Fresh from starring in JB Shorts 7, Kimberly Hart-Simpson returns to the North West in the New Year - when she takes on the role of Bet Lynch in Lassfest's Coronation Street Live. We caught up with the local actress to find out more.

How does it feel taking on such an iconic role?
It is one of the greatest feelings as an actor. Julie Goodyear has created a character that is iconic for over 5 eras and I bet she can double that figure. The character of Bet Lynch is a misunderstood genius with her cunning plots, feisty temper and infectious personality. Of course there is pressure to do the part justice but I have trained in Acting for years now its exciting for me to push myself in these roles. Bet does not just exist on the TV, she is part of generations of families, lives in peoples' heart, has a place in many memories and I am inclined to think that she would have helped many of her generation form their personalities and morals based on Bet Lynch. There really isn't many of her characters out there, so when someone asks you to play that part and once you have set aside the fear you jump on that opportunity and immerse yourself in playing a National Treasure.

What can the show offer fans and people who have never seen Corrie?
First of all we can offer you some counselling because if you have never seen the show you might need help to get over the years of sheer brilliance you have already missed! With jokes aside, if you are completely new to the show then we can promise you a smile from ear to ear. No matter what person you are - Coronation Street at some point has had an episode based on your life or something that has happened in it. Not to mention some of the best writing of all time. And if you are already a fan then treat the evening as a celebration of your dearly loved show. These particular episodes chosen for the show are iconic for their comedy moments and revelations  I think the episodes particularly lend themselves to the audience member because right from the off you will be included in a secret that will land one famous character in quite a predicament. You will witness the plotting, the story unfolding and of course the moment of realization from an unavoidable event that will lead you all crying with laughter.

How did you feel when you landed the role?

June West recently saw me in a production called JB Shorts 8 which is a set of six fifteen minute plays. Although the night is famous for its TV writers and all star cast, fifteen stage minutes isn't always an Oscar worthy amount of time for an actor. So to get the call off the back of this was a pleasant shock to the system, and also a lesson to be learnt that actors don't always appreciate the time it takes to make that first impression. When June expressed interest I almost didn't allow myself to get excited about potentially playing 'Bet' until I got that confirmation phone call. Which by the way I sat watching my phone willing it to ring and shouting at my Mum whenever it was her. I can't express what it means, like many others for years you work hard and sometimes to little avail. Then one day someone gives you a break that you did not anticipate to get. So for that I can only thank June for seeing that potential in me. I have so much respect for June's work over the years. The next step was to tell my friends and family that are my biggest support and make it clear that I won't get them Christmas presents if they don't book a ticket. I know that if my Dad was here with me now that he would burst with pride, then warn me not to mess this up, he had a soft spot for 'Bet Lynch'. The next focus for me is getting onto the actual cobbles themselves.

Why do you think the 1970s are seen as Corrie's golden years?
Up until a few weeks ago I couldn't of answered this question, however since landing the role I have watched endless episodes and studied many story lines and now I can confidently say the reason the 1970s are seen as Corrie's golden years are down to the exceptional talent in the Actors, Writers,Producers and the commitment from the viewer. Given there was a change over in the latter part of the 70s when Bill Podmore took over as Producer and built on its already booming reputation. It is said that before 'Podmore' came onto the seen the soap had seen a decline in viewers, well I bet those statistics weren't an issue by the end of the 70s. Until you hold the script in your hands and actually start to dissect the lines do you truly appreciate the excellence in the writing. The writers such as John Stevenson are not only fantastic comedic script writers, but they are somewhat historians and fountains of knowledge. With 'Bet Lynch' for example, it is easy to take her on face value of a young, blonde, busty barmaid with masses of 'life experience' but very little knowledge. But when you take your attention to the lines she says, you couldn't be more wrong. She has been made a woman of the world and she completely immerses everything in it. For every ending of one producer is a celebration of their work, for every new producer on board is the excitement and anticipation of whats to come. And that is why I believe the 1970's is the golden years for Coronation Street, because viewers had the best of both.

