience who can appreciate all the hard work. So a good telling off usually does the trick.

What is your most enduring memory of being a teenager?
Wearing a fantastic striped green mini-skirt right up to my bum, fabulous boots, and a halter neck top, sitting on a bar stool in the Hippo Club and falling off it.

We were definitely the breakthrough generation. Elvis had come along, and broken the music mould, and designers had done the same with fashion, and we were so lucky to be liberated. We had those fantastic clubs with peep holes in the door, and you had to say can I speak to One-Eyed Pete please' to get let in.

What did you learn at school apart from lessons?
Team efforts and camaraderie will get you through life. You need the strength of everyone around you. Also that everybody deserves the same chance. I couldn't deal with kids being bullied or picked on. In those days it was dealt with quickly, and it doesn't seem to be the same now.

What do people most often get wrong about you?
They probably don't imagine that I am a deep thinker on things, but I am. I don't live my life on that deep level. But I am not just the froth on the top of a cappuccino.

What makes you turn off the TV?
A lot of things have no substance. The same boring trailers make you feel that you have watched the episode already.

Who makes you go weak at the knees?
Any man with fabulous thighs or shoulders. Although that sounds so vacuous.

What is your most treasured possession?
Apart from my family, my voice. I was at primary school at the age of five, and there was an audition for the choir, and you got a tap on the soldier if you were suitable, and I was over the moon when I got selected.

Just being on stage gives me most pleasure.

I adore musical theatre, so the ideal thing is to dance, sing, make people laugh and cry all at the same time. When I am playing Shakespeare, there are a lot of monologues, and I have to stand and listen, which is hard. My mind can't wander, and I need physical discipline. It makes a nice change. When I come off stage, I am bursting with energy.

What was the turning point in your career?
I was on the TV show Opportunity Knocks when I came second to the singing dog. I couldn't believe it. I was swept away with disgust.

On the Simon Mayo radio show, 20 years on, the man, who was a headmaster at a school, admitted on that he got all the kids at his school to vote. I lost by 1000 votes and there were 1500 kids in the school. He said he couldn't sleep at night.

The real turning point came when I was doing Godspell, and I got spotted by a top agent, which is a bit boring but very important, as it turned round my career. Also Hi-Di-Hi of course.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into the industry?
Be prepared for tremendous competition. People have been led to believe that you can get success overnight, but it only happens to a few. It is nice for some people, like Will Young, who has staying power, but a lot of people are five minute wonders. There should be a fairer way than there is at the moment.

What would be your epitaph?
I'll leave it at that.

Bucks Free Press
March 2006