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Sarah Thomas - From Summer Wine to Dear Mr Kennedy



Interview by David Munro

KNOWN to thousands of viewers as Glenda, wife of Barry of the Building Society and the downtrodden daughter of the steely Dame Thora Hird in Last Of The Summer Wine, Sarah Thomas epitomises the repressed, if loyal housewife.

When you meet her, as I did to discuss her forthcoming appearance in Dear Mr Kennedy…. at the Hen and Chickens Theatre, you realise that real Sarah Thomas is the antithesis of Glenda.

She is attractive, vivacious with a spontaneous warmth which dispels any whiff of 'Luvvydom' which so often hangs round successful actresses.

While she was happy to discuss her television roles (apart from Summer Wine, she has made guest appearances in Heartbeat, The Bill and Rumpole of the Bailey, etc) she made it clear from the outset that she is a stage actress and although she enjoys her character of Glenda and all that goes with her, her real love is the live theatre.

Summer Wine being a filmed series allows her the time to indulge herself between series 'on the boards'.

When asked how long she had played Glenda she was not exactly sure, but we worked out it must have been for at least 18 years - she being specially selected for the role of Dame Thora Hird’s daughter when Dame Thora joined the series.

She particularly cherishes her time in the annual Pantomime which she tries to do as often as she can. She has just finished a successful season at Grimsby, a place which, as she hastens to tell you, is far nicer than its reputation and has great audiences.

Her stage career has been varied between Shakespearean dramas – she has played Ophelia in Hamlet - and Drawing Room Comedy (Cecily in The Importance Of Being Earnest).

She is anticipating with pleasure her forthcoming role in Dear Mr. Kennedy.. which the authoress, Mary Rensten, wrote especially for her.

She has been involved in the various developments of the play and its plot, which she refuses to divulge other than that she plays a character who adopts a new persona for purposes of plot; a role which she finds challenging and rewarding to play.

Her director, Martin Cort, is a friend from the time they both appeared in Rotherham in The Glass Menagerie – he, as the Gentleman Caller, she as the Crippled Girl - and she feels confident he will do justice to the play and her performance.

I asked her, apart from Summer Wine, which part she had most enjoyed playing on television and she replied without hesitation Enid Simmons in Worzel Gummidge with Jon Pertwee and Una Stubbs; adding that must date her!

While that particular piece was a few years ago, Sarah is one of those people you do not connect with the passage of time.

She wears her years gracefully and at time looks young enough to be Glenda’s daughter. She clearly has a great Joi de Vivre, being lively and animated and clearly full of gratitude and love for her profession.

While one must hope, as obviously she does, that one day she may star in a series of her own, for now she is one of those actresses whose appearance enhances whatever piece she may be in and by her presence gives it a certain stature.

I feel sure, therefore, that whatever the future of Dear Mr.. Kennedy … may be, she will not fail her author, director and, most important, of all her audience.

Dear Mr. Kennedy … by Mary Rensten opens at the Hen And Chickens Theatre, St Paul's Road, Highbury Corner, Islington on April 5, 2005. Directed by Martin Cort with daily performances at 8pm Tuesday to Saturday ;- Sunday 4pm (No performance Monday)

The plot involves a secret identity, an illicit love affair and a correspondence between Janet Owen and an elusive politician, Mr. Kennedy.

(The authoress is at pains to emphasise that this character is purely fictitious and is not based on any person, alive or dead, and is not to be taken to depict any character in the forthcoming general election!)

Apart from Sarah Thomas in the leading character of Janet Owen , the cast includes Charles Neville, Wendy Windle, Richard Myrad and Kenny Reid.

The telephone number of The Hen And Chickens box office is 020 7704 2001.

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