*** Spotlight on… Paula Tappenden ***
She’s currently playing Mrs Lyons in the UK tour of Blood Brothers, but was also the first ever on stage Miss Honey in Matilda before the current musical incarnation was thought of. We spoke to Paula Tappenden about life on tour and her career so far…
How has the current tour of Blood Brothers been going? What do you love about the show?
The tour is flying by – I’ve really enjoyed being back in the show, over the years I have returned to the role many times and there is always something new to discover. I have loved being part of the ‘Blood Brothers family’ – it’s a very large slightly dysfunctional one with a huge heart.
For me and quite a few other cast members we also met our partners through Blood Brothers…both my husband and my brother-in-law have played Mr Lyons…and I played Mrs Lyons with both of them in the West End. I think the strangest show must have been when Stephen my husband played Mr Lyons and Kevin his brother went on as Narrator (…just to add they also happen to be identical twins!).
Do you have a favourite theatre on tour?
Impossible to choose! Although some theatres can be more challenging than others, for example, working on a very steep rake in heels isn’t the easiest thing to do, and although some theatres are really beautiful with lovely ornate auditoriums, FOH, and lovely staff …backstage can sometimes be quite cramped with fairly basic facilities.
Mrs Lyons is a great character and has that lovely duet with Mrs Johnstone, My Child do you feel any affinity with Mrs Lyons and who has been your favourite Mrs Johnstone been?
My Child is a lovely song, and shows Mrs Lyons’ real longing to have a child. The tune is also repeated later in the show, which some people may not notice. I also understudy/cover Mrs Johnstone so in a way I have an affinity with both characters (especially when I am trying to hurry my son to school and I catch myself using Willy Russells dialogue!!). When I joined the show I was told that Mrs Lyons is not a villain; I feel sympathy for her as she is trying so hard to be a great mother but is only too aware she fails and because of misguided actions she is not an instantly likeable character. This makes her a much more challenging role to play.
Over the years I think I have worked with about nine Mrs. J’s and I am still in contact with a lot of them so, as with the favourite theatre question, I couldn’t possibly choose the best one…They are all Fabulous! …In a couple of weeks we may need to share dressing rooms again so I may have to add that Maureen Nolan is particularly fabulous this tour!
What have been your career highlights so far?
Creating the role of Miss Honey in the first ever production of Matilda. Unfortunately not the huge West End success that the current one is – but I did get to meet Roald Dahl. Also my first ever theatre tour, Dr Who the Ultimate Adventure – we had a hoot and I think I was possibly the first ever female Cyberman!
What led you to become an actress?
went to college and couldn’t decide between Art and Drama – when a school friend turned up naked to the ‘life art’ class to be sketched I decided I would choose Drama.
Any particular role you’re keen to play in the future?
I would love to play a part/create a role in a new play that no one has performed yet or have free rein to adapt an already written part. Anything by Mike Leigh or Alan Ayckbourn would be great.
What is your advice for anyone wishing to enter the industry?
Learn a musical instrument – there seems to be many more parts for actors who are also musicians.
Favourite Things (give me your gut reaction to these questions:)
Sunny Afternoon ( @kinksmusical ) currently on at the Harold Pinter Theatre in the West End, as my husband plays the part of Mr Davies in it.
Favourite time of year?
Autumn without the spiders.
The UK’s first roundabout (It’s an unassuming little sign and roundabout) but it means I’m nearly home.
Favourite way to spend a weekend?
I’d like to say having lunch and drinks with friends and family – although while touring Sundays are usually spent taking the kids to Karate/swimming/rollerskating, washing, getting the school stuff ready and then collapsing in front of the telly with a glass of wine. The last couple of venues we have been lucky enough to have Monday off as well as Sunday, so it feels like a whole weekend.