Wednesday, 19 December 2018

It may not be quite the full monty - but it is revealing

LIFE seems to have been a bit hectic lately for actor and TV presenter Mark Curry.

LIFE seems to have been a bit hectic lately for actor and TV presenter Mark Curry.

While playing a tennis match last Saturday morning he pulled a muscle in his lower back. For most 51-year-olds this might be the signal for spending the rest of the weekend on the sofa in front of the telly with a glass of some painkilling tincture on hand. But not Curry.

He was due on stage that afternoon in a matinée performance of Who’s Under Where? at the Mill at Sonning, and the show had to go on.

He said: “A member of the cast was into yoga and said, ‘Try this move’. I think it’s called the cat or something, where you arch your back, and I tell you what, it really works.

“So I went on stage on Saturday afternoon, and there’s this part where I make a quick change behind a screen — there’s a big reveal (I try not to tell people what happens in the show so as not to spoil the surprise). Anyway, the screen collapsed and the big reveal came a bit early.

“Everybody in the audience thought it was part of the show, but it wasn’t. It was just one of those moments. It stopped the show and we were just in hysterics.

“Those kind of moments are the best and the worst laughs. I was on stage with Steven Pinder at the time and we set each other off. We couldn’t do anything. The audience were loving it.”

He will not elucidate any more on what the big reveal is exactly, but said if it wasn’t quite the “full monty” it was “a different kind of monty”.

This is Curry’s third appearance at the Mill. He first played there in a production of Charley’s Aunt back in 1991, and two years ago he was in a Ray Cooney farce, Wife Begins At Forty.

This time round, he plays suspicious husband Paul Pritchard whose wife Jane is acting strangely. In fact, she is not having an affair, but has set up a lingerie business with her friend, Sybil, and the pair have arranged a business meeting with a world-famous fashion designer in a hotel room.

Together with Sybil’s husband, played by Steven Pinder, the jealous husband crashes the meeting to catch the girls by surprise.

For Curry, appearing at the Mill is a welcome return, especially for a TV presenter who still reckons there is nothing quite like live theatre to get the adrenaline going.

Curry started acting at the age of seven. He came from a mining village in West Yorkshire, with a dad who worked as a prison officer, and says there was absolutely no showbiz in his family.

Nevertheless the young Curry was bouncing with energy and couldn’t stop himself singing, dancing and doing impressions, and it wasn’t long before a family friend had packed him off to an audition for Junior Showtime with Jess Yates as the executive director. Soon afterwards, he secured the part of Oscar in Bugsy Malone, and thus his life in showbusiness had begun.

Curry became a household name in 1986 when he took over as a Blue Peter presenter alongside Janet Ellis and Peter Duncan, and he stayed on the show for four years.

He said: “It was great. It went in a flash. It was great fun and there was lots of travelling around the world. It’s fantastic to do as a young person when you have the time to dedicate your life to this type of show.

“Blue Peter is the show that every children’s presenter wants to present, so after that, even though I was asked to do other children’s shows, I moved on. I had kept my theatre acting going — I’ve always had a passion for theatre — and I took a part in Woman In Black in the West End.

“I love telly as well, but whenever a play is offered or I get a chance to audition for a show I think, ‘This is exciting’. It’s a wonderful feeling being on stage, because it’s live and the audience is with you.”

In fact, in this day and age, when the accepted wisdom is that social media and multimedia are taking over, Curry is still convinced there is a big place in the nation’s hearts for live theatre.

He said: “Even when younger people go to see a show, it affects them in some way. Everybody would say you can’t beat something live on stage. You can’t get that feeling from looking at a screen. I don’t think theatre is dying, I just think there is more competition out there, so many more things for people to choose from.”

Despite his bad back, Curry is planning to go up to London on Monday night to see Spamalot, where Barbara Windsor is making her début as God, and to meet the cast for an after-show party. He is hoping also to catch up with his old friend, Bonnie Langford, who plays the lady of the lake. The two met many years ago on the set of Bugsy Malone and have remained friends ever since. Then it will be back to the Mill for the rest of the run.

He said: “The show is going really well. It’s a magic place, and I support it tremendously. It’s a little gem.”

And even though the most memorable moment of his career was singing a special 90th birthday song to the Queen Mother on stage at the Palladium back in the Nineties, alongside talents such as Placido Domingo and Sir John Gielgud, he says every theatrical experience is still just as nerve-wracking as the last.

“Even at the Mill, we were all backstage on the first night, pacing up and down and getting nervous,” he said.

That’s showbiz for you.

* Who’s Under Where runs until August 24, then from September 6 to 28. Box office 0118 969 8000.

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