From Partridge to French hanky panky on the Sheffield stage

Julia Deakin as Bertha in Boeing Boeing
Julia Deakin as Bertha in Boeing Boeing
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She’s smeared Alan Partridge in chocolate mousse but Julia Deakin’s character in the stage comedy Boeing Boeing is strictly a witness to the amorous goings-on at a Paris flat.

Julia, who played Alan Partridge’s girlfriend Jill and was sozzled landlady Marsha in the cult comedy series Spaced, is the permanently bemused housekeeper Bertha in Boeing Boeing, coming to the Crucible next week.

Bertha has to help keep her boss Bernard’s complicated and hectic love life with three air hostesses going smoothly.

In the French farce, set in the 1960s, none of the women know about each other and Bernard uses the airline’s schedules to make sure that they never meet. Inevitably it all threatens to go wrong when things change unexpectedly and swift action has to be taken to keep the girlfriends apart.

Julia said she’s been spotted by Spaced fans: “I’ve been recognised a couple of times in Sheffield. I was looking for a bobble hat in a charity shop when some fans came in and took photos of me. I wish I had been in somewhere glamorous like Fortnum’s!”

The chocolate mousse scene was done live in front of an audience, said Julia: “Steve Coogan insisted on having a live studio audience. Luckily I’d done live TV at the BBC in the 1980s and 90s.

“I was thinking how is this going to work but it worked really, really well.”

She was sad that the character was written out when Alan was given a younger love interest. “I thought she could have got another turn around the block. He could have had both girlfriends.”

Julia joked that Boeing Boeing involves “three glamorous air hostesses and an old git. When I was asked to do the play I immediately thought I’d look good in an air hostess’s uniform.”

Instead, she wears a maid’s outfit.

Julia said that her character weaves in and out of the play, which has lots of high-speed entries and exits, so it’s a job to remember when to come on and off.

In fact, when she was in a West End run of Michael Frayn’s high-energy farce Noises Off, some of the older actors would occasionally forget to come on, especially when the show had been running for a while.

She added: “When you’re on in film or TV, you know it because there’s 50 people standing around you in a room.

“This play is a bit of an experiment for me because I was seduced very early in my career by film and TV. I like to be in bed by 10pm in real life!

“I know that lots of TV and film people are going back to the West End, so thought I should just have a go. I wondered if there was a place for me in the theatre somewhere again.”

She loves the character of Bertha. “She is fun. Everybody else is sexy and optimistic and my character is dour. I think I can identify with her.

“As Bertha you’re the voice of the audience, thinking what the hell is going on, and she’s organising it all, but of course it all does go horribly wrong.” And that’s when the fun starts.

Boeing Boeing is at the Crucible from next Thursday (May 15) to June 7. Tickets: call 0114 249 6000 or go online at