The show has lasted over 50 years. Why do you think this is?
The show is referred to as a 'Kitchen Sink' drama which ultimately means its based on real people and real life situations. As we all know, no matter what the year or the century the drama in our lives never stops. So nor will Coronation Street. As long as we all have family, love, hate, admiration, jealously, ambition and the odd affair society will always give things to be wrote about. I think a soap of this nature gives us the ability to laugh at ourselves. There is nothing more normal that watching your life story or circumstances on television. Warts and all. I think it important to point out how much Coronation Street plays a part in the family home. When I moved in with my Dad at age 16 the rules were always tidy up after myself, never bring trouble to his door and NEVER EVER talk whilst Coronation Street was on. I kept one of them rules. But that's only because I loved the show myself. It was a nightly family bonding for us, a conversation topic at the dinner table and a reference point if families ever needed to compare their lives to those on Corrie. Every night at the end of an episode someone somewhere will pick up their phone to a friend or family and say 'Eh what do you think about that Ken having another affair?'. We all live and breathe Corrie and feel like we know the characters as if they were our friends, that's why it has been on our screens for over 50 years and that's why it will stay for another.  

What attracted you to the role of Bet? What do you like about her?

Bet's confidence mixed with vulnerability makes her appealing to me. I don't look at her and think she is a fictional character. In fact there are attributes in most people I meet that are in the character of Bet. Julie makes her into this real woman with a history as long as your arm and sack full of mistakes and regrets. But gives her this element of hope. Which is something that lays within me personally. She is quick witted, with a comedy streak that you couldn't teach and the sexiness of a woman who knows what she wants. Julie has created this role that allows me to walk on stage every night be the center of attention and the world wanting to revolve around Bet, with the excitement of being a puppet master on stage with my cunning plans. Whats not to love?

How have you approached the role so that you do more than impersonate Julie Goodyear?
First of all with credit to June West and director David MacCreedy they have in fact cast people who have an element to the characters themselves or that highly skilled they can transform. Also throughout the rehearsal period we have been advised to not 'impersonate' someone but to take elements of the character and build on that. Other wise I think there is a danger of it becoming  a 'Stars in your eyes' show with who did the best tribute act. You have to remember that those coming to see the show are fans already and love it, and those who don't know it will have nothing to compare it too. Personally for the role of Bet I have read Julie Goodyear's autobiography. I have watched endless hours of episodes to immerse myself in the Corrie world in the 70s and studied the language and done my script research so I know what my references are too. I chose to read about Julie as I am sure she used her own life history with certain story lines. I am a believer that when an actor for a long standing time plays a character they are concentrating on doing the script justice so they don't want to layer it with all the fancy things that they may want to do but start to focus on saying the lines and allowing the writing to do the work too. I have also started to pick up on slight idiosyncrasies of Bet Lynch and her speech pattern that is so very distinctive. I don't think me walking around the Arndale with a cigarette on a holder and some leopard print is going to make me any better on stage. But I do believe concentrating on the above factors will do Julie Goodyear and her fine creation of Bet Lynch justice. Hopefully.

Why should audiences come and see the show?
Audiences should come and see the show because you will bring in the New year by taking a trip down memory lane and for some audience members recollecting a fond time in their lives. For the other generation of audiences you will discover a whole new Coronation Street. The tickets are at a bargain price. Its important to remember that no other theatre has ever been given the rights and support from ITV for the Live Episodes to be produced on stage with the original TV Script and BAFTA winning Corrie casting director. These are completely live episodes and you will be right in the middle of it with some of the most iconic characters. You may also bump into a few of the Corrie stars themselves as we have ex cast members along with a current Corrie following. I would also like to add the fantastic cast with some of the finest cctors I have ever had the privilege to work with.



Coronation Street Live is part of Lassfest and is at the Lass O'Gowrie, Manchester from 3 - 7 January, 2013. For further details, check out the website.