After four sell-out tours, Hot Flush the Musical returns to the stage in 2019 – for the first time in five years – with a major UK Tour, kicking off at the New Theatre Royal Lincoln on Thursday 12 September.
Meet Myra, Sylvia, Helen and Jessica aka The Hot Flush Club, hitting the menopause years disgracefully. Share in the friendships and secrets, the laughs, the tears and the ups and downs of four ordinary women – and one man – living extraordinary lives.
Su Pollard plays Helen in the forthcoming UK tour of Hot Flush The Musical. www.hotflushthemusical.co.uk
What made you first want to become a performer?
When I was about five years old, at infant school, the teacher said, “Now, we’re going to do the nativity and I’d like everybody to put their hands up that wants to be in it.” I put my hand up and she said, “Lovely.” Then she said, “We’ll have you as the Angel Gabriel’s assistant.” I thought, “That’ll be lovely” even though she probably just made the part up.
I had a little mini cardboard-box stage that she had to put loads and loads of Sellotape on to try and make sturdy. I remember standing on this box saying, “Fear not Mary, the Angel Gabriel will shortly be bringing you a present of a child.” And then I fell through the box.
Of course, everybody laughed and I thought, “I quite like being in front of an audience.” I got the bug. Then I joined the choir at school. Then gradually, gradually, gradually, you do more stuff, don’t you?
What’s been your theatre highlight to date?
I absolutely adored being in Me and My Girl. That was terrific. It was already very popular. It was a joy to go out there with every performance just filled to the rafters. I learned how to tap dance for that show. God, that was hard. I’m not a natural dancer. I can move a bit, but when you’ve got to have weight transference… The choreographer would say, “At this point, you tap, step, tap, step, circle, hop. Turn round, turn to the left, turn to the right.” I’d say, “Can we go back to just standing still a minute?” It’s nerve-wracking, but a great skill to learn.
You became a household name in the much loved Hi-de-Hi! Did you have any idea it would go on to run for eight years?
We hoped! While we were doing the pilot, one of the prop masters at the BBC said, “I think this could be a winner.” I never believe anything until it’s proven to be popular. It was freezing cold one day after filming the pilot. Myself, Paul Shane and Ruth Madoc, we were sat on the edge of the bed in the chalet – by the way, they were all real chalets – and Shaney said, “we’ve done our best. That’s all we can do now.” He pulled out a little thimble of whiskey and we all said “Cheers.” I’ll never forget that moment. Within anything new, all you can do is just hope.
All my memories of Hi-de-Hi! are just fabulous. We used to go out to dinner after a day’s filming. The camaraderie with every single person in that company was something. You’re never going to forget moments like that. They will go with me to my grave, they will.
Is Peggy from Hi-de-Hi! your favourite character you’ve played?
I think Peggy Ollerenshaw was all things to all people. Everybody can identify with someone who’s trying to better themselves. She had some very nice traits, and it’d the easiest thing in the world to say, “Yes, Peggy was my favourite”. But actually, she’s probably a neck-and-neck finish with Ivy Teasdale from You Rang, M’Lord? (1988-1993). That was another of David and Jimmy’s shows, but because it was a 50-minute rather than a 30-minute slot, they could write more depth to the characters. I think of those two shows, those two women, as bookends really.
Another label applied to you is “alternative dress icon”…
Oh yes, I could live with that, fabulous! Caitlin Moran said something nice in The Times. She said Su Pollard used to be considered this ridiculous woman because of the way she dressed and now everybody dresses like her in Shoreditch. “There was a woman before her time,” she said. That’s like a vindication. I’ve been through all sorts of styles ever since I was a child, not because something’s in fashion, but just because I like it.
I like showing my imagination. Sometimes people are scared to express themselves, and hope I’m sort of a role model for people who want to be whoever they are. Do you know what? I get stopped in the street all the time by people wanting to know where I got my bag or my dress or whatever. It’s a far cry now from how it used to be. Sixty years ago, my mother would say: “Just walk behind me”.
Does your own experience of the Menopause help you when approaching Hot Flush the Musical?
Most definitely. One of the women in the script says, “I don’t know why I’m like this. This is ridiculous.” I remember feeling that way – it was such a mystery suddenly not knowing yourself any more. When you’ve been through the menopause yourself, you’re so relieved you’re not going through it now. That said, I do feel that it’s given me more insights into absolutely everything.
Hot Flush helps women to laugh about what they’re going through. Why is that important?
You have to laugh in life. I’m not political but let’s just put it this way: we’re not a very happy, united country at the moment. It’s the most marvelous thing for people to be able to come to the theatre and think, “I’m going to enjoy this.”
Everybody, no matter who they are or what they do, everybody feels better when they’re laughing – it releases endorphins. With this particular topic, it’s also helpful for women who might be a little worried or scared. Or women who want to prepare themselves for what’s ahead.
The ultimate message for women is: you’ll all go through this but, don’t worry, it’s natural and you will get through it. There’s one bit where we sing that, “Girls, although you’re going through it, the future will be yours.’” It’s very upbeat.
Should men also see Hot Flush?
Yes, I think men will benefit from the show as well. Sometimes they might be dragged along by their wives and they might not want to go, but they’ll be able to see where the lyrics are coming from. Men should know that they can come without fear of being ridiculed, because we know what they’re going through too while their wives are menopausal.
It’s sad that many men don’t feel comfortable talking to their wives about menopause, they just distance themselves. If only men realised women really need their support. And that’s not all about sex – because, let’s face it, you go right off that. All a lot of women are looking for is a hug and some reassurance.
Tell us about your character.
Helen is a widow who is still very loyal to her late husband, and she has a daughter at university. She’s quite straightforward and likes to just get on with stuff. During the show, Helen realises it’s her time now, time for her to start living for herself – and she embraces what’s happening. When she meets her new Mr Right, she thinks, “I’m going to give this a good go now.” She’s fabulous..
Do you enjoy touring?
I absolutely love it. I really do. I’ve already been to a lot of the places Hot Flush is going on tour so that’s really handy: you know exactly where the theatre is, you know where the Wetherspoon’s is – and that’s vital for bonding after the performance.
Touring is great, as long as you know what you’re in for. It’s all-encompassing so you’ve got to have stamina and you’ve got to establish a proper routine. Once you’ve got things in place, you can just enjoy the rest of it. I’ve enjoyed many years of touring in my career.
How do you feel looking back on your career?
I’ve enjoyed every single thing I’ve done in its own way. There’s always a reason for each thing. I might’ve been in something just because I liked one scene in it. You have to go with that. I’m also really pleased that I’ve embraced every bit of showbiz. Variety is good.
Whatever I do in my life, I like to think, “I’m pleased with that decision”, because then there are no regrets looking back. I have no regrets.
Hot Flush tours from 12 September to 22 October 2019