Su's still got that magic 'E' word
RACHEL BANHAM She’s had a varied TV and stage career, yet she’s still best known as chalet maid Peggy Ollerenshaw from Hi-De-Hi! Now the effervescent Su Pollard is returning to Norfolk in the feelgood musical Annie.
Actress Su Pollard is famed for approaching everything with gusto. And her latest role, as Miss Hannigan in Annie, is no exception.
It's a welcome return for her to Norwich Theatre Royal. And while she played there several times in the 1990s, her first appearance was about 30 years ago, touring with The Desert Song.
“The theatre was then run by Dick Condon, which was fantastic,” she recalled.
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“I was so impressed with it. It was one of the first, as I recall, to use its facilities properly – to have lunch in the foyer and a café, which was very innovative then.
“I remember going next door to the tea rooms. Have they still got them? There are great shops there too. The only thing is I just hope the night life has improved – everything seemed to shut at 9.30pm!”
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She pauses briefly for breath before adding: “But anyway, in general it's a very, very nice place to appear – and I think everyone is looking forward to it.
“Annie is a feel-good show. People go out thinking 'Isn't this marvellous? I've had a good night tonight'.
“And I think that's the aim of every single performer in it. Without doubt it's teamwork – you can't do it without each other. We have fantastic singers, great harmonies, and a great band. It's real 1920s/30s style – it's fantastic. I can't wait to get on and do it – I've talked myself into it!”
She laughs, and that famous Peggy throaty cackle echoes down the phone.
Su knows Norfolk well, regularly visiting her old friends Steve and Paul, who retired here from London, and she has filmed in the county many times for the series You Rang M'Lord.
But, despite her extensive telly and theatre work and formidable singing voice, the endearing ghost of Peggy is never far away. And Su doesn't mind that this is the role for which she is still known.
“I'm very pleased I've been involved in something that people still love – even those who were nowhere near born when I did it,” she said.
“They've been brought up by their parents and grandparents to enjoy it and I don't mind that at all. I think people should be pleased if they've achieved anything in show business. My main thing is just to keep working and enjoy what I do.”
Still, even energetic Su does – sometimes – take a breather. And it's often at her parents', near Mablethorpe in Lincolnshire.
“I go there to kind of regroup for three or four days. I just walk by the sea all the time and potter about without giving myself any time limit,” she said.
“Then I come back to London and I'll probably go to several parties, try and catch up with a few shows. But mostly I'm on the phone to friends . . . and having long lunches. I usually meet people for lunch at 1 o'clock and come home at about seven!
“I love that. It's a real lunch. I should have been French, darling, instead of English! It suits me – that lifestyle. I could be marvellous in the Med!”
She laughs again. But the Med will have to wait for now since she's busy long after she leaves Norwich. When Annie finishes touring in January, she'll be on the road again soon after, with a one-woman show.
“I shall be spending a good two or three months doing all the songs I've always enjoyed doing, maybe revamp some of them and give them a different feel,” she said.
“I'm also doing several sketches in the show, playing all the parts myself. I'm really looking forward to it. It will be another challenge.”
There are some TV pilots on the horizon “about private detectives” too, all of which will keep Su, as she puts it, “as busy as a bee.”
“I've always said you've got to try to go for things,” she said.
“The most important thing is the 'E'-word. It's enthusiasm. If you've still got that, you're really half way there.”
I put the phone down in awe of her energy, and feeling a rather different 'E'-word – exhausted.
“If I lost my enthusiasm,” Su said in parting, “I'd give up.”
Fortunately, for the world of entertainment, that doesn't look like being on the cards for a while yet.
t Annie is at the Theatre Royal, Norwich, from September 7 to 11 at 7.30pm. There are matinees at 2.30pm on Thursday and Saturday. Tickets are £4 to £21, and there are discounts for over-60s, under-18s and groups. Call the box office on 01603 630000 or visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk.
t Visit Su's official web site at www.supollard.org.