Brief Encounter With…Pauline Daniels

Actress and comedienne Pauline Daniels continues her busy year of performances with an appearance in Liverpool and then – over the water – she gets to turn all nasty in New Brighton’s Floral Pavilion.
The Birkenhead-born star has had a remarkable year so far with an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University being bestowed upon her in the summer, following performances in Dirty Dusting and Shirley Valentine at the Liverpool Royal Court.

These next few weeks, Daniels reprises two roles, which are arguably not as familiarly associated to her as the Shirley Valentine role, but ones she last played in 2004 and 2007.

One of the roles is the Wicked Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs which she played in the old Floral Pavilion before it closed for major refurbishment three years later.

Before the pantomime season takes full swing, however, Daniels will be playing Helen Forrester again in Rob Fennah’s new production of Twopence to Cross the Mersey at the Liverpool Empire in October.

How are preparations going with Twopence to Cross the Mersey?
Absolutely brilliantly, I’m really pleased with it. I did the last production in 2007 and that was the best production there had ever been of it, but this is going to be even better. So I really am, really pleased and it’s coming along very well.

Working with a new cast in Twopence must help give the show a new life do you think?
We’ve got a new Young Helen being played by Emma Grace Arends, we’ve got Mark Moraghan and Emma Vaudrey, playing the mother and father as they did in 2007, but most of the rest of the cast are all new so there is new life and new blood which is great. Everyone is just getting on with it and loving it. It’s a really nice cast and we’re having a lot of fun.

You also must be looking forward to a return to the Floral Pavilion in a panto?
Very much so. It will also be such a diverse change to what I’ve been doing for the rest of the year. But I was in the last Snow White panto, playing the Wicked Queen, so I am looking forward to it – reprising the Wicked Queen role – and again working with Pete Price in a pantomime as well. The last time I worked with Pete I played Baroness Hardup in Cinderella. It was the very last panto before the old Floral closed, but it wasn’t us that closed the theatre!

Having Ken Dodd appear in film will be a major attraction as well, don’t you think?
Ken Dodd playing The Magic Mirror is wonderful. And you just know he will show up at least one day or one night. But I hope it’s in the day actually because he’ll still be in the theatre the following day leaving us just enough time to go on for the next show! It’s also great to meet new people. I’ve not worked with Caroline Barnes or Russ Spencer before, who play the Fairy and Prince. I know Roy Brandon very well, who plays Nurse Glucose, and he played my husband in Brookside years ago. And I don’t know who the Honey Monster is – he’s yet to reveal his true identity!

What will it be like for you working with Kate Mellors, who used to attend your Actors’ Studio and will be playing Snow White in the Floral panto?
I am so proud of Kate because this was her first professional audition, I’m so proud, and my other little volunteer at my Actors’ Studio – Emma Lisi – also goes off to the Bristol Old Vic tomorrow (25 September). So, I’m really proud of both of them and I’ve got another lad going to the Musical Theatre Academy in London. It’s great that I help all these youngsters but then I realise I’m shooting myself in the foot really. Aren’t I? Because then they’ve gone and I’m on my own again! No, I’m so proud of all of them and it’s really great to be working with Kate.

Are you someone who likes to give advice to young actors or actresses?
Oh, no. Not at all. But, for instance, if Kate wanted my advice, she can come to me anytime she wants and she knows that. But it’s the job of the director to tell her what to do. If there is anything she’s not happy with then, by all means, if she came to me she would get the best of advice, y’know.

Is Snow White amongst your favourite children’s stories?
It’s a lovely story – I like Snow White. I’ve got to be honest, though, my favourite sort of children’s story has always been The Little Mermaid. I remember when I saw Disney’s The Little Mermaid that I always wanted to play the horrible sea monster, but nobody ever does the The Little Mermaid on stage do they? But Snow White is one of Disney’s classics.

Do you get to enjoy Christmas when you’re appearing in pantomimes?
It’s funny really. When I had my daughter Sarah – she’s 34 years old now and it’s obviously not as important to be home – but when she was a child obviously Christmas was important to spend time at home. But I’ve always worked over Christmas so it’s no big deal to me. As long as I can spend some time with my husband, my mum and dad, and Sarah and her husband will pop over at some point, it will be great.

Do you have all the family over at Christmas?
We’re actually going to go away on Christmas Eve and come back on Christmas night – so that I don’t have to cook really. I get so panicked at Christmas with cooking. I mean, I cook a Sunday dinner and do not give two hoots whether the carrots are ready or when the potatoes are – I don’t care! But on a Christmas Day, if that’s not ready when that’s ready, then I get all panicky for some stupid reason, so we’ve decided it’s much better we go out.

Would you say a pantomime is a time where you can have some fun as an actress?
You can but you’ve still got a script. And that script has got to be stuck to, but I don’t know why I’m saying that because I’m working with Pete Price aren’t I! A man who a) can’t remember anything and…b)…No, I’m joking, it’s a script, it’s a story and the story has to be told because the important thing is those children out there need to know that story. Okay, there are adults out there as well and the odd little phrase goes over the kids’ heads, which may have been said over the years, but it goes without saying a panto has to be fun as well. But it’s also hard work as well because there are so many bloody performances! In this panto there are two performances every day right through until the 10 January next year and that’s hard work.

Pauline Daniels was speaking to Michael Hunt

Twopence to Cross the Mersey opens at the Liverpool Empire from 6–17 October. Tickets are priced from £12, call the box office on 0844 847 2525

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs opens at the Floral Pavilion on Saturday, 19 December, and runs until 10 January 2010. Tickets are priced from £13, call the box office on 0151 666 0000