- January 7, 2019
Stars are not made, they are born & in the eyes of our theatre editor Andrew Kay none was born more starry than Jodie Prenger!
Jodie Prenger – I’m a huge fan.
She first came to my attention when she appeared on and won the BBC TV series I’d Do Anything, a Saturday night talent fest in which young actrresses vied for the enviable role of Nancy in a new West End production of Lionel Bart’s Oliver!
At first she came across as being something of an outsider, she was big and bold and spoke with a broad Lancashire accent – hardly the epitome of your usual West End triple threat. But she clearly had talent, a heart of gold and a huge voice. The public loved her and she sailed into the West End on a wave of praise, she was born to play Nancy.I met her soon after in a small office in Soho. The PR told me I had 20 minutes for my interview and after 18 minutes she came in and started miming that it was time for me to wind up. What she didn’t realise was that we had bonded and Jodie sent her packing, we were having a ball. The next time I met her was here in Brighton where I interviewed her with Todd Carty prior to them arriving for a touring production of Spamalot, The Monty Python Musical penned by Eric Idle.
In the West End original the part of the Lady of the Lake had been played by Hannah Waddingham to huge acclaim, huge shoes to fill – but Prenger filled them and more with a full on belter of a performance. It was clear that she was a talent to be watched, but was it only in musical comedy that she could make her mark?
She came across as being a rank outsider, she was big, bold & spoke with a broad Lancashire accent – but she clearly had talent, a heart of gold and a huge voice
Our next encounter was again here in Brighton and she agreed to be my guest on my Latest TV series AK Soufflé. Once again we hit it off, it’s partly genetic, we’re both from Lancashire and the way we think and our senses of humour totally align. But this time she was here to play a far more serious role, the epically demanding one woman show Willy Russell’s Shirley
Valentine. It’s a bitter sweet comedy that demands a sensitivity to balance brash scally humour. Of course Jodie nailed it, making the role her own.
Now she’s back in town and this time in another iconic piece of British theatre Abigail’s Party. Mike Leigh wrote it in 1977 for Hampstead Theatre and the BBC later filmed an abridged version for TV. It was an immense hit, packed with memorable one liners and performances that are so enmeshed with the play that it is hard to imaging anyone else in those roles. But if anyone can pull this off I believe that Jodie Prenger can.
In my most recent interview with her she talked freely about the pressure of undertaking a role made so famous by someone else.
She also spoke of the intense rehearsal format, improvisational in part, not unlike the way Mike Leigh had originally created the work. This week you can see the play at Theatre Royal Brighton, but why not catch all of my interviews over the years with my favourote actress – the totally beautiful Jodie Prenger, my idea of a real star.
10 – 19 January, Theatre Royal
Brighton, New Road