Friday 10 November 2017

Carry On Blogging Interview: Jayne Bickerton

Earlier this week I had the great pleasure of being in touch with the brilliant Jayne Bickerton. Jayne is quite simply multi-talented. As well as her work as a successful actress in the likes of Coronation Street, Jayne has had great success in comedy and as an artist. So read on for more on how Jayne got started in the business, her time in Coronation Street, her thoughts on comedy past and present and of course, how she came to know the legendary Bob Monkhouse...

First of all I'd love to know how you got started in the business?

I saw an advert for Butlins redcoats when I was 20 and became one at the Metropole Hotel in Blackpool. Three months of learning to dance and getting a (very) rough impersonation act together. I’m glad there is no footage! It got me on a stage though.
After leaving Butlins I started performing ‘punk poetry’ with a friend called Mandy Craig. We got our first break from Barnsley poet Ian McMillan at a BBC radio show that was broadcast from the Crescent Hotel Ilkley. We were so nervous but our comedy poems went down well and we started from there.


I know you have done a great deal of stand up comedy, something I've always thought must be pretty nerve-wracking. How did you get into all that and what are your memories of it now?

The performance poetry led to appearances on the James Whale TV Show and then Bob Says Opportunity Knocks. From that we got management and lots of live dates supporting Phil Cool, Lonnie Donegan, Jo Brand, Steve Coogan and many more. Our act was a bit hit and miss depending on the crowd, but we learnt a lot about performing on stage. 

Mandy then decided performing wasn’t for her so I went solo and started doing less poetry and more one liners, eventually adding a guitar and ultimately a ukulele (less to carry) and doing comedy songs and one liners. My stage name was Mary Unfaithful and my act was a slightly bizarre mix of 60s rock chick and music hall. I was influenced by Victoria Wood but also Jasper Carrott, Phil Cool and the ‘folky’ side of the comedy world. 
I gigged throughout the 90s and appeared on BBC1’s The Stand Up Show, Bradley Walsh’s Big Stage on Channel 5, and then on ‘Live From The Lilydrome’ with Lily Savage. I made a happy friendship connection with Paul O’Grady and supported him (as Lily Savage) at a few big theatres in the north of England. A real thrill and we’re still friends to this day. 
I was a fairly decent stand up with a solid twenty five minute act, but was never a naturally outgoing performer who could wing it with the crowd. I had to stick to my script and have a few heckle retorts up my sleeve. Always wracked with nerves before a gig, which eventually led to me moving into writing and acting in 2000. Luckily again I had made friends with other comics on the circuit like Dave Spikey, Johnny Vegas, Neil Fitzmaurice and Peter Kay and this led to me being cast in ‘That Peter Kay Thing’ and ‘Phoenix Nights’ as well as writing material and the end credit sketches on Peter’s commercially released video ‘Live At The Top Of The Tower’. You can see me at the end comforting Sian from car share, who was playing an upset girl who Peter had snubbed!

As this is for my Carry On blog, I've got to ask you about Bob Monkhouse - how did you get to know Bob?

Mandy and I auditioned for Bob Says Opportunity Knocks in 1988 in a hotel out on the motorway somewhere near Leeds. We did our poetry and got recalled to a second audition in London, at which Bob Monkhouse was present in the audience. After our performance we were sitting in the canteen with my parents when Bob came over to our table and told us we had made it through to the show. We walked out to his chauffeur driven car with him, absolutely gobsmacked but delighted. On the show we actually came last to a team of Sheffield schoolchildren ringing handbells. Hilarious. Thankfully by next week’s phone vote we came second to a returning winner, a singer called Matt Mudd. We also met impressionist Simon Cartwright on the same show, and just this year I have written a script with Simon and also Mark Bickerton which will hopefully get on TV soon. Can’t say any more than that just now! Watch this space.
Bob was really lovely and kept in touch by letter after our appearance on the show, right up until his illness in the early noughties. We also went to see him in cabaret a few times and he was always absolutely lovely to us, sending a bottle of fizz over to our table and chatting to us in his dressing room afterwards. Even when I was appearing in and writing on Lily Live in 2000 and 2001 Bob used to phone up Paul O Grady after each show and congratulate us. He was so thoughtful and we were so proud to have known him. I even have a self portrait that he drew on the back of an envelope. Such a talented, erudite and charming man.

What are your thoughts on Bob's talents as a comedian and an entertainer?

Bob had such awe inspiring talents as a writer, both serious and comic; as a cartoonist he was immensely gifted, he also had a brilliant memory and was a consummate quiz show host. As a live performer he was second to none and it was always delightful being in a cabaret audience watching the glint in his eye as he relished being a lot ruder than he was on TV! He was a very slick and polished comedian, like his hero Bob Hope. 
He was so kind to young upcoming performers, and had endless patience and wisdom in abundance. I recommend that people read his autobiography ‘Crying With Laughter’. It’s such a stunning book, so well written and very eye opening if all you know of Bob is the so called ‘smarmy’ quiz show host. I can understand how he had ‘Marmite’ appeal for some people but really, to know him was to love him.

