My friends keep saying “so what’s your new play about then?” And I say, “oh please don’t make me explain because I can’t, just come and see it!”. Tinderbox is the maddest play ever. I’ve got written down here “it’s a portrait of a dystopian future with a few twists and surprises”. Some people have said it’s a sort of cross between Sweeney Todd and Open All Hours. It’s set in the not-too-distant future in a butcher’s shop in Bradford and it’s about how we revert to these old-fashioned British values when everything’s falling apart. There’s rioting going on outside and it’s boiling hot and everything’s sinking under water because of climate change and you start to wonder how this shop is getting its meat stock.
I play Vanessa, who’s the wife of the butcher, Saul. I love my costume. I’ve got a corset and a big bustle at the back. It’s a little Vivienne Westwood, really funky. Vanessa and Saul have moved up to Bradford from London so I get to play a cockney - we’re very Bill Sikes and Nancy actually. I get thrown about quite a lot so I’m covered in bruises and it’s a hard workout, especially in the corset. I’m aching from head to toe at the minute and walking like an old woman. Oh, and I’ve had to learn to play the trumpet because, randomly, I have to play the national anthem at one point. I’ve been driving my neighbours mad!
I haven’t done a straight play in five or six years and I really wanted to do another one, especially after doing Little Shop of Horrors last year, which reminded me how much I missed being on stage. This was a great one to do because it’s got quite a bit of comedy but a dark side and it’s at the Bush, a place I’ve always wanted to work. The Bush is really diddy, but it has this big reputation. For this play, they’ve ripped out the whole theatre and built a little proscenium arch and hung red tabbed cloths. It’s like a mini West End theatre.
I was meant to go on holiday to Egypt with friends – and I needed some time off - but then this script arrived and I thought, oh no, now I’ve got to cancel my holiday so I can start rehearsals. I didn’t regret it - even when my friends came back all brown and I was still blue – because this is just so different from anything I’ve done before. It’s really exciting!
- Sheridan Smith was talking to Terri Paddock
Tinderbox opened at the Bush Theatre on 28 April 2008 (previews from 23 April) and continues until 24 May. It’s directed by Bush artistic director Josie Rourke.
Sheridan also wanted to add: “I loved presenting the Whatsonstage.com Awards. Thank you for having me. It was so much fun. Can I do it again next year? I always go on Whatsonstage.com to find out what shows are on. I want to figure out what I’m going to see next after I finish this.” Our response: “Sheridan, consider yourself booked for 2009 Theatregoers' Choice Awards!”