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Brief Encounter with... Birds of a Feather star Pauline Quirke

As the stage version of Birds of a Feather prepares to open at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley, its star Pauline Quirke talks to WhatsOnStage

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Pauline Quirke in Birds of a Feather on stage
Where did you train, and what made you choose that drama school?
I started at the Anna Scher theatre school which was set up by a teacher at my primary school as an after-school club. At the same time a country dancing club opened, but I had a wart on my hand so tried the drama club – it's mirrored now in what we are trying to do at PQA.

What was your first job in the professional theatre?
It was a part in the television drama series Dixon of Dock Green when I was nine years old. I played the part of an infant arsonist who burned down her mum's house so she could save her sister and then her mum would love her more!

Which sort of plays do you prefer to perform in, and why?
I prefer drama as its just more gritty and demanding than comedy.

What made you decide to establish your own drama academies?
We were looking around for a suitable one for our son then aged 11 but found nothing that suited us. We were especially looking for somewhere that taught acting for camera as well as for the stage and couldn't really find it.

How did you set about it?
At the time I had been acting for 45 years and married to a producer so we thought we had some of the skills – but we owe a real lot to our creative directors Sarah Counsell and Simon James Green who created all the teaching modules and so much more....

How do you see them fitting in with the current provision for drama training?
We would like to be considered on a par with the Italia Conti for comedy and drama as well as for film and television acting training. Italia Conti is where we would send our children for music and dance, and we hope that the offer of free Trinity College examinations shows we are the serious place to come for professional performing arts training.

How involved are you with them, now that they have multiplied?
As much as my schedule allows, I visit as many as I can. I host our West End shows and film festivals and oversee the teaching modules, but obviously I have to leave the day-to-day stuff to those best suited.

How do you see their future?
We will stop at 100 academies. Hopefully that will then enable us to open some fully-sponsored academies as the ultimate legacy.

Birds of a Feather, starring Pauline Quirke, can be seen at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley between 18 and 22 June