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Hayley Tamaddon: My teachers said I’d never make it

She might be playing the hardened teacher who tries to hamper the main star’s dreams, but as Hayley Tamaddon returns to her home town to perform in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, she remembers being on the receiving end of those doubts. Hugh Montgomery writes.

Whether playing familiar soapy characters, appearing as herself in Dancing on Ice, or delighting young audiences as a panto fairy, Hayley Tamaddon has always lit up the stage and screen with her natural warmth and charm. So she’s performing quite the switch-up with her new stage role, playing someone relatively cold and unsympathetic for once – cynical teacher Miss Hedge in a new tour of hit musical Everybody’s Talking about Jamie.

The story of a teenage boy in Sheffield who wants to be a drag queen, Miss Hedge is the main antagonist, out to quash poor Jamie’s showbiz dreams.

“I am not cold,” says the Blackpool-born actor, confirming what a leap the character is for her. “I am huggy and warm and want to cuddle everybody – whereas she’s just a bit over life.”

In fact, Tamaddon first played Miss Hedge in the West End production of Jamie back in 2019 and despite her cool character, it’s proving a joyful return to the role.

“Even though I’m a few years older, I’ve apparently still got the moves,” she laughs, during a break from rehearsals. “I’m dancing around on tables – and I get to rap, which brings out that inner Vanilla Ice in me.”

For her Miss Hedge is not a villain but someone who has simply been beaten down by disappointment – and has more in common with Jamie than it might seem.

“The way I see her, she’s a really frustrated club singer. That’s all she wanted to do, but she couldn’t because there was no money, and she ended up going into teaching to make a living. She looks at Jamie as this kid she kind of sees herself in a little bit, but she can’t let that side out.”

Miss Hedge also reminds Tamaddon of teachers she encountered as a young kid growing up in Bispham who was desperate to perform.

“I did have one teacher, Mrs Crossley, who was ace – she used to tell me ‘be whatever you want to be, go dance, go sing’. But a lot of teachers said ‘you’ll never make it Hayley, it’s too difficult, don’t try and do it’ – and that just made me want to do it even more.”

From baby ballet classes onwards, Tamaddon never looked back. After graduating from drama school, she went straight into a West End musical, landing a role that would change everything for her –the lead in a Sheffield revival of A Chorus Line. Amid the audience for that show was Emmerdale’s casting director – and so it was that she landed the part of the irrepressible Del Dingle.

The more towns we can get this show into, the more parents are educated, the more kids watch and go ‘I did bully that other kid at school, I should stop that’.

Alongside her successful telly career, Tamaddon has continued to tread the boards, appearing in the likes of Chicago and Thoroughly Modern Millie as well as returning home to do panto, of course. What she says is particularly special about Jamie, however, is the sheer passion of its fans.

“It has the biggest fanbase that I have ever known in any show. They hold parties for the cast, and they are very prominent on social media, so if anybody in our company was getting grilled by anybody, that fanbase would step in. So we’re very lucky to have that.”

And Tamaddon can’t wait for the show to now pick up new fans all around the UK – particularly because of the powerful statement it makes about tolerance and self-expression.

“The more towns we can get this show into, the more parents are educated, the more kids that watch and go ‘I did bully that other kid at school, I should stop that’ – the more we can get the word out there, the better.”

As for what else Hayley has in the pipeline? Well, she’s currently writing a TV comedy, inspired by her own life. Meanwhile, she says she’d be interested in going into the I’m a Celebrity jungle – “in terms of reality shows, that would be the funniest, because I’m scared of everything,” she laughs.

When it comes to Jamie, however, she has no qualms about what lies ahead.

“Of course I get stage nerves on opening night and the first few nights but you turn over the energy, and they become exciting nerves and it feels wonderful. You should never stop feeling like that.”

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is at the Winter Gardens 21st-25th November. Info and tickets here.

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