Something Wicked this way comes...
Benidorm’s Janine Duvitski has returned to the stage as the
Wicked Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, writes Chris
Are you a panto regular?
No I’m not at all. I haven’t done a pantomime since 1976, which
was Babes in the Wood in Manchester. I hadn’t been long out of
drama school really and I was one of the babes. I was just in rep
in Manchester, so it was the regional theatre’s local panto. Alan
Rickman was in it. I had a big part and he was a squirrel who had
to cover me with leaves so whenever I see him I remind him of that.
He’s quite grand now but I always remind him if I bump into him
that he was just a squirrel. We were both in the same rep then.
So, why did you say yes to this show in
I always thought it would be quite good fun to do a panto again
but I have been mostly doing television. You think you would like
to keep your hand in doing some theatre, which I have done every
couple of years, and when I was asked, I thought ‘why not?’ really.
But it will probably be exhausting. I was offered a choice of
places and Tunbridge Wells is really good because I can get home to
Covent Garden for actual Christmas. I have got lots of kids and
although they are getting big now, I still like to do a big
Christmas. I think I might get all my family to come to the
Christmas Eve matinee and that will be the beginning of our
Your daughter, Ruby Bentall, is doing very well at the
“Yes she is. She is in The Paradise at the moment on TV – that
period drama set in a shop. She’s actually going to be doing Hansel
and Gretel at the National Theatre this Christmas. She’s playing
Gretel but she’s not performing on Christmas Eve so she can come
and see me and I will get to see her on New Year’s Day. It’s funny
because when I’m on telly I hardly ever watch the shows – I might
do a little bit to see what I’m like or whatever – but with her we
never miss an episode. When she was in Lark Rise to Candleford it
was like a real Sunday treat for us all.
Has coming from an acting family stood her in good
My husband, Paul Bentall, is at the National as well doing
Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens. He does mostly theatre. Ruby has
always hung around in the dressing rooms and she always used to try
on all my costumes and boots and loved that whole thing but she is
the only one of my kids who wanted to do it. I have been really
lucky to make a living at it – the worst bit is not knowing where
your next job is coming from – and the job is really enjoyable if
you can get the work. I just hope she keeps going and can manage to
do it. She has done a lot of theatre and is aware that you
shouldn’t get stuck doing one type of work and that will hopefully
keep you going.
Has ‘getting stuck doing one type of work’ affected
What happened with me was I started doing lots of kitchen-sink
drama and then I did Abigail’s Party, which was a theatre piece but
also on the telly and a very popular comedy. I have continued to do
all sorts of things but mainly serious stuff in the theatre and the
other day, when I was in the supermarket, someone came up to me and
said ‘are you the comedian?’ I went ‘er... yes I suppose so.’ I
don’t think of myself as a comedian. I just think I’m an actor but
I’ve done more and more comedy and you take what you’re offered.
The trouble is people offer you similar things to what you’ve done
before. They certainly do with me. People see you in a certain way.
They think it would be difficult to put me in a serious thing
because people will expect me to make a joke.
Why do you suit comedy roles more?
Somebody said I’ve got a funny face. Even though I’m playing the
fairest of them all on this occasion, I’ve got a face like ordinary
people. Most people don’t look like models. I can look ordinary and
although I don’t think I have got a funny face, I have got a face
that does not have perfect features. It’s down to my looks in one
sense but I also try to make it as real as possible. I don’t have a
clever way of doing anything. I don’t have a clue about comic
timing. It’s just instinct and reacting to the person in front of
you. If people think I’m funny then that’s good. It’s complete
instinct in the same way you would do a serious play but I wouldn’t
have a clue how to teach it.
Janine Duvitski extra time
Personal: Janine was born in Lancaster, Lancashire in 1952. Her
father was Polish.
Family: She has four children, John, Albert and Edith plus
actress Ruby Bentall with her actor husband Paul Bentall.
TV credits: Benidorm, One Foot in the Grave, Dennis Potter’s
Blue Remembered Hills, Brush Strokes, Minder, Midsomer Murders, My
Family, Man About the House, The Georgian House and Z-Cars. Her
most recent prominent role is as Eve in the BBC sitcom The Worst
Week of My Life.
Film roles: Breaking Glass, The Madness of King George and she
also had a small role opposite Laurence Olivier and Donald
Pleasence in Dracula.
Janine Duvitski is in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the
Assembly Hall, Tunbridge Wells, from Friday, December 14 to January
6. Box office 01892 530613. Tickets £15 to £22.
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