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Beverley Callard on the Sleeping Beauty panto in Norwich

Beverley Callard plays the Evil Fairy in Sleeping Beauty at Norwich Theatre Royal. Picture: Norwich Theatre <i>(Image: Norwich Theatre/Richard Jarmy Photography)</i>
Beverley Callard plays the Evil Fairy in Sleeping Beauty at Norwich Theatre Royal. Picture: Norwich Theatre (Image: Norwich Theatre/Richard Jarmy Photography)

We chat to Norfolk resident, Beverley Callard who will be making sure audiences at this year’s Norwich Theatre Royal pantomime are wide awake

‘I’m hoping I’m not going to be too frightening!’ laughed the actor who played barmaid Liz McDonald in Coronation Street for 32 years and is about to transform into an Evil Fairy.

‘I’m a bit old for princesses and the goodies are not as interesting to play anyway,’ said Beverley, who moved to Norfolk last year. ‘They are all a bit drippy. The more boos I get the better!’

She is thrilled to be starring in her local pantomime.

‘I love living here and I love the way the theatre is such a traditional one and the panto is so family orientated,’ she said.

The Theatre Royal version of the fairytale follows the Queen (pantomime dame stalwart Richard Gauntlett returning for his 23rd Norwich panto season) and the Good Fairy (brilliant Norfolk-born Joe Tracini) on their journey to save Sleeping Beauty (Millie O’Connell, one of the original queens in SIX the Musical) from a century of sleep, with a prince (Hamilton star Karl Queensborough) in tow and frustrated at every turn by the Evil Fairy.

Great British Life: Sleeping Beauty, The Fairy's Tale is this year's Norwich Theatre Royal pantomime. Picture: Norwich Theatre/Richard Jarmy PhotographySleeping Beauty, The Fairy's Tale is this year's Norwich Theatre Royal pantomime. Picture: Norwich Theatre/Richard Jarmy Photography

‘I’m so looking forward to a live audience,’ said Beverley. ‘I love television as well, but I love the feeling that comes back from a live audience whether it be a straight play, a comedy or panto. You instantly know their reaction.

‘And the more they boo me the better, I can’t wait!’

Beverley left Coronation Street in 2020. ‘I loved playing Liz. Her scripts were amazing. She was never boring, ever. But I just decided that it was time. Mainly because I wouldn’t have been able to do things like this and I needed to do other things. So I made the massive decision to leave for good after 32 years.’

Suddenly she no longer needed to live near the studio and, eager for a new start, realised she could relocate.

Great British Life: Coronation Street star Beverley Callard moved to Norfolk last year. Picture: Supplied by Norwich Theatre/Richard Jarmy PhotographyCoronation Street star Beverley Callard moved to Norfolk last year. Picture: Supplied by Norwich Theatre/Richard Jarmy Photography

After Beverley and her husband, Jon, visited a friend in Rollesby, near Yarmouth, they decided to move to Norfolk.

‘As we were driving home we just said, ‘It’s amazing around here. We sold our house in the north, and found a house here, in the Waveney valley, near Beccles,

‘It’s very different from the cobbles of Coronation Street! And I also I don’t have to prance around in a Wonderbra and a mini skirts. Never again!

‘Where we live is amazing. We have a pond in our garden and 17 ducks that come and tap on our window to be fed. We spent a fortune on duck food! Our two dogs have no prey drive and just stand next to the ducks.

It’s not a great grand house, it’s a very normal house, but it’s surrounded by fields.

‘In a way Norfolk is a new start. I had very severe clinical depression in 2010. I was hospitalised and very heavily medicated. I had to undergo 12 sessions of electro convulsive therapy and Jon became my carer. I was in hospital for months and very poorly after that. Consequently our income dropped and we had massive financial problems.

‘Norfolk has given me a new beginning. The pace of life we have now is a little bit slower and I love that. I was told off by a canoeist for speeding. I was doing six miles an hour instead of four. I won’t make that mistake again!

‘We have bought a boat on the Broads, a 30ft Broads cruiser from 1977.

‘We have ripped the inside out and we’re doing it up. Honestly we love it. If I could afford it I’d do that all the time. We love doing houses up and knocking walls down. And if I could afford it I would have no make-up on for the rest of my life. I’d have broken nails, jogging pants and just be doing loads of plastering and all that!’

Although she says she will never return to Coronation Street, she is grateful for her dramatic storylines. ‘One that springs to mind is when Liz was married to Jim, the mad Irishman. I was a battered wife. He battered Liz and we shot it at 2am in winter. I had to lie in the snow in a backless lycra minidress. I’ve never been so cold in my life. Just before the episode was screened, all the media found out and the main News at 10 said if you see a woman lying near a road in a mini dress, it’s Liz. Help her! Help her and give her a lift. For that episode we got 27.2 million viewers.’

She said she got almost as cold taking part in I’m A Celebrity in 2020 when the steamy Australian jungle was replaced by a wintry Welsh castle.

Great British Life: The children starring in Sleeping Beauty, The Fairy's Tale at Norwich Theatre Royal. Picture: Richard Jarmy Photography/Norwich TheatreThe children starring in Sleeping Beauty, The Fairy's Tale at Norwich Theatre Royal. Picture: Richard Jarmy Photography/Norwich Theatre

READ MORE: Norwich child panto star Cameron Eiko Scott

‘The worst thing was the creepy crawlies, I’m an arachnophobe. Also it was absolutely freezing and the shower was a watering can with tepid water. It was horrendous trying to wash the bugs out of your hair under the drip, drip, drip. Horrible!

‘The best part was the people. After the first few episodes the producers said we were all getting on too well and were going to mix it up, but because of Covid and everything everyone had been through, they wanted it to be more feel-good television. The 12 of us will be friends for life.’

But Beverley said her real love is acting. ‘I don’t really enjoy appearing as Beverley. I’m not a presenter. I'm an actor. What I love about my job is getting the script and you know a writer has agonised to get the words on the page, whether it be a panto or Shakespeare, or Checkov. My job is to make those words become a real person and I love that.’

This Christmas she has plenty of pantomime villainry to have her wicked way with. Between shows she will be enjoying a family Christmas. She has been married four times and she and Jon, a builder, have five children and six grandchildren between them. ‘I am like a child at Christmas. I absolutely love it,’ she said.

Sleeping Beauty, the Fairy’s Tale, runs at Norwich Theatre Royal from December 9 to January 7. norwichtheatre.org

READ MORE: Christmas shows and pantos in and around Norfolk 2023



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