CORONATION Street fans should get ready to see Soap star Wendi Peters as they’ve never seen her before. The actress who plays Cilla Battersby in the ITV continuing series is about to take to the stage as Lady Raeburn in Salad Days.
“They differ in as much as Lady Raeburn in Salad Days is the quintessential aristocrat who is very relaxed and laid back until it comes to her daughter and finding the right husband for her,” she explains. “I suppose she really just has Jane’s best interests at heart, whereas Cilla couldn’t give two hoots for her children, Fiz and Chesney, and comes from a very northern, working-class background, so has had to fight for all she has.
“The only similarity is the fact that both have a roving eye for the opposite sex.”
Salad Days, which was first performed in 1954, holds lots of memories for Blackburn-born Wendi who says she was thrilled when she got the part of Lady Raeburn.
“I first saw a production of it when I was about 10,” she recalls. “It was an amateur production in Accrington in Lancashire and my godmother, Lorna, was in it.
“I became obsessed with the music and, soon after, there was a TV version of the show. My sister and I videoed it and watched it over and over again. It’s really become a family joke/memory and it’s still quoted today! Of course, I’m now feeling very old as I’m playing one of the parents in the show.”
The show revolves around Jane and Timothy, who have just graduated from university. Not knowing what to do next, they decide to get married and get a job looking after a piano, which happens to be magic and makes people dance.
“Tim’s parents are desperate for him to get a good job and send him out to visit all his uncles for career advice,” explains Wendi. “Jane’s mother – me! – wants to find her a wonderfully rich and influential husband, not knowing that she is already married.
“It’s a wonderfully upbeat, fun show with great numbers that a lot of people will know and can tap and hum along to. It’s just a great ‘leave your troubles outside the theatre’ show and I guarantee you will leave with a big smile on your face.”
The 50-year-old actress will also be having a great time as, despite being best known as Coronation Street’s Cilla, her heart has always stayed in the theatre.
“Most of my career has been on stage, and if someone asked me to pick between TV and theatre, the stage would always win,” she says. “It’s where I first fell in love with acting and singing. My mum would take us to see all the musicals that came to Manchester and I adored going to the theatre.
“A lot of my theatre work has been on tour and I love it. It’s very exciting to be back on the road again, bringing such a fun show to some wonderful places.”
When the tour finishes later this month, the fun will continue for Wendi.
“I have a week off and then it’s straight into panto season,” she says. “I’m back at the Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield playing Mrs Darling, Myrtle the Mermaid and Big Chief Squatting Cow.”
Wendi Peters will star in Salad Days at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, from Thursday 15 November until Saturday 17 November.