Published: 00:00, 15 January 2014
| Updated: 09:05, 15 January 2014
Paula Wilcox is best known for 1970s sitcoms The Lovers and Man About The House. But she has been working steadily on stage and screen ever since and her latest role is in acclaimed play Kindertransport. She chatted to Kathryn Tye ahead of its arrival in Kent.
In the nine months before the outbreak of the Second World War, the Kindertransport ferried nearly 10,000 Jewish children from Germany and Austria to safety in the UK.
It has been 75 years since the momentous mission finished in 1939 and to mark the anniversary, a revival of Diane Samuels’ play Kindertransport is touring the UK.
Written in 1993, it intersperses the story of fictional nine-year-old German girl Eva, sent to the UK on the Kindertransport, with modern events in the late 1980s, as a reluctant mother prepares for the departure of her grown-up daughter Faith.
Paula Wilcox stars as Lil, the British woman who takes Eva in. She was delighted to be offered the role.
She said: “I think it’s a really wonderful piece of work as it takes a really serious and sombre bit of history but tells the story in a very personal and anecdotal way. You can see the effect of those huge world events on ordinary people.
“These children were terribly brave, saying goodbye to everything they knew. And their parents were terribly selfless to send their children away. How heartbreaking.”
Since the play’s debut, it has been performed around the world and used as a set text in schools, prompting a large proportion of young people to attend performances of the revival.
Paula said: “We get quite a lot of kids coming to see it and they really enjoy it. It is kind of an adventure story about a nine-year-old having to make a life for herself and adapt and learn new things.
"I think children who see it identify with that little girl. It’s also quite short, less than an hour each act, and is composed of quite short scenes which move the story on quickly so it doesn’t get boring for young people.”
The show has a small cast of six actors, which also includes Janet Dibley, familiar for appearances including TV series including The Two of Us, Doctors and playing Lorna Cartwight in EastEnders.
Paula said: “It’s a really good ensemble piece because every character is crucial to the story, and it provides great parts for women. There is a strong theme about the nature of relationships between mothers and daughters.”
Kindertransport’s serious subject matter couldn’t be farther from the light-hearted fun of 1970s sitcom The Lovers, which first shot Paula to stardom at the tender age of 21.
The actress, now 64, has enjoyed a long and diverse career since her big break, with a huge range of roles on stage and screen, including a part in Woody Allen’s 2006 film Scoop, starring Hugh Jackman and Scarlett Johansson.
Paula said: “I was just there for a day, but Woody Allen was very impressive. He is extremely generous and his knowledge of filming and what to look for and being aware as the light changing literally from second to second was really interesting. It was fantastic to watch him work.
“I have been very lucky because I have been working pretty consistently down the years. I think the secret of success is to keep going and do your best and in my case to diversify as much as possible.
“I’m not very good at doing the same thing for very long. I like the challenge of new things, so it is great to be getting older and still getting really interesting parts.”
Kindertransport will be at Bromley’s Churchill Theatre from Wednesday, January 22, to Saturday, January 25. Tickets from £10. Call 0844 871 7620.