Barry Rutter

 

His buzzsaw guitar sound was an essential part of the punk sound, but now there’s a chance to hear Steve Diggle in acoustic mode.

As guitarist with The Buzzcocks he came up with the riffs behind classic hit singles like Ever Fallen In Love, Promises and Everybody’s Happy Nowadays and the back catalogue is getting an overhaul.

“A lot of the Buzzcocks stuff works acoustically but I’ve also had three solo albums and I had a band called Flags Of Convenience,” says Steve.

FLYING SOLO - Buzzcocks guitarist Steve Diggle

FLYING SOLO – Buzzcocks guitarist Steve Diggle

“The first song I wrote for the Buzzcocks was Fast Cars and that sounds fine acoustically. Promises works as well – I basically wrote that and Pete (Shelley, lead singer) changed it into a love song. There are loads of others like Ever Fallen In Love, Autonomy, Harmony In My Head…

“I reckon there are 50 Buzzcocks songs that would work and probably another 50 solo songs, so plenty to choose from. Over the years I’ve been fairly productive.”

His current acoustic tour started off as a couple of shows to fill in time but has snowballed into a major outing – and he’s pleased about it.

“One thing I’ve realised is that when I play acoustically it gives me a chance to actually sing and I’ve discovered my voice suits a quieter way of playing. In the Buzzcocks I tend to do the more raucous shouting stuff and Pete does the more romantic ones.

“It also gives me a chance to draw on folk elements. Bob Dylan was the first album I ever bought and that’s never come out in my songs before.”

Steve is also getting used to being on stage on his own after more than 35 years as guitarist in the Buzzcocks. “It’s still a great discovery for me,” he says. “You’re on your own and it’s a lot harder because you can’t take a breather while someone else does something.

“You’re exposed a bit but the delivery and the sensitive side comes out more. It’s also a chance for the lyrics to shine a bit – I don’t think all the nuances of the songs have come across in the more quickfire style of punk.”

However, like many of his generation, Steve says he owes a lot to the punk explosion of the late ‘70s.

“It was like splitting the atom,” he enthuses. “It blew our whole concept of music, it raised your consciousness of what music could be.

“It was political too, there was a whole attitude and there are people I still meet who are artists or writers who say they wouldn’t have been who they are if it wasn’t for punk. I’m sure there are road sweepers who sweep the road differently because of it!

“It wasn’t just a case of tapping your foot to the songs, people were involved in it in all kinds of ways – it’s an attitude, a questioning thing.”

And it led to all those classic singles from the Buzzcocks, although Steve adds: “When we were writing all those songs we were just saying that’s the next single, I never thought that 30 years down the line they would still stand up.”

There’s a chance to find out how the quiet versions sound when Steve Diggle plays an acoustic show at the Boileroom in Guildford on Thursday February 14.

 

 

 

ADOLF HITLER is in his Berlin bunker in 1945 and ranting violently as he awaits the inevitable collapse of the Third Reich.

His words are poisonous, of course – but beware, some of the lines are not what they seem.

Actor Pip Utton has won rave reviews for his portrayal of the Fuhrer and brings Adolf back to the Mill Studio at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre next week following a sell-out run last year.

Much of his self-written play is taken from Hitler’s own words in his book, Mein Kampf, but some of the lines are not…

COMPULSIVE CHARACTER – in his self-penned play, Pip Utton uses Adolf’s voice to illustrate other politicians’ quotes

COMPULSIVE CHARACTER – in his self-penned play, Pip Utton uses Adolf’s voice to illustrate other politicians’ quotes

“I wanted to do something about prejudice and intolerance and if you’re going to try something about prejudice and intolerance, why not pick the most prejudiced, intolerant racist of all time?” explains Pip.

“But I wanted to use him to highlight how our prejudices can be manipulated by politicians. I had an idea that anybody’s words in the mouth of Adolf Hitler would sound terrible.

“So, there are quotes from Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher, Josef Stalin, Kofi Annan, and I think there’s one from George Bush, the old one.

“We accept today some of the things they say, and they still sound logical – but horrible in the mouth of Adolf Hitler.”

That’s why the play, Adolf, goes some way towards explaining what made Hitler so compulsive. It asks how any cultured person could follow him to destruction, desolation and genocide, to leave a long deep scar on the 20th century. And then provides a few answers.

