False eyelashes aside, Brian Conley is enjoying playing the role of curvaceous Edna Turnblad in Hairspray, which was until recently filled by his friend Michael Ball. He talks to The Stage’s Mary Comerford about his career highs and lows.
One rare setback came 11 years ago with the death from cancer of his father Colin, which threw Conley’s life into turmoil. “It was something that hit me like a ton of bricks. I was all right for about a year, or so I thought, but I had a lot of feelings welling up and anxiety kicked in. I was trying to push it away and bottle it up, but that made me ill.
“I was the guy who hosted Royal Variety Shows and lottery shows, ad I was feeling anxious picking the kids up from school. It’s worse suffering from those things when you’re an entertainer — but I’m no different to anybody else.”
The full interview is in this week’s issue of The Stage. Also this week:
Conley’s Hairspray co-star Nigel Planer, who plays Wilbur Turnblad, talks about turning his attention to writing, his growing interest in art and the differences in working with a fringe venue (his play Death of Long Pig is currently playing at the Finborough Theatre until August 1).
Irish actor Owen McDonnell has returned to the area where he grew up to play policeman Jack Driscoll in ITV1’s Single Handed, which starts this Sunday. He tells The Stage why this won’t be a cosy view of rural Ireland
With cutbacks and falling investment, children’s television programming is going through tough times. Matthew Hemley finds out about the current state of the industry and what the future holds both for young audiences and those who work in the sector
Boasting an impressive array of highbrow culture shows including operas, Hay Festival coverage and a clutch of live plays, Sky’s arts programming is threating to leave the BBC behind. Ben Dowell asks if the arts can survive on free-to-view television
Addressing the obstacles faced by female playwrights on a daily basis, Lucy Perman, executive director of women’s theatre company Clean Break, gives her perspective on how sexism in the industry can be overcome
Dear John: “Is it really worth doing festival shows, especially small ones, when there are so many other productions — many of them bigger and better funded — going on in the same place?”
Mid-scale touring has become a balancing act between satisfying current theatregoers, attracting new ones and making enough money to stay afloat. Howard Bird finds it’s not just about chasing audiences — management behind the scenes must be clearer if the sector is to achieve its potential
Fifteen years in the planning, German producer Franz Abraham finally realises his dream of creating the chariot race from Ben Hur live at the O2 Arena this September
Backstage focus: We meet the acting students who are receiving training in captioning and audio description to help them understand how theatre can become more inclusive
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