I write a lot about British comedians and comedy actors from the 50s, 60s and 70s. Do you have a favourite(s) from that era and if so, who and why?

I love Morecambe and Wise. They were TV fixtures and part of my childhood. I just thought they were wonderful, especially in the Eddie Braben era. I was a big fan of Peter Sellers as a child. Clouseau, The Wrong Box, Only Two Can Play, The Party and There’s a Girl In My Soup…far too many to mention. From the Carry Ons I love Kenneth Williams and let’s not forget the comedy actresses. Irene Handl, Margaret Rutherford, Joan Sims, Thora Hird and the fabulous Hylda Baker both as a comedy actress and comedienne.


With my other blogging hat on (Coronation Street Blog) I remember you fondly from your time in Corrie as Yana, best friend to Cilla. What was it like to get the call to join the Street?

I actually appeared in Corrie in 2001 as a ‘temporary florist’ who had to prevent Peter Barlow from trying to get into the flat of Lucy, the florist he eventually married bigamously (he was also married to barmaid Shelley). 
Walking into the green room for the first time was very intimidating but I was immediately made welcome by everyone, but especially Helen Worth who was so lovely to me that day. She could see I was petrified! 
Three years later I got to audition for the part of Yana Lumb, Cilla Brown’s best friend. I got recalled and happily got the part. It was meant to be one episode in October 2004 but the character went down so well with the writers that they kept writing me in and I think I did about 52 episodes over three years in total. Cilla and Yana were a typical Corrie comedy double act and we thoroughly enjoyed all their shenanigans! Wendi Peters and I are still friends to this day and we still enjoy getting up to mischief. We just dress better (I hope)

Do you have a favourite memory of your time playing Yana?

The wedding episodes with Status Quo were great fun.  I always enjoyed scenes in the chippy, and of course the time I had to sit in a bath of mushy peas with Les Battersby. Hard to forget! Also off screen I got to meet George Michael when he did a private tour of the street and you have to treasure memories like that.


Do you still watch Coronation Street now and would you ever go back?

I catch it occasionally, and sometimes don’t know who characters are, but it’s lovely to still see friends like Sue Nicholls, Andy Whyment, Alan Halsall, Jenni McAlpine and Sam Aston still going strong. Of course I would go back! I loved my time on the show, it was the best job ever.

I know you have many strings to your bow and you're a very creative person. Can you tell me a bit more about your work as an artist and a designer? I believe Paul O'Grady has a house full of your work!

I have a BA Hons in art and design and it’s something I’ve done all my life really. Paul O Grady is a great supporter of artists and craftspeople and yes he has paintings I did of Diana Dors, Bet Lynch and Tara King of The Avengers, as well as Bill and Ben puppets, a faux hare head and a doll of Lily Savage (and Buster) as the statue of Liberty. He has mad taste, thankfully! I don’t paint so much these days although I still sell prints of my Coronation Street and Mad Men paintings (as well as lots of pop stars too) Suranne Jones and Kate Ford both have paintings of mine too. These days I have a business called Crafted Creatures which is fauxidermy animal sculptures in fabric. I love animals, I’m good at sewing and I like upcycling things like fabric so it’s a combination of likes!


I've got to ask, what's your favourite Carry On film and why?

As a child I would’ve probably said Carry On Screaming as I liked Fenella Fielding and Oddjob, but as I’ve got older probably ‘Carry On At Your Convenience’ or ‘Carry On Matron’

Finally, what's up next for you?
Hopefully the script I’ve just written with Mark Bickerton and Simon Cartwright will get commissioned and we’ve also written ourselves parts in it (if they’ll have us!) because why not? I’m also about to write another script with Mark Bickerton which is a biopic of a British entertainment icon of yesteryear. I can say no more! I will be in an episode of 'Moving On' directed by Corrie's Reece Dinsdale and starring Sue Johnston and Paula Wilcox. I also have a cameo role in a film called 'Funny Cow' starring Maxine Peake, which will be released next year.


You can find out more about Jayne's career by taking a look at her showreel:

And you can find out more about Jayne wonderful creative side by visiting her Etsy shop:

And you can follow Jayne on Twitter @craftedcreature

I'd like to thank Jayne again for agreeing to do the interview, it was an absolute pleasure! 

And finally, a big thank you to Glenda for helping to set up the interview.

You can follow me on Twitter @CarryOnJoan on Facebook and on Instagram

No comments:

Post a Comment