Pip sets out to take his audience on a journey into themselves, gently coaxing an understanding of the mind-set of a nation that could allow a man such as Hitler to take control – and his award-winning performance all came about by accident.

“I was in a dressing room one night and some make-up ladies said ‘You really look like the character you’re playing’ – I was playing Tony Hancock,” he says.

“They said ‘Can we just play around and see who else we can make you look like?’ First of all, they made me look like Roy Orbison (who he has also portrayed) and then they made me look like Adolf Hitler.

“It was quite scary how much I looked like Hitler and that planted the seed. I thought that if you’re going to play somebody bad, let’s play the biggest baddie of all time…”

Pip Utton will be in Adolf at the Mill Studio, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, for two nights on Friday, February 1 and Saturday, February 2.

WHY would audiences flock to hear 1970s cheesy classics like YMCA, Blame It On The Boogie, We Are Family and Don’t Go Breaking My Heart?

Because those old hits were the soundtrack to their lives, according to a legend from the era and now a star of stage show Boogie Nights – ‘Little’ Jimmy Osmond.

“Why is there such an appeal for the music?” he asks. “When you go on your first date or whatever, all those experiences are set to music, so it takes us back to earlier parts of our life.”

BLAME IT ON THE BOOGIE – Andy Abraham, Gareth Gates, Louisa Lytton, Chico, Shane Richie Junior and Jimmy Osmond (inset)

BLAME IT ON THE BOOGIE – Andy Abraham, Gareth Gates, Louisa Lytton, Chico, Shane Richie Junior and Jimmy Osmond (inset)

And don’t get the idea that it’s just women who like to re-live their musical youth.

“A lot of them bring their guys along and they look disgruntled at first,” says Jimmy laughing.

“They sit there with folded arms making out ‘the women dragged us here’, but at the end they’re rocking out and singing along – and that makes me so happy. It makes me feel like I’ve had a good experience.

“You also see sons and daughters come along because they have experienced the music with their families.”

Boogie Nights is also a family affair for Jimmy. As well as Gareth Gates and X Factor stars Andy Abrahams, Laura White and Chico, the show includes his brothers Merrill and Jay.

“When my brothers come out we play ourselves and do a medley mix that includes Love Me For A Reason and Crazy Horses and we might throw in a few lesser known ones,” he reveals.

“But it has all the music we all love. It’s fun for us to perform other people’s hits as well.

“I did Boogie Nights years ago and I had such a blast, so I was keen to come back and do it again.Then, at the end of last year’s Osmonds tour, Jay and Merrill said ‘Hey we fancy that’.

“The producers had already hired Gareth Gates and Andy Abrahams but I said ‘Do you mind if my brothers come and join in?’ and they were over the moon.”

Jimmy was too young to be part of The Osmonds originally but he is keen to point out: “I was the first one of my family to record. I had the first hit in the family, I was this little kid singing and had a hit in Japan – the song was called My Little Darling.

“And I’d had four or five hits prior to Long Haired Lover (his first big UK hit in 1972). My first show was with Frank Sinatra and Nancy Sinatra when I was three.”

He has always been very much part of the family and has toured with his brothers in recent years.

“Anybody who has lasted has had to reinvent themselves and put themselves forward for different projects. That’s why my brothers and sisters have lasted,” says Jimmy.

“We’ve kept going because we’ve always been open to new things and never been so precious about who we are, or take ourselves too seriously.

“Every one of our personalities is different and we look at things differently, and we have learned to agree to differ. It’s a tough business but we still get along. So many families fall apart because of the narcissism of it.

“It helps that our dad always taught us there’s something bigger than us, which is a relationship with your family and a belief system, and that helps to get you through.

“Sometimes one of us will go off and try something else but they always come back, and we all have our roles to play. I don’t really have any expertise but I guess I’m the clean-up guy. I’ve always loved the business side and represented other artists as well as my brothers and sisters.

“But the most fun is to be part of the team. It can’t be just about me. It comes in things like Boogie Nights where you’re one of the cast, or on tour with The Osmonds where you’re one of the family. Those projects are such fun and it uses all your skills.”

Jimmy Osmond (along with Jay and Merrill) stars in Boogie Nights which will be at G Live in Guildford on Sunday, February 3 and at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, on Friday, March 1.

