Why Kate doesn’t need a reality check

Rachel Buller Famed for her glamorous television roles in iconic 80s series such as Dynasty and Howard’s Way, actress Kate O’Mara is starring in a new play in Norwich. She spoke to Rachel Buller about her love for Norfolk, Oscar Wilde and why she would never do reality TV.

Rachel Buller

“I absolutely love Norwich, I really do, I think it is quite beautiful,” says Kate O'Mara as we talk about her starring role in the latest production of Oscar Wilde's play 'An Ideal Husband'.

“I have not actually got any historical connections with the area, it just so happens that I happen to have found myself here an awful lot and have friends here. I really look forward to coming back every time.

“I have worked a lot in the area and when I was a young actress I worked for Anglia television on a series called 'Weavers Green' which was a front runner to Emmerdale Farm.

“But at that time, the networks were not terribly keen on one of the regional networks having something so prominent on the prime time schedule, so it was always getting moved about to different slots. Mind you we still made 50 episodes.”

It is not the first time that Kate has played the role of Mrs Cheveley in An Ideal Husband as she starred alongside Martin Shaw in the production 10 years ago.

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“The great thing is you get another go at it. You can come at it from a fresh point of view and you will have learned a bit more about life since then,” she says.

“And I am a big fan of Oscar Wilde. My great grandmother was part of his circle. She would go to the poetry reading evenings held by his mother.

“It turned out that, for most of them, attending these things it was just an excuse to hang on until a young Oscar turned up and they would sit at his feet thinking he was the most incredible thing in the world.”

The arrival of the production at the Theatre Royal on September 8 is not the only reason for Kate's visit to the county.

She is also patron of the new Maddermarket Studio Theatre in Norwich and will be doing an intimate 'In Conversation with... ' performance at the Maddermarket to help raise awareness of the £500,000 appeal launched to fund the project.

The new theatre will focus on promoting community work and education - and working with young people in theatre is something Kate is passionate about.

So when project fundraiser Stash Kirkbride, a Norwich-based actor and Future Radio presenter, approached her to help she had no hesitation in agreeing.

“We had worked together before and he knew of my involvement with youth theatre.

“I do a lot of schools workshops when I am touring with my company and I was also running a youth theatre group in Taunton in Somerset where I now live.

“I am hoping that Stash will invite me up to direct something and I also intend to run workshops which will be great.”

She is committed to encouraging young people to try their hand at theatre and admits that she goes on about it “endlessly” to anyone who will listen.

“People probably think I go on too much but I really think it can help keep young people off the street and kids are amazed when they start participating in a show, the sense of achievement is fabulous.”

She said that vital lottery funding should not be directed away from the arts to fund athletes for the 2012 Olympics and that it was essential to get the balance right.

“There are those that are not focused on physical activities or who are not good at it, they have a more creative bent and I have found that theatre is really, really beneficial to so many young people who don't have an ability in the sporting arena.

“Theatre enables them to exercise a different part of their personalities and it is great for their communication skills.

“A lot of them also like the challenge of the backstage work as well.

“I think we have trouble with young people these days because they are bored - they need an outlet for their energies and the theatre can be physically challenging as well.”

The 69-year-old actress, who was born in Leicester, has had a very interesting career switching between television and stage.

She was one of Hammer Studio's Glamour Girls, starring in The Vampire Lovers and The Horror of Frankenstein and was recurring villainess 'The Rani' in Doctor Who during the 70s and 80s, but it was her feisty 'ball-breaking' glamorous roles in Dynasty, Howard's Way and The Brothers, which really brought her to the public's


She has also had a long stage career and has her own theatre company.

“I much prefer theatre, but television is a necessary evil because it brings you to so many people and you often wouldn't get these other theatre parts without it.

“But I don't think television really caters for people of my age anymore. There is far too much reliance on reality television.

“It is cruel and the worst thing out. I have been asked to go on them all, I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, Strictly Come Dancing, but I would not ever go along with it or do it, ever.”

t An Ideal Husband runs from September 8 to September 13. For ticket information, call the Theatre Royal on 01603 630000 or see www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk.

t Tickets, costing £5, are still available for Kate O'Mara's talk at the Maddermarket Theatre on September 9 at 2pm. Call 01603 626560.