How I beat my fears
LESLEY Dunlop has left the Yorkshire Dales for two things she said she would never do again – living in London and working in theatre. It was touch and go, however, because stage fright nearly caused Lesley, 51, to pull out of Martha, Josie and the Chines
LESLEY Dunlop has left the Yorkshire Dales for two things she said she would never do again - living in London and working in theatre.
It was touch and go, however, because stage fright nearly caused Lesley, 51, to pull out of Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis.
But thanks to hypnotherapy, Lesley has been wowing audiences all over the UK and is set to work in London's West End for the first time when the play is staged there later this year.
In the eccentric comedy created by award-winning playwright Charlotte Jones, author of The Woman in White in the West End, Lesley plays Josie - a disillusioned dominatrix and single mum who is turning 50 and in no mood to celebrate, until Timothy Wong, the Chinese Elvis impersonator knocks at her door.
She said: "It's a feel-good comedy which addresses real-life issues. The characters in the play all have their own problems, but no one ridicules their disorders.
"As in real-life everyone has problems, and the play gives people hope."
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Lesley says her character is a good woman who just happens to be a dominatrix.
She said: "I didn't know anything about dominatrices when I joined the cast, so I read about it."
Lesley admits that it was very difficult for everyone when she joined the cast, because she had not done theatre work for the past 15 years.
She said: "I had terrible fear and I was going to leave. It was as if I hadn't acted before. I couldn't retain anything in my head. So I went to a hypnotherapist and it changed my life.
"Now I'm loving it. There's a fabulous cast and I particularly enjoy working with Maureen Lipman, who plays Martha, a cleaner with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). We work well together and I have learned a lot."
The play, which is choreographed by Strictly Come Dancing's Craig Revel-Horwood, also features Elvis classics.
"It's a quirky play and Elvis becomes the catalyst," said Lesley.
"But there's also some dark moments too. It's a bitter-sweet piece."
At the beginning of this year Lesley said she would never live in London again, nor would she work in theatre, but she is doing both, and is surprisingly 'loving it' because she said she gets to see more of her daughters, aged 25 and 29.
In the past Lesley has starred in many television dramas and films, but the highlights of her career include The Elephant Man (1981), May To December, and ITV's Where The Heart Is, which she appeared in for seven series until it was axed last year.
She said: "I never wanted to do a long series, but I was there for seven years because it was a very happy company and now I really miss everybody.
"It was quite a shock to leave, and it's sad it's finished, but we knew it would happen one day."
One of Lesley's favourite actors is Ray Winstone, who starred in Vincent, and she says one of her current favourite series is BBC1's Life On Mars.
She said: "In the future I wouldn't mind doing a new series, but I would like someone to surprise me."
The play will be staged at the Cambridge Arts Theatre from Monday April 1-Saturday April 21. Performances start at 7.45pm and 2.30 on Saturday.
For tickets, priced at £10-£27 call the box office on 01223 503333 or visit www.cambridgeartstheatre.com