Dick Whittington, New Victoria Theatre, Woking

WHEN Paul Weller wrote The Jam’s 1980 No.1 hit Going Underground, I doubt if he ever imagined it would crop up in a pantomime in his home town.

Quite how a song slating government policy on nuclear weapons ends up being sung in a jaunty style by a guy in a furry hat/mask and a villain’s cloak is anyone’s guess – but Dave Lynn’s King Rat also gives the same treatment to The Clash’s London Calling.

THEY’RE IN FRONT OF YOU – panto cast with Pudsey the dog

Maybe it’s a way to appeal to the “dads and grumpy granddads” who Idle Jack (Stephen Mulhern) urges to “at least look like you want to be here” in the first scene, but the organisers needn’t have worried. Dick Whittington is a panto triumph – even for self-confessed grumps like me.

As ever the team behind the New Victoria Theatre have landed a big star and this year it’s not a soap legend but a dancing dog. While owner and trainer Ashleigh Butler does most of the work as Dick’s love interest Alice, the undoubted attraction as far as the audience is concerned is Pudsey. The cheer when the canine victor of TV’s Britain’s Got Talent first took to the stage was proof of that.

However, the usual buzzing panto atmosphere didn’t put the pooch off his stride – he lapped up the applause as he (with Ashleigh’s help) completed several sets of dancing which were good enough to land him a place on Strictly next.

And if incorporating punk anthems and having a dog as the star are not groundbreaking enough, how about an epic underwater 3D sequence? The audience are issued with 3D glasses for the second half and what follows is an incredible trip through the sea with Tommy the Turtle meeting everything from fish shoals and bubbles to a shark and stingray, many of which seem to hover over the head of the person in front. It’s a truly stunning touch.

But don’t worry too much, there’s plenty of traditional panto fun too. Mulhern’s Idle Jack is the hardest working character as he keeps the laughs flowing with an endless stream of one-liners (“Do you want a tarka masala? It’s like a tikka masala but otter…”), audience banter and magic tricks.

Sarah the Cook played by the marvellous Eric Potts is the panto dame to outdo all others with each of around a dozen costume changes getting ever more outrageous – a bit like her/his steady flow of innuendo.

Michael Pickering has the difficult job of playing the title role but not being the main character, although his Geordie version of Dick hits just the right note between romantic hero and wide-eyed newcomer in the big city.

For someone with no theatrical training, Ashleigh does a great job as Alice – she may never make a top singer or actor but she has a very engaging presence and her time in front of huge TV audiences has stood her in good stead.

In fact there’s no weak link in this cast. Lynn’s King Rat pitches his villainy just right – as well as providing those ‘Oh no you don’t’ moments – while Kimberley Ensor as Fairy Bowbells and Anthony Houghton as Alderman Fitzwarren keep things ticking along nicely. Ben Goffe as the tiny captain provides plenty of laughs (mainly at the expense of his small stature), Kayleigh Wilson’s Tommy the Cat gives Pudsey a feline run for his money, and the ensemble groups – both adults and youngsters – play a major part in bringing the whole thing to life.

As regular New Victoria Theatre panto-goers will expect, the costumes and sets are nothing short of spectacular, the rocking ship being so realistic during the storm scene that there might well have been a few cases of seasickness in the audience.

The music too is well chosen (aside from maybe The Jam and The Clash) with Take That’s Rule The World, a Village People medley of Go West and In The Navy, Holly Valance’s Kiss Kiss, and One Direction’s What Makes You Beautiful being well suited to panto style.

But the best was a superb Moroccan version of Psy’s Gangnam Style complete with dancing featuring the full cast. Like the panto, it’s cheesy, glitzy, infectious, funny and downright entertaining.

Dick Whittington runs at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, until Sunday January 6.

FOR anyone looking for an antidote to the manufactured pop of X Factor, there’s a Christmas treat in store.

“It’s about people who can really sing and really play,” says Spike Edney of this year’s upcoming SAS (Spike’s All Stars) Band show.

The former keyboard player with Queen has been putting on a seasonal show for years, using his contacts throughout the music industry to gather an ever-changing stellar line-up.

