Sheffield stage sees tough lives of Wild West

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One of the stars of a popular sitcom set in suburban London has been learning about a completely different kind of life on the frontier of the Wild West for her current stage role in Sheffield.

Belinda Lang, who played the mum Ben in the 1990s BBC comedy 2point4 Children, has been fascinated to learn about the Americans who headed out to the West.

Their lives were the inspiration behind the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.

Belinda is one of the stars of an acclaimed touring production of the show, which is currently at the Lyceum.

Belinda described Aunt Eller, who is the character she plays in the show. Eller is the aunt of Laurey, a young ranch owner whose romance with cowboy Curly is at the centre of the much-loved show.

“She’s an old, tough-headed woman. She’s one of the original pioneers out there on the land that was grabbed from the Indians. It’s not a distinguished past but I don’t think they saw it like that.

“Eller is a widow who lost her husband and had to go and look after her niece who has lost both her parents. That part is in the play but not in the musical.

“She is at the heart of the community and an experienced person and has had to scrape a living for years. It’s a tough life and she’s hacked her way through it.

“I admire the woman, she can’t help the fact that she nicked the land off the Indians. It’s only something I learned about as I read about the period and it wasn’t right at all.”

However, Belinda admired the courage and determination of the settlers: “They had to be pretty brave to go out into the desert.

“Eller would probably have gone out in some old wagon with her husband to a place with no vestiges of familiar life. It must have been pretty scary.

“There was no law, they had to make up their own rules.”

Belinda said that this is her first big musical. “I used to do small-scale musicals when I was young but I ended up not going that way. Getting this part was a bit of a bolt from the blue and it’s very exciting.

“I’ve never worked on a huge stage with a wonderful choreographer, Drew McOnie. I’ve been watching what goes on. It’s stunning.”

She’s been looking forward to returning to the Lyceum, where she’s worked three times before, and added: “I’ve been to the Crucible a lot to see friends and things.

“I’ve always wanted to work there but never nailed a job.”

Belinda’s also been catching up with friends who live near Doncaster.

It’s a long time since 2point4 Children but Belinda still gets recognised for the role. She said: “I don’t mind, it doesn’t bother me at all.”

Oklahoma! is in Sheffield until Saturday. Box office: 0114 2496000 or go to www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk

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