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Brief Encounter With ... Celia Imrie

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Celia Imrie is a well known face on stage and screen, having performed in Acorn Antiques in both mediums, the Bridget Jones films, Dinnerladies, and even managing a cameo role in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. She was last seen on stage in the West End, as Dame Sybil Thorndike in Nicholas De Jongh's Plague Over England. Theatre-goers in Bolton get the chance to see this versatile actress in Out Of Joint's latest piece, Mixed Up North. We caught up with her to find out more.

How did your successful career commence?
As a chorus girl in a pantomime- I was a rat in Dick Whittington!

Tell us about Mixed Up North - what is the premise?
Well, it’s really about life in Burnley and how 4 people are trying to cope with the backlashes and disturbances of a battered town in 2001. It’s also about the integration of a black and white community. With it being verbatim, it’s based on a lot of truth.

What do you find most striking about the powers of verbatim theatre?
The responsibility to be true to people whose stories are being told. They are often both shocking and funny.

Judith Amsenger, a recent graduate of LAMDA, is sharing your role as Trish. Are there any differences in the way you have interpreted the character?
Yes, there are, but it is hard to put into words. We are both travelling our own path although we’ve not discussed it. She’s brilliant and I admire her tremendously (it’s hard to tell her to her face!) I’m enthralled by the whole company- everybody is so passionate. I sound like an old age pensioner (which I’m not!) but sometimes, as people used to say to me, young people can lose their passion. It’s very exciting.

Racial issues often cause much controversy- although there have been vast improvements regarding ideas of prejudice and discrimination over the years, innumerable problems are still occurring. How does Mixed Up North deal with these issues?
They air them, rather than deal with them. It is far too big an issue for something magic to happen in a play. In 2 hours it’s just not realistic. Yet plays are vital instruments for change- more than people can imagine! The play has an allegiance to look at both sides as well.  

What attracted you to Out Of Joint?
It’s been a life-long ambition of mine to work with Max, so I’m utterly thrilled. I hope I can please him as much as he has pleased me.

Celia Imrie was speaking to Rebecca Cohen.

Mixed Up North is at the Octagon Theatre in Bolton from 10 - 26 September.


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