This year’s megaband will include Jack Bruce from Cream, Midge Ure from Ultravox, Chris Thompson from Manfred Mann’s Earthband, We Will Rock You star Brenda Edwards, and Patti Russo who has duetted with everyone from Meatloaf to Cher.

Spike says each star will sing songs they’re famous for plus a personal favourite, which might be an obscure album track or a cover version – and there will be several big song showpieces with everyone joining in.

PERFECT ANTIDOTE – former Queen keyboard player Spike Edney has been putting on his annual star-studded Christmas shows for many years

“Music should be by people who can sing performing with people who can play and creating an empathy with the audience,” he adds.

“It will be an antidote to all the processed music you get these days.

“You don’t know if people can sing or not with the technology that’s available now. There was a time when you had to have a degree of talent and be able to go out and perform live to be able to make it.

“I can never see that returning so I’m spearheading a dying breed of people whose ability is there on show. The show will be for music fans who like to hear people performing live.”

However, Spike refuses to rail against X Factor too much.

“It’s the way it is,” he says. X Factor is really TV entertainment and it’s about producing something that’s disposable.

“One or two of them manage to do well and keep going but there are loads who don’t even get their one Christmas hit out of it.

“If you say you came fifth on X Factor 10 years ago, it’s not going to get you very far.

“But what chance have you got if you’re starting out in music now? There’s been a systematic reduction in the number of venues people can play.

“I picked up my first guitar in the 60s when I heard the Beatles and when I played in my first band we could play four nights a week.

“When I was 20 I could play seven nights a week and make a living out of it without being famous.

“Venues put on three shows a day. That sounds impossible now.

“There are less and less places for live musicians to work and learn their craft and even gifted singers need to learn their craft.

“Years ago I worked with Edwin Starr and Ben E King and learned so much from them – these guys had been doing it forever and knew so much about working an audience, and I was like a sponge soaking it all up.”

The annual SAS Band shows have gathered a huge following across Surrey and beyond since Spike started them at Chiddingfold village hall in the 1990s.

“The social club there had fabulous acoustics – so good that local musicians like Eric Clapton and Mike Rutherford used to use it for
rehearsals,” he recalls.

“We used to do a Christmas gig there in the late 90s and it grew and grew until we were doing four or five nights there every December.

“It was exhausting so we moved to the rifle club at Bisley and did about three or four years there.

“But still we had people who couldn’t get in so we moved again, to G Live last year.

“I was a big fan of the old Guildford Civic Hall and played there with several bands. It had a great atmosphere and I was sad when they pulled it down, so it was good to go to G Live and I like that too.

“Apparently we hold the record for the audience who drank the most during a gig – either our fans like to enjoy themselves or we drive them to it…”

The SAS Band will play at G Live, Guildford, on Saturday, December 1. Support will come from Paul Young and Los Pacaminos, plus Steve
Rodgers.

IF YOU’RE easily offended, stop reading now. In fact, even if it takes something outrageous to stop you in your tracks, there’s still time to turn quickly on to the next page…

Frankie Boyle will be here in Guildford – and he’s not holding back.

Actually the Scottish comic – who has been pilloried and demonised for his ‘jokes’ about everything from cancer to Jordan’s disabled son – says that he doesn’t believe he has ever gone  ‘too far’.

“Taboos are just a map of what a society feels it’s acceptable to be neurotic about,” he says. “Taboos aren’t rational.

“At the minute, it’s kind of acceptable to do a joke about cancer but not one involving disability.

“Certain types of cancer are a lot more serious and debilitating than a lot of disabilities. So it’s not rational.

FRANKIE SAYS – Boyle’s here to shout ‘the best stuff I’ve done’

“We’re in this kind of decadent society where we imagine ourselves to be progressive and enlightened and we’re just barbarians.

“Everybody says they have no hang-ups about sex but we watch porn all the time.

“Everybody says they have no taboos but they’re offended all the time.

“It’s like that Kafka thing, ‘There is an infinity of subversion but not for us’.”

So, don’t expect any apologies for previous offences.

“I got a bit of stick years ago for using the word ‘mongoloid’ on stage, but I only used it to describe Vernon Kay,” explains Frankie.

“To be clear, Vernon Kay looks like a learning disabled adult who has been taken to one of those people who draw your portrait in a tourist place – the ones that always do a really upbeat version of people?

