Monday, 1 December 2014

Interview: Charlie Brooks

Next year Charlie Brooks will star as Sandra in Nikolai Foster’s anniversary production of Jonathan Harvey’s Beautiful Thing. 

Following a successful West End run and short tour last year, the play will tour the UK again from March 2015. Beautiful Thing is a glorious urban love story between two young men set on an inner city housing estate. 

Best known for starring as Janine Butcher in EastEnders, Charlie won the 2012 series of ITV’s I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here as well as the 2011 Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special. 

On stage Charlie has played Dabby Bryant in Our Country's Good (Liverpool Playhouse), Betty in Dangerous Corner (Windsor Theatre Royal) and Rose in The Play What I Wrote (UK Tour). Charlie’s extensive screen work has seen her make appearances in: Wired, Robin Hood, Love Soup, Heartbeat, Casualty, Angel Of Death, London's Burning and The Bill, amongst others. 

Last week, after the first Beautiful Thing read through and cast meet and greet, I spoke to Charlie about why Beautiful Thing means so much to her, why she can’t wait to get going with rehearsals and why she’s been itching to do more theatre…

How much did you already know about Beautiful Thing?
Everything! I knew everything!

When did it first have an impact on you?
It was a really important film for me when I was younger at school. I went to an all-singing, all-dancing school and had a lot of friends who were coming out. I watched the film hundreds of times and was slightly obsessed by it [laughs]! I was definitely one of the cult followers! 

Charlie poses with Thomas Law (Ste) and Sam Jackson (Jamie)

Did you always want to be in it?
It’s so weird because I always sort of knew I would do it one day and I always knew I would work with Jonathan (Harvey) on something somehow… so when this came along I was like, “yes, yes, yes”! I have always wanted to play Sandra, I just had to wait until I was old enough! 

Have you been wanting to do some theatre?
Yes, I came out of EastEnders because I really wanted to do more theatre and this couldn’t really be a better production for me at the start of my theatre career. The characters are fantastic - it’s funny and then it’s sad, the writing is just brilliant! It flows so beautifully and Sandra is such a feisty, warm character. When I found out I would be playing her I was so thrilled and so happy. 

"I have always wanted to play Sandra, I just had to wait until I was old enough!"

What I love about Beautiful Thing is the balance between fun humour and touching drama. What do you think people who haven’t seen the show or film will go through when they come and see this production?
I think they will go through a whole array of emotions. You will feel like the cast and characters are your friends, they have all got some fantastic lines – some of the funniest lines I have ever read! I just hope I can do them justice! It makes you think, it’s great when a piece of theatre has an impact on you like that. After seeing Beautiful Thing you will go away with so much to think about. You will laugh a lot and probably cry.

Nikolai (Foster, director) is so passionate about the piece. I know you haven’t started rehearsals yet, but what has it been like to meet him and discuss the play and character?
I just can’t wait to get into rehearsals with Nikolai, he’s done so many amazing things so it is a huge honour to be working with him. I’m really excited to start working with him properly because as soon as he starts talking about the play you can tell that it means so much to him. I know a couple of the cast worked on it at school and studied the film and did it for A level so it’s really nice that it is a special play for all of us… we all frickin’ love it [laughs]!

So you’ve just met the people you are going to be working with for the next few months… 
I know! We are going to be living and breathing each other! 

Has it been nice to finally meet everyone?
It’s great! I obviously knew Thomas (Law) because we worked together a few years ago (on EastEnders) but everyone seems really great and I think they’re all going to smash it!

Are you excited about seeing how the different cities react?
I think the reactions will vary but I don’t know what to expect! That doesn’t scare me – I mean doing theatre scares me – but I think challenging theatre and challenging people is really important. It’s going to be very interesting to see what all the different responses are like. 

Why have you been wanting to do more theatre?
Because I haven’t done much theatre; I did Our Country’s Good in Liverpool. I just love being in the rehearsal room and having the time to sit down and go through the script… it’s just so rewarding! This sounds so actressy, but there is an enormous amount of freedom when you’re onstage. It’s also nice to be challenged in a different way.

Is there anything else you’ve been burning to do?
Oh gosh! I’m just about to start a new play which is going to be very different to this! It’s really nice because I’ve always wanted to work on a new play with the writer, workshop it a little bit and see where we go. I’m really looking forward to doing that and I really want to continue to challenge myself in different ways by taking on different roles.

Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

The Beautiful Thing UK Tour opens at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury on 23rd March 2015. The tour then visits Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham, Leicester and Cardiff before concluding in Brighton at the Theatre Royal on 25th July 2015. Please visit for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit 2&3: Anton Belmonte

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