Theatre Q&A: Paula Lane

Actor Paula Lane talks to Josie Hindle about Coronation Street and her role of loveable teacher in the Northern Broadsides performance of Quality Street

Opening tonight at Blackpool Grand, Quality Street is a Northern Broadsides adaptation of JM Barrie’s 1901 regency comedy play. Starring Paula Lane – Coronation Street’s Kylie Platt – as the loveable teacher Phoebe Throssel.

Throssel runs a school for unruly children on Quality Street. Ten years since a tearful goodbye, an old flame returns from fighting Napoleon. But the look of disappointment on Captain Valentine’s face when he greets an older, less glamorous Phoebe, spurs our determined heroine to action.

The play is a wonderful mix of deceit, romance and scandal all wrapped up in a comedic sweet wrapper. Find out exactly why the family favourite chocolates were named after this sensation of the 1900s.

You graduated with a first at the Central School of Speech and Drama. Did it prepare you for the real work of acting work?
I had an amazing three years at Central, it was a huge challenge and culture shock for me coming from a working-class background in a one parent family. It equipped me with the tools and stamina to explore new characters and embrace everything that made me different.

You’re best known for your role in Coronation Street – what are the similarities and differences between soap and stage acting?
Working on a soap is fast-paced and intense. It never stops! You have to be ultra organised with your scripts, often learning lines late into the night before an early morning call. On stage you have the challenge to keep it fresh every night often seven or eight shows a week whilst keeping your voice, body and mind healthy! I really enjoy the rehearsal process in theatre though, where you can explore the world and develop the character over a longer period. Over all though it’s about being believable and committing whilst having trust in those around you.

Do you prefer stage or screen acting?
I love them equally for different reasons. Nothing compares to the adrenaline of an opening night, being up there live and transporting the audience for two or three hours. I love the intimacy of screen, where you get to see what the character is thinking feeling and all in the eyes!

What do you miss the most about working on Coronation Street?
I miss the familiarity, the people and the security.

My go to is the little green chocolate block and I keep getting told off for stealing them as we need to save these ones for the audience.

What is the most difficult part of your job?
Probably riding the lows, when a job doesn’t go my way and having to pick myself up again. My husband [Tom Shaw] is also an actor and we frequently help carry each other along this crazy path!

Tell us a bit about Quality Street.
Quality Street is set in the Napoleonic war, it’s about two sisters who have to find a way to survive after their lives take a different turn. There are many twists in this play and all is definitely not what it seems, with disguise, comedy and tragedy all at play! It focuses on the lengths we go to when in love with lots of scandal and impropriety!

What’s been your favourite aspect of working on Quality Street?
I would say developing the character of Phoebe/Livvy and finding new things even after 90 shows! Laurie Sansom our director encouraged me to let her fly and I will never forget that. Our company of actors have really bonded too, Broadsides definitely picked a cracking bunch.

Were you aware of the play, or just the chocolates? And which do you usually go for?
I saw the production Broadsides did in 2020 unfortunately just before it closed due to the pandemic. I remember thinking it is an epic role for women and that I could only dream of a role that size. Cut to three years later and I’m nearly 100 shows in! Of course I’d heard of the chocolates – my go to is the little green chocolate block and I keep getting told off for stealing them as we need to save these ones for the audience! I didn’t realise that the characters on the tin were the two characters from the play though, Captain Quality and Miss Sweetly.

Is there anything from the period the play is set in that you wish would still be part of life today?
I love the costumes, the hair, zero social media with only nosey neighbours to navigate!

Are you looking forward to performing in Blackpool and what else are you looking forward to seeing while you’re here?
I love Blackpool, I performed at the Winter Gardens with Kinky Boots and always came to see the lights as a kid. I think a company outing to the Pleasure Beach is definitely on the cards and maybe a little dance in the Tower Ballroom.

Quality Street is at Blackpool Grand until 1st July. Get tickets here.

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