“That’s Vernon Kay to me – an upbeat caricature of a learning disabled adult…”

The one-time Mock The Week panellist is heading out on the road under the banner The Last Days Of Sodom.

And the tour blurb claims that he will be setting out “To heal Britain’s fools, to support its rioters and to offer the inchoate laughter of despair to a culture in freefall.”

So, what’s the real reason for this string of dates – does he need the cash or is he recording next year’s Christmas DVD?

“I’ve been writing jokes my whole life and I’ve found it hard to stop thinking of them,” says Frankie simply.

“I was just going to do a few gigs and record them, and maybe stick it out as an audio album.

“Then I thought it seemed like the best stuff I’ve done, so why not go shout it at people in a variety of dying towns?”

Frankie Boyle will be at G Live in Guildford on Wednesday November 21

FOR the first time in nearly 30 years all three members of legendary Woking band The Jam have been involved in the same project.

“It’s all about the timing,” says Ian Snowball, co-author of Thick As Thieves, a new book about the trio who topped the charts with a string of hits like Beat Surrender, Town Called Malice and Going Underground.

Frontman Paul Weller has written the foreword for the book, while bass player Bruce Foxton and drummer Rick Buckler both agreed to be interviewed.

WOKING LEGENDS – Weller with bass player Bruce Foxton, who was interviewed for the book

WOKING LEGENDS – Weller with bass player Bruce Foxton, who was interviewed for the book

Ian adds: “We managed to get all three members of The Jam on board, which hasn’t happened since Paolo Hewitt’s authorised biography, A Beat Concerto, which was published shortly after the band split up in 1982.

“Until now 30 years later they’ve had their own politics and no one was able to get the support and input of all three members for anything. But we were able to sell the idea of the book to all three of them, which is amazing.”

Thick As Thieves is mostly a collection of thoughts from The Jam’s dedicated fans, but it also includes interviews with several people integral to the band’s history who have never been featured in print before.

“We set out to create a book that celebrates the band,” says Ian, who lives in Kent. “We didn’t want politics or negativity, we wanted something positive and celebratory, and I think that has helped.

“It’s a genuine book written by and contributed to by genuine Jam fans – the band played a huge part in their lives and still do 30 years later.”

The book includes 140 photographs of the band that have never been seen before, as Ian explains: “We tracked down people who we knew had their own personal photos of The Jam on stage or walking on Brighton seafront or whatever and we were able to get those donated.”

Several of the best images came from Derek d’Souza, a dedicated fan who used to smuggle his cameras into gigs by breaking them down and stuffing bits in his socks and pockets.

He is interviewed in Thick As Thieves, and Ian reveals: “Derek took loads of pictures and sent some samples to the Weller family because Paul’s mum and sister ran the fan club, and he got a call to say ‘Can you do a photographic shoot with the band?’

“He obviously leapt at the chance and did the photo shoot. A couple of pictures were later used by the band but of course he had loads that have never seen the light of day and offered us a collection of his photographs for the book.”

Another unsung Jam hero featured in the book is Bill Smith, who worked for Polydor Records as an artist, and designed almost every cover for The Jam’s singles and albums.

“He was chuffed to bits when we contacted him because he’d never been approached to do interviews,” says an incredulous Ian.

“This guy was integral to the visual display of The Jam and no one had spoken to him!

“We’ve been able to get people on board who have never had a voice, and personal material that has never been seen.”

Thick As Thieves also takes a look at the late John Weller, Paul’s father who was manager of the band from start to finish.

“He cropped up whenever we spoke to anyone and there was never a bad word said about him,” says Ian.

“So we put a whole section together about him – a lot of people said he was the fourth member of The Jam but no one had really written anything much about him.

“I was a bit nervous when I sent the manuscript to Paul – but he must have seen it as a positive thing because he agreed to write the foreword, and he doesn’t do a lot of stuff to do with The Jam now.”

Writing and editing Thick As Thieves has obviously been a labour of love for Ian – but he never saw The Jam in action because he was too young.

“I first got into The Jam in 1981 after buying That’s Entertainment,” he recalls. “It was on my 11th birthday.

“I got my birthday money and marched into town and used 50p to buy That’s Entertainment in Woolworth’s. It was my first record and I remember running home with excitement to play it.

