Ruth Madoc is starring in Calendar Girls at Storyhouse. With music and lyrics by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth, the show is inspired by a the true story of a group of ladies, who create a Women’s Institute (WI) calendar to raise funds in memory of one of their husbands. Well known to TV audiences as yellow coat Gladys Pugh in Hi de Hi ( 1980-1988) Ruth was visiting Chester for the first time:
How does it feel to be in Chester, border town with your homeland ?
I’m delighted to be here, I’m looking forward to getting a bit of the history, I’ve never been here before. Its one of the few places I haven’t been in England in my career. I want to see some of the Roman stuff here, I did see a programme about Chester a few year ago.
Yes it is on the border, and we can’t do anything about that really !
You’re back on stage after an injury, that must have really taken its toll on you?
Well, at 76, I’m back. I did it on stage in a warm up, I broke a femur in 4 places. I did it in Dublin. I was 2 weeks in a hospital, where they had to give me an emergency operation. We talk about Europe and the EU but the E111(European health card) didn’t work there! In the end the company had to pay for it. Coming back its been very interesting, when I got home to a trauma unit in Swansea, they said I wouldn’t be working for over an year. But the point is, it depends on YOU. I was determined too come back and get on the horse again. You’ve got to get back on it. Its worked, I knew I could get away with a limp with this part because its the older woman. The cast have been marvellous with me.
Tell us about the show. How do the themes resonate with you ?
I did the play for 4 years. I played the protagonist and that gave me a very good insight into all the nuances of this piece. So when they offered me the musical I didn’t want to revisit the subject, but then Tim Firth played me one of the songs.. Its about old age and not giving into it. “Don’t act the colour of your hair , act the colour of your heart”. I just had to do it!
How long have you been in the show for?
It started last July, I lasted until February. I had time out for my injury now I’m back for the last 8 weeks. Its lovely. I think the medics are holding their breath a bit down in Swansea! I have steels right the way through my right side. But it can be done, and you must have a positive attitude to things.
Are you comfortable with the nudity in the show?
Of course! I did it in the film of Under Milk Wood, with Richard Burton in 1968. My scene was actually with David Jason, who I knew very well. So I’ve been used to it.
Do people still say Hi de Hi to you?
Yes, which amazes me! It does actually amaze me after 40 years. We had a reunion two weeks ago, theres very few of the cast left unfortunately. About 60 people turned up in London, a lot of them were techies , sound or props and it was really lovely to see them . Like this show, its very much a family show! Calendar Girls is a family show, its about women that had families and what they did, so women come and see us! I prefer being on tour to the West End because I actually get to know the people, and you might make a friend that lasts for many many years. I’ve had 9 different casts in the play, everybody brings something to their character, something slightly different.
What does the future hold for you?
I’ve promised my family and my grandchildren that I’m not going to do a lot of touring. I might do a bit, but not a lot. Hopefully I’ll do some television. Last year I did a very funny programme called Hard to Please OAPS and it was such good fun.
Thanks to Ruth and Bill Elms Associates.
Calendar Girls runs at Storyhouse until Saturday https://www.storyhouse.com/event/calendar-girls