Su Pollard looking forward to getting back to Buxton
The last time Su Pollard was in Buxton it was 20 years ago and The Crescent had not yet been transformed into the luxury hotel it is now.
The actress is now looking forward to returning to the town this weekend and planning to enjoy afternoon tea and shopping in the Cavendish Arcade.
Su, who has enjoyed a career which has spanned more than four decades, is heading to the Pavilion Arts Centre for her one-woman show Harpy where she plays a woman who hoards things much to the distaste of her neighbours.
When the Buxton Advertiser spoke to her she was busy going through her lines ahead of her performance.
She said: “I don’t do shows every day so it’s important to keep on top of everything.
"The show is very intimate. It's just me on stage with the beautiful props and the voices of other off stage actors.
"Which is why I’m looking forward to playing at the Pavilion Arts Centre. It's a venue I’ve never played before and due to its smaller size compared to the opera house it will be perfect for Harpy for that close connection with the audience.”
The part was written with Su in mind by her friend and colleague Philip Meeks.
She said: "It’s a step away from what people might normally recognise me from but sometimes you have to take on a role which stretches you as a performer.”
National treasure Su, who starred in Hi-de-Hi and You Rang, M'Lord? plays Birdie who is a hoarder.
The neighbours call her a harridan and a harpy, although most have never even met her.
They see her hoard as a hazard for house prices. But it is not rubbish. It is her life’s work on display to see.
She said: “We did a lot of work and research on this as we wanted to get the tone right and I think it’s beautifully written.
"There’s moments when she forgets to take her medication and her mental state becomes worse and abusive to her social worker.
"Speaking about mental health is very important so I’m glad I am able to do this and highlight some of the issues surrounding people like Birdie.
"I know some social workers have seen the play and said we’d done a good job of portraying the beauty and the sadness so that makes me feel like I’m doing the job properly.”
Su says her performance in Harpy is guided by the ‘wonderful’ director Abigail Anderson.
“She keeps me on the straight and narrow.
"Being the only person on stage means I can sometimes forget a cue or hand gesture but Abigail keeps me on track.
"However, being a one-woman show does have its benefits though. I can set the pace for how I want the scene to go.
"It’s the sets which really bring the show to life, it's so beautifully creative and really tells the story with her hoarded items.”
Su was last in Buxton for a performance of Pirates of Penzance almost 20 years ago but still has fond memories of the town.
She said: “We stayed at the Old Hall Hotel and they were great. I remember they kept the bar open after the show and we sat eating chip butties.
"I can’t wait to walk around the Conservatory in the Gardens. I remember that being really rather special.
"When I was there last The Crescent wasn’t open yet so it would be lovely to have a look in there – I bet they do lovely afternoon teas.”
As Su does not have to rush on for her next performance she plans to have a wander around Buxton's independent shops and says it’s these shops which make the town special.
"And the water of course!” she joked.
“When I was here for Pirates there was a woman at the fountain filling up these huge containers full of water – she caused a right queue but obviously it’s water worth waiting for.”
The 71-year-old says she is happy to get back to performing after the past 18 months when the theatres were shut and said she kept herself busy with lots of reading and reflecting on how fortunate she has been.
She said: "At the beginning it was nice to not have to rush from town to town for a run of shows, it was nice to take the time and breathe.
"Lockdown happened in the 21st century so everyone was just a phone call away so you could still feel connected with people.
"Now hope is on the horizon, everything feels much more normal again and I’m thrilled venues are opening back up again although there are some which I know aren’t opening up until next year which is a shame.”
Speaking about her love of performing she added: “It’s a true privilege to go out and work and put on a performance for people.
"Every person who comes to see me or watch a film, or go out for a meal is spending their hard earned wages and I only ever want to put on something that is value for money and makes people happy to have come out.
"I really feel like Harpy is not only value for money but will leave the audience with questions about their lives. Like do they really need to store those three sofas they are never going to sit on again in the garage for decades on end?
"It’s also hopefully going to stay with people and remind them to be kind to others as you don’t know what a person is going through.”
Harpy is at the Pavilion Arts Centre, Buxton, on Saturday October 23 at 7.30pm. Tickets, priced at £23, are available from the website at https://buxtonoperahouse.org.uk/event/harpy or by calling the box office on 01298 72190.