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Jim Dale on 'coming home' to the West End

The former National Theatre and Carry On stalwart brings Just Jim Dale to the Vaudeville Theatre from tonight

'It will be an evening of getting to know who I am now' - Jim Dale

How does it feel to be coming back to the West End?
Like I'm coming back home. I first played the Vaudeville Theatre in the funniest of comedies 50 years ago this year. It would thrill me to hear a similar audience reaction.

What are your favourite memories of performing here?
Everything I learned at the Young Vic and the Old Vic, and sharing a dressing room of laughs for over a year with such greats as Derek Jacobi, Ronald Pickup, Charles Kay, Jeremy Brett and Harry Lomax.

Could you give us an idea of what to expect from Just Jim Dale?
I'll be telling how laughter brought me into this business as a youngster and how laughter and I have become a long running double act over the years.

You appeared in the Carry On films; do you have a favourite story from that time?
All of them are worthy favourites, but they sound much funnier when spoken on stage rather than read on paper (hint hint).

Are you still in touch with other members of the cast?
Yes. In Carry On Cowboy, Carry On Follow That Camel and Carry On Screaming, it was lovely Angela Douglas who became lumbered with a boyfriend like me. Angie has stayed a very dear friend.

Laurence Olivier was an early mentor - what influence did he have on you?
Olivier loved comedians. He asked me to join the National Theatre after seeing me play Shakespeare's clowns. He cast me in Peter Nicols' comedy, The National Health, then directed me in Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost. He encouraged me to invent and reinvent visual comedy, not just for myself but for other actors including him. I used that experience when I directed my first comedy.

Which shows are top of your list to see when you're in London (if you get time)?
I'd like to see all of them but performing eight shows a week from Monday to Saturday means I'm working constantly. On Broadway some shows have Sunday matinees - I must find out if the West End does too.

What do you hope people take away from seeing your show?
I have not appeared as myself on the London stage or on British television for 40 years, so it will be an evening of getting to know, mostly through laughter, who I am now. "Not a dry seat in the house!" would be a lovely quote.

Just Jim Dale is at the Vaudeville Theatre from 26 May to 20 June

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