“In Maidstone where I grew up it was all about mods at that time. I lived in a part of town that was full of people riding around on scooters who were into The Jam. There was no choice really.

“Although I was too young to see them, Stuart saw them on their last tour as he’s a couple of years older than me.

“My story is very common – I never got to see the band but they made such an impact that they stayed with me anyway.

“There are people in the book who saw them 250 times. I’d never met so many obsessive people.

“Every band has its core base of fans but these guys are incredible.”

BAD weather and a dip in ticket sales have put the future of the annual GuilFest in doubt.

Scotty Ltd, the company behind the festival which celebrated its 21st event this year, has ceased trading.

Festival founder Tony Scott, who comes from Woking, ­issued a statement saying: “Scotty Events Ltd regret to announce that GuilFest has ceased to trade due to poor ticket sales at this year’s event in July.

FESTIVAL FOUNDER – Tony Scott

FESTIVAL FOUNDER – Tony Scott

“We assess that this was down to the worst weather conditions we have experienced in the history of the festival, combined with intense competition presented this year from other events.

“Ongoing matters now lie in the hands of the insolvency ­practitioner Leigh Adams LLP.”

The statement also thanked “everybody who has been involved in working with the festival in its 21 years”, from artists to festival-goers. It added: “It has been a privilege and a pleasure to organise GuilFest and see it evolve into the renowned festival it has become.”

The festival began 21 years ago as a one-day event, then known as the Guildford Festival of Folk and Blues, attracting around 500 people.

Over the years acts have included Paul Weller, Pulp, Madness, Adam Ant, Status Quo, The Human League, Happy Mondays, Blondie and The Stranglers.

In 2006 GuilFest was awarded the title of ‘Best Family festival’ in the UK Festival Awards.

This year’s three-day event held at Stoke Park, Guildford, in July featured headliners Olly Murs, Jools Holland, Bryan Ferry, Tim Minchin, Gary Numan and Ash.

Bruce Foxton from The Jam said: “I know Tony Scott as a mate and I’m just very saddened by it all.

“There’s been quite a few ­festivals this year that have been scuppered by bad weather, ­whether that’s for good or not, who knows.

“I just hope GuilFest will ­re-emerge sooner rather than later somehow. I guess someone will just have to take it on.”

SHE’S playing one of Charles Dickens’ most famous creations in what was recently voted the most popular of his stories – and she gets to wear a couture frock while she’s at it.

Actress Paula Wilcox, who made her name as Chrissy in the 1970s TV sitcom Man About The House, opposite Richard O’Sullivan, has concentrated on theatre for most of her career and she’s enthralled at the prospect of playing Miss Havisham in Great Expectations.

“I know the book really well as I studied it at school and I’m a big fan of Dickens,” she enthuses.

WHAT THE DICKENS! – Paula Wilcox is enthralled to be playing Miss Havisham

WHAT THE DICKENS! – Paula Wilcox is enthralled to be playing Miss Havisham

Rated the most popular Dickens story of all time in a poll by The Guardian newspaper, Paula admits this version, by Jo Clifford, was an especially enticing proposition.

“When I got the script it was a bit of an eye-opener,” she explains.

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 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 story. As soon as I read it I knew I wanted to be involved and that it could be magical.”

And with 2012 marking his bicentenary, Paula can see why Dickens has endured.

She says: “He was a complicated character himself but he wrote great stories and his characters, even the most straightforward ones, all have back stories. And of course he had this massive social conscience.”

As for Miss Havisham, Paula confesses to being intrigued by the woman who, having been jilted at the altar, hides herself away, remaining dressed in her wedding finery from that day forwards.

“People do shut themselves away emotionally, but when you think of someone closing themself off physically like that, it is extraordinary,” she says.

“I’m interested in this whole thing of someone literally stopping the clocks and not wanting to hear anything about anything. There is also the lure of a rather special costume.

Designed by Giovanni Bedin for the House of Worth (Charles Frederick Worth, who created the first couture house – a contemporary of Dickens) Miss Havisham’s wedding dress isgoing to be a truly unique creation.

“All I know is that it’s going to be spectacularly ‘out there’ and it’s going to be impressionistic,” says Paula.

Her latest role is just one of a succession of successes for Paula who was plucked from the ranks of the National Youth Theatre for her first big break on TV in 1970 to play opposite Richard Beckinsale in The Lovers.

