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Susie Blake, Grumpy Old Women stage show

By KentOnline reporter

Susie Blake’s TV career has included roles in Victoria Wood As Seen On TV, Coronation Street, and Mrs Brown’s Boys – but nothing tops her current stage show Grumpy Old Women for sheer audience hysteria, she tells Jo Roberts.

Grumpy Old Women stars Jenny Eclair, Kate Robbins and Susie Blake
Grumpy Old Women stars Jenny Eclair, Kate Robbins and Susie Blake

Susie Blake may not be a household name, but most of us would recognise her face.

Whether you remember her as the continuity announcer from Victoria Wood as Seen On TV (‘We’d like to apologise to viewers in the North – it must be awful for them’), know her best as Rovers barmaid Bev Unwin from Corrie, or recognise her as Maria’s posh mum in Mrs Brown’s Boys, she’ll be familiar.

“I’ve been very lucky that I’ve been steadily working for years but never pigeonholed,” says Susie, who is appearing in Grumpy Old Women at three Kent venues.

She’s not wrong about being busy – the stage show written by comedian Jenny Eclair, who also stars in the show, has slotted in neatly for Susie after recent work on a TV episode of New Tricks to air in the autumn, and the film Nativity 3 which is due for Christmas release.

“I’ve had such a varied career, but when I’m in my glasses and without make-up no one recognises me. I travel everywhere on public transport now I’ve got my freedom pass,” she giggles, referring to the over-60 status which made Susie perfect to reprise her role in the second touring stage show of Grumpy Old Women, subtitled Fifty Shades of Beige.

The sketch show features three women – the third being TV actress Kate Robbins, from Where The Heart Is and Casualty – comically ranting through topics from the joy of large pants to the rules of middle-aged drinking.

“A lot of people come in groups of girl friends, it’s like a reunion of old girls!

“Though having said that, there was a 23-year-old in the audience last night who was squealing with delight, which was just wonderful to hear.”

The immediacy of the audience reaction is the big reward in live theatre, says Susie.

“There is just a wall of laughter.”

However, it was TV which has gave Susie her biggest breaks. Tabloid interest in the actress was at its height when she played flirty fifty-something Bev Unwin in Corrie from 2003 to 2006.

“I remember leaving the studio wearing a long mac and pulling a shopping trolley whilst on the phone to my son, and there was a long lens camera on me! It was in the Manchester Evening News and I thought, ‘Oh no, have I got to wear make-up every day now?’”

The experience of high profile TV didn’t put her off hit sitcom Mrs Brown’s Boys when the offer came to play Mrs Brown’s nemesis, the snooty Hilary Nicholson.

“The cast welcome you right into the bosom of the family, it’s such a lovely atmosphere,” says Susie. “The show has such warmth.”

The family-orientated focus of Susie’s anecdotes tip you off to the fact that, despite the high-flying career, family comes first.

“I love to keep up with my family, especially now I have grandchildren.’

All this positivity leaves you in some doubt that Susie can convincingly play a grump.

But she begs to differ. “Things do annoy me – all these magazines that encourage us to be thinner and to buy more handbags.

“And who IS Kim Kardashian?!”

A scene from Coronation Street
A scene from Coronation Street

Susie is relishing the chance to tour through Kent, having once lived at a beachside house in Dumpton Gap, near Broadstairs. It belonged to Susie’s grandmother, the actress Annette Mills who appeared in and wrote the music for Muffin the Mule, the famous children’s TV series of the 1940s and 1950s.

“She moved us all down to Dumpton Gap, it was just heaven,” says Susie. “We were just at the top of the slip going down to the beach. I was about four when we left, but we kept that house until I was about 21. All my teenage holidays were spent in Broadstairs, and I do still visit friends in Ramsgate.”

In fact, if it were just a bit closer to London, Susie says she would have made the Kent coast her home by now. “It’s just half an hour too far from London,” she says ruefully.

Susie Blake will be appearing with Jenny Eclair and Kate Robbins in Grumpy Old Women at Assembly Hall Theatre, Tunbridge Wells, on Thursday, May 15 at 8pm. Tickets cost £20. Call 01892 530613.

The show moves on to Chatham’s Central Theatre on Friday, May 23 at 7.30pm. Tickets from £18. Call 01634 338338.

Lastly, it appears at Dartford’s Orchard Theatre on Thursday, May 29 at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £21. Call 01322 220000.

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