Belfast Telegraph

Ex-EastEnder Cheryl Fergison talks Ladykillers at the Lyric

Former soap actress Cheryl Fergison is making her Lyric Theatre debut in Belfast next week in a stage adaptation of The Ladykillers from Father Ted writer Graham Linehan.

While the ex-EastEnder - who played the lovable Heather Trott - left the land of soap a few years ago, she has been very busy with numerous theatre roles and admits she's very excited to finally be appearing at the Lyric.

How did you end up being involved in this production of The Ladykillers?

One of the reasons I took this job is because the stage adaptation was written by Graham Linehan, who wrote The IT Crowd and Father Ted so that was a big plus, but also people had said I should come to the Lyric in Belfast.

And I also have a connection with The Ladykillers, as the original film starred Alec Guinness and I was very, very lucky to work with him many years ago - so I always believe that connections like that are for a reason.

What can you tell us about this stage adaptation?

This production is a joy because it is an all-female cast - I am playing the part very man-like, or at least I hope I am  - and it's a joy to do that, it's very freeing and I suppose you can put our own female interpretation on it.

It's a fantastically talented cast in a fantastic theatre and I'm having a ball, it's just great.

People will obviously know the films but hopefully they will enjoy our take on it. We've got an amazing set, cast and crew.

Was the production being staged at the Lyric a huge factor in you becoming involved with the show?

Definitely, everybody I asked about the Lyric said 'you need to go there, it's great'. I came here a long time ago with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the city has changed so much.

Even just coming through the door at the theatre and feeling a warm hello from the people at the box office, it was so refreshing to see a building with genuine warmth.

I saw Red at the Lyric and just thought it was the most fantastic piece I've ever seen.

It's a great community-based theatre and there's a great atmosphere around it. When I see how much the Lyric does in terms of its variety of plays and the iconic portraits on the wall I am in awe.

What can an audience expect on a night out to see The Ladykillers?

I think an inquisitive audience will come and I hope people will think it is a great interpretation of the film.

I've deliberately not watched the movie because I don't want to have that kind of influence in my head, I want to make it my own. Obviously the story is the same but there is a lot of stuff that is different.

Among the cast I'm the only genuine Londoner, the others are all from Belfast or originate from Ireland, and I take my hat off to them because if anything it's me that sounds like the Dick Van Dyke of the group.

We've got a genuinely funny cast who have put their own stamp on the piece - we've got the cream of the crop here.

How has been working with Artistic Director Jimmy Fay?

He's a very laid back directer, some directors have a very firm plan in their head about what they are doing with very little room for outside input, but with Jimmy we seem to have been allowed to question his ideas - he'll think about them and come back the next day and say, 'nah, I dont think it's right' or he'll come back and say 'that was genius'.

So he's very generous in how he allows you to work and he's very calm. He's so laid back he could fall over to be honest, and I don't think that's a bad thing in a directer.

You're best known for your role in EastEnders, do people still recognise you?

For the last couple of years I've been doing musicals and theatre but I've also been doing bits and pieces of television here and there.

And I think because people haven't seen me on screen they might think I've disappeared, but now and then I'll be walking down the street and they'll go 'you're Heather from EastEnders, or we saw you in that musical'.

I don't think still being remembered for EastEnders is a bad thing, it's been a few years now and in a way I hope she's never forgotten because it was a fantastic character to play.

Did you enjoy your time working in soap?

As an actor if you get the chance to play as many emotions within the one character it's great.

That's what EastEnders gives you, the chance to have your Hamlet moment and you can't ask for anything more.

Are you enjoying Belfast?

I absolutely love Belfast, I think it's a totally different place from when I was here before and people are so friendly.

The only thing I'm having trouble with is the accent, which goes extremely fast. I've never heard anything like it, but you wouldn't be the people you are without that accent.

The Ladykillers also stars Maria Connolly, Jo Donnelly, Julie Maxwell, Stella McCusker, Abigail McGibbon, Nuala McKeever and Christina Nelson.

The production runs at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast from Saturday, June 10 – Saturday, July 8.

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