She’s since appeared in everything from the Benny Hill Show to The Smoking Room, Only Fools and Horses spin-off Green Green Grass and, more recently, as Hilary Potts in Emmerdale.And she still remembers clearly the day she caught the acting bug.

“I’d have been about 13 and I went with the school to Manchester’s Library Theatre to see Henry lV Part One,” she recalls. “We were studying the play and it was amazing that those words could be transformed by the actors.

“They became believable characters, and the lines they spoke just sounded so natural – I was blown away.”

Paula says: “I’ve never played Woking before but I hear that it’s a lovely theatre, so I’m looking forward to my first time there.

“This production is very family friendly so I hope lots of kids will come to see it.

“It’s a wonderful story and there’s not a child alive who doesn’t identify with Pip and who isn’t frightened by Magwitch and this woman who lives among rat-infested cakes and who has her veil chewed by mice. It’s going to be an extravagant and theatrical experience.”

Great Expectations will be at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, from Tuesday, September 18 until Saturday, September 22 with a 15-strong cast, including Jack Ellis (evil screw Jim Fenner in TVs Bad Girls) and Chris Ellison (Frank Burnside in The Bill).

JON RICHARDSON has been on the road for most of this year – but he’s loving it.

The comic, who made his name as a team captain on Channel 4’s panel show 8 Out Of 10 Cats, spends his time on stage pondering the everyday items that have a major effect on his outlook.

Now host of Channel 4’s topical comedy show, Stand Up For The Week, Jon (below) says TV is great but he loves touring more.

“Live comedy is such a rush,” he says. “That’s why I’m not a writer or an actor or a painter.

“There’s simply nothing like the urgency of having 500 people look at you and expect you to be funny.

“I love writing, but it’s a totally different experience. You know that on a 60-date tour, every single night will be different.

“Everyone is there in that particular moment, and it will never happen again. At every show, the room is set up differently and every person in the audience has a different barometer.

“You’re aware that any moment someone might stand up and shout ‘I completely disagree!’ That’s what’s so brilliant about stand-up!”

Jon’s reputation has been built on comedy that strikes a chord with most people.

He says: “There’s nothing better than the laughter of recognition – that sense the audience has felt the same thing.

“I learned that when I did my stuff about obsessive-compulsive behaviour. People listen to you and think, I’m not on my own.

“Nothing can beat the sight of people in the audience nudging their partners and saying, ‘You’re like that’.

“You’re not alone if you find it difficult get out of bed in the morning or if you have moments of sadness. For me, being sad proves you’re still alive. I don’t trust people who say they’re never sad – that shows an element of delusion.

“You have to accept that bad things can happen. You have to notice what’s wrong in order to fix it.”

Much of Jon’s set is devoted to contemplation of growing older and he says: “The core element of every show is about trying to be happy.

“This year I’m turning 30. It doesn’t mean a great deal to me. I’ve always felt a lot older than I am, and I’ve grown more comfortable with myself as I’ve got older.

“But the big dilemma is that I haven’t really had the 20s most people have had. I haven’t slept around or drunk as much as others. Your youth should be about making mistakes, but during my 20s I limited the risks and didn’t take too many wrong turns.

“You should hit 30 and think ‘Now’s the time to knuckle down’ but I went too early with knuckling down. Perhaps the opposite will happen now and I’ll start letting people down.”

Jon is disarmingly honest and that will shine through in the show where he will talk about a recent relationship break-up.

“If you’re discussing something on stage, you have to mean it. You can’t spend your life deliberately ordering the wrong things in restaurants just so you can get a routine out of it,” he says.

“I talk about issues such as the fear of the end of a relationship, which I hope everyone will be able to associate with. But rest assured, if it’s not funny, it doesn’t get into the show.”

Jon, who will also be discussing living with friends, adds: “If I read this interview, I might think, Is this guy a comedian or just too tight to pay for counselling?’

“But ultimately my stand-up is like house renovation. Every year I take the wreck that is my life and renovate it on stage.

“There’s an underlying pessimism to my world view, but I’m like a workman who accepts the damage and still tries to sort it out. Maybe I’ll have to start wearing a hard hat on stage.”

Jon Richardson will be at G Live, Guildford, on Tuesday, September 4.