Paula Wilcox has Great Expectations about playing Miss Havisham
Playing Miss Havisham, the most famous spinster in history, may be daunting for some but Paula Wilcox can't wait to take on the challenge at Birmingham's New Alexandra Theatre.
Asking actress Paula Wilcox to recall the moment when she decided that she wanted to be an actress elicits a recollection so vivid you almost feel that you were there.
"I would have been about 13 and I went with the school to Manchester's Library Theatre to see Henry IV Part One," remembers Paula, who is about to play Miss Havisham in a national tour of Great Expectations, which runs at Birmingham's New Alexandra Theatre from tomorrow Saturday, October 13.
"We were studying the play at school and it was amazing to me that those words on the page could be transformed by the actors.
"They became believable characters, and the line they spoke just sounded so natural – I was blown away by the whole experience!"
Inspired to start taking acting classes, Paula got a place in the National Youth Theatre at seventeen.
And while many of her fellow students went on to drama school or university, Paula didn't need to.
Her ambition to be an actress was attained almost immediately when she was spotted and swiftly offered her first job; a TV sit com called The Lovers, written by the late Jack Rosenthal and playing opposite the young Richard Beckinsale.
But it was her second job in 1973 for which she is perhaps most widely known. Arguably one of the most famous sit coms in history, Man About the House ran for three years.
"I kept harking back to seeing Shakespeare and so after Man About the House I went and did masses of theatre," explains Paula.
Now she is ready to play one of Dickens' most famous women.
"I know the book really well because I studied it at school and I'm a big fan of Dickens," enthuses Paula, who says she was honoured to be asked to play Miss Havisham.
Rated as the most popular Dickens story of all time in a recent poll by The Guardian newspaper, Paula admits that this particular version, by Jo Clifford, was an especially enticing proposition.
"When I got the script it was a bit of an eye-opener. I'm always led by the script and this is a wonderful adaptation; very succinct but it doesn't feel at all rushed.
"It's all told in a very leisurely way, but with nothing wasted; you're always being moved on to another set of characters and another bit of the story.
"I knew as soon as I read it that I wanted to be involved and that it could be magical."
Graham McLaren's lavish, spectacular and unashamedly theatrical show will bring some of the most memorable characters ever created to life and feature Jack Ellis, who has starred in Coronation Street, Prime Suspect and Bad Girls, and Chris Ellison, who is best known as the eponymous DI Frank Burnside in The Bill.
Tickets are available on 0844 871 3011 or online at www.atgtickets.com/birmingham
By Andy Richardson
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