EastEnders star Emma Barton has added a little northern sharpness to the Honey for her role in stage comedy One Man, Two Guvnors.
The actress is a familiar face from her time on EastEnders, playing Honey Mitchell.
In One Man, Two Guvnors, she plays Dolly, a housekeeper who gets caught up in the madness when a group of gangsters descend on 1963 Brighton and two of them take on lovably unreliable rogue Francis Henshall as their minder.
It’s a fast-moving farce full of mistaken identity involving identical twins, with Francis unwittingly causing chaos everywehere he goes.
Emma describes her character as “the housemaid, the looker-afterer. She’s the back-up, the sensible one. She’s a desperate woman who needs a bit of loving, which makes it very funny.
“She’s a feminist, strong character so you get some great one-liners. It’s my first time playing a northerner and I’m absolutely loving it.”
Dolly doesn’t get caught up in any of the slapstick, though. “Not in my heels!” jokes Emma.
Emma says that Dolly would like a nice, hot fireman but is very fond of lead character Francis, who has two obsessions: getting something to eat and keeping his two guvnors apart from each other.
She said that Francis is a bit intimidated by Dolly. “There’s a great scene where he’s totally tongue-tied and he has to make a quick escape at one point.”
The sharp Dolly is quite a different type of character from the soft-hearted Honey.
Would Emma ever go back to EastEnders? “I’d never say never and the door was left open for me.
“I left five years ago and I was there for three years but it only feels like a year ago. I was at the end of my contract and I was leaving anyway.
“I learned so much. My first scene was with Steve McFadden, who plays Phil Mitchell! I’ve done that awful thing, you have to remember you don’t call the actors by their character names. Luckily, Honey is a term of endearment.
“People ask me all the time, ‘When are you going back? You need to look after Billy’, which is really nice.
“I loved my time there and I loved working with Perry (Fenwick, who plays Billy). He’s a sweetheart. Everyone loves the underdog.”
Emma said she keeps in touch with a lot of the cast members that she worked with. “Perry’s been to see me in so many things. That’s lovely.”
She wouldn’t have missed doing the show for the world. “If you get offered an opportunity to work on EastEnders, you’ve got to grab it with both hands. I was so fortunate to have a character created for me.
“I was responsible for dealing with such a serious storyline as the Downs Syndrome baby storyline, which was done brilliantly.”
Honey and Billy’s baby Janet had Down’s Syndrome and Honey struggled to cope and initially rejected her.
She said: “I’ve also become a patron of the Downs Syndrome Association and that’s fantastic. It’s lovely I can feel as if I’m doing something by raising money.
“EastEnders opens so many doors in so many aspects of your life, like taking on a very serious storyline and making people aware of these issues. Soaps are brilliant for that. They deal with it so well.”
She’s having a great time in One Man, Two Guvnors. “What’s lovely about this show is there are some real Carry On moments when you’re looking down the lens of the camera and saying a line to the audience.
“It’s why I think this show is so brilliant, it’s so refreshing and funny but it also takes you back to the older days of comedy. It has non-offensive humour and crazy, huge characters who are fun.”
Talk of Carry On films calls to mind Emma’s former co-star, Barbara Windsor. Emma said: “This part is quite Barbara Windsor, very booby! I can’t do her laugh, though.”
The show has been a massive success at the National Theatre in London and toured round the world but Emma said that tour director Adam Penford lets the actors make the roles their own. “You’re not stepping into someone else’s shoes. We can bring something fresh to the production.”
Emma said that she’s gone backwards and forwards between TV and the stage, including appearances at the Lyceum in Chicago and Doctor in the House, and trained in theatre originally.
She said: “This show is right up my street. I’m so excited I’m in it. I’ve been telling everybody about it, saying everybody has to come and see this show. It’s so brilliant and so funny.
“You’ve also got good music, which is lovely. There’s lots of very, very different characters and it’s the fastest two and a half hours you’ll have in the theatre.”
One Man, Two Guvnors began its run at the Lyceum yesterday and continues until Wednesday, May 24. Tickets: call 0114 249 6000 or go online at www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk