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5th March 2009: Hello everybody and a great big, fat fabulous 2009 to you all !

At last I have PROPER time to be able to write another missive, without too much interruption. I’ve been at Campus R. Soles for 3 days now, getting my house in order, literally, and remembering what is in what cupboard etc. The great bonus about returning from a few months away is one can view things again. I.E. “I’ve never really liked that” or “Is this still here ?” so one can extricate things without feeling too sentimental.

CINDERELLA in Swansea was a really luvly, fulfilling experience. Warm, appreciative people. I must have been stopped in the High Street a dozen times a day with people wanting to see how I liked their town and did I want to come for tea ? And not just be salt-of-the-earth mother’s and granny’s. There were a few petrol heads and bikers I took a shine to !

But the stage prevailed so I had to forego lava bread and cookies. Speaking of traditional food, I couldn’t quite get orgasmic over Welsh cakes. I found them to be a mixture of scone and tea-cake, which in itself is not unappetising just doughy. I even tried them with jam, which only slightly enhanced the experience. Anyway enough of culinary chit chat.

The panto proved to be hugely popular and a great success, to everyone’s delight: the producers, council, theatre staff and performers all benefited from the experience. Theatre management, especially, are always happy to have a show make money, but panto is particularly important as good takings can be a tremendous help in funding the forthcoming season’s events. Chris Jarvis, Buttons and the director as well, was a superb asset. We had a real rapport and his desire for a good story, swiftly told, matched my own - I’m chuffed to say that in 6 weeks I only saw three children go to the toilet ! Well, you can’t be doing with a show that is 2 hours 35 minutes long. Panto is not Les Miz. Our social life was fab and on the doorstep. I can highly recommend a bar with music called THE LOFT. It’s not a club as such but there is space to shake your booty. A luvly guy called Steve owns it and so far it is immaculate, having only been open around five weeks. Also, there is a main street dedicated to fun and good times - Vine Street. Fab restaurants, bars, discos - one of my favourites being Flares, a franchised club specialising in 70’s and 80’s sounds. You have got to have something you can move to, invent your own choreography. We ended the season with a fab party in a club called OCEANA. Well it consisted of several large rooms, each containing it’s own disco, but differently themed. Highly recommended. I was particularly impressed with the VIP room. Even if you were performing in Swansea, if you were not invited by the management you couldn’t get entry. I like that idea. So many profile people assume it’s their ‘right’ to be admitted everywhere so it’s very refreshing to have that policy.

Anyway, I shall now turn my attention to the much loved and extremely popular 60’s musical SHOUT. As many of you may know, this started life off-Broadway and was brought to my attention by the British producer Mark Goucher. I was in luvly Malvern, being horrible to the dwarfs - in character, I hastily add - when I was sent a CD containing all these memorable 60’s songs but not much of a script. I was immediately taken with the arrangements and got very excited, especially when the wardrobe mistress, Chris, who was not prone to verbal ‘whoops’ became very animated. Needless to say, I accepted the job only to discover A LOT OF WORK was needed to finalise the script. A million congratulations to everyone who was involved. It turned out to be a huge success. I’ll never forget our opening night at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley. Although we felt we had a good product, as all performers like to think - out of loyalty to the sweat, tears and sheer physical and mental output over a rehearsal period demands. One never knows how a show is going to be realistically received until it has had it’s first outing. Claire Sweeney - a great girl - and I looked at each other with tears of joy as every member of the audience stood and cheered, whistled and shouted for ‘more’. I felt liked Madonna without her basques.

We had a really fabulous tour. We went to so many places, venues new to me sometimes and ones we returned to with luvly memories of past shows. The girls in the show were truly fab, with a great work ethic and talent. I have to say it was one of the most enjoyable jobs of my career - 35 years this year - so that gives you some idea of how I rate the show. To be able to go onstage eight times a week and enjoy every second brings untold job satisfaction and can only benefit the audience. It was gratifying to see people of all ages, able and unabled, all appreciating the performance in their own way. Oh dear, pass the Kleenex !

Also, another fab bonus is that I’ve met many great people who have become friends that in every town I visited I was able to make contact. I’m lucky in that my pals aren’t all in London so when I’m touring we get to meet up. With the best intentions, I’m sure none of us have all the time to specifically visit every friend we have on a regular basis, especially New Zealand, so to be able to say hello even twice a year is a real bonus.

Shona, Donna and I, the SHOUT girls, did a gig at the Palladium for the Air Force, remembering our brave warriors from World War Two. What a privilege. Prince Michael of Kent is the Patron and he is hot ! I can see what his wife sees in him. He’s handsome, has a luvly smile, very well groomed - he should be a Cruft’s entrant, and he’s very funny.


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