Oh Carol... | Python star Cleveland answers the questions

Oh Carol...

Python star Cleveland answers the questions

Carol Cleveland, who performed with Monty Python, is currently starring in Rich Hall’s play Best Western, in the Assemby Rooms at 18.05. Here she talks about her role, her memories - and her Botox injections...

This is your first time at the festival, I understand, what are you expecting?

First time I’ve performed here, yes - and I’m expecting to have a great time! Looking forward to doing our show, seeing lots of others, enjoying the festival buzz and strolling around one of my favourite cities.

What's your role in the play?

I play Del, a motel owner, a lady toughened up by life and fighting for survival.

Why did you agree to do it?

I’ve turned down a number of opportunities to do the festival because I never thought the parts were right for me. This one is - I love it. It gives me the chance to get away from the Python mould and prove my other strengths on stage.

What's Rich Hall like to work with?

I’ m really enjoying working with Rich. I’ve worked with so many bad directors who either have no idea of what they want and leave it all to the actor or those who arrive with very set ideas and give the actor no chance to experiment. As a director, it’s a learning experience for Rich too and he’s open to all sorts of ideas. He’s done a grand job! There’s a good company feel about this show.

You're looking great. What's the secret?

Am I? Well thanks! I do work at looking as good as I can. I have exercised regularly all my life, don‚t drive if I can walk, eat the right things and don’t smoke. And yes, I have the occasional Botox jab, too.

How did you get involved in the Pythons?

I was doing a lot of comedy shows for BBC TV, working alongside the likes of Spike Milligan, the Two Ronnies, Roy Hudd, Charlie Drake, etc. and sort of became a glamour stooge there. I believe it was Spike who suggested me to the director/producer of Monty Python. I was signed for four episodes only but after the third one the guys decided they wanted me to stick around!

Who was your favourite to work with?

I have no favourites but I did get on best with John in the early days. It was a joy to work with all of them.

They didn't write especially strong female roles, did they, except for themselves in drag?

They were always apologising for not giving me more interesting roles but they admitted that they just weren’t very good at writing for women, especially younger ones. I think it was because of their public school upbringing.

Do you think your role in the team was properly recognised?

I get lots of fan mail from people telling me I wasn’t, but they also tell me I played an important part and how much they enjoyed my contribution - so that‚s fine with me.

They just sold one of the cacti that ripped your clothes off in a scenefrom the show. Did you consider bidding?

I did - but it was too expensive and also too big to get into my house!

What have you been doing since Python?

I’ve been very busy doing theatre work, mainly in London, touring and abroad. I’ve got two of my own one-woman shows, Pom-Poms Up and War Baby, which I do to fill in the gaps. In fact, I’m planning on bringing War Baby to the festival next year.

What have you learned from researching War Baby?

You’ll have to come and see the show next year when all will be revealed.

Is it frustrating that Python is, to this day, the thing you're still best known for?

It is a bit frustrating at times I must admit, still having to work at shaking off the Python glamour image but it’s a ball and chain I’m happy to drag around. What a great thing to be known for!

What are your memories of Spike Milligan?

Spike was totally unpredictable and so I found my first experience of working with him somewhat nerve racking - but great fun!

And what about Charlie Drake? He had a reputation for being difficult.

Charlie Drake was NOT a joy to work with! Nough said…

Have you ever thought about writing your memoirs?

It‚’s been suggested many times that I should, so maybe I will. Better hurry up though – while I can still remember it all!

With all your experience, you must know the secret of comedy by now. What is it?

There is no secret, but having a sense of humour does help! Either you can make people laugh or you can’t.

Do you watch much comedy these days? If so, what do you enjoy?

I don‚t watch as much as I used to because people don't make me laugh as much as they used to. I miss Eric and Ernie, Tommy Cooper, Kenny Everett, Spike – outrageous, zany, different, naughty but not dirty!

You met the Queen recently, how did that go?

I was invited to a reception for Americans working in London but wasn’t told that I‚d be introduced to her until she was three feet away from me! Trying desperately to remember the correct protocol, I blurted out: ‘Yellow, my favourite colour.” I was later told that the Queen doesn’t wear yellow, she wears gold! Ah well… I still came away with my head intact!

Are there any other shows in Edinburgh you're looking forward to seeing?

I’ve not yet had a chance to peruse the programme but I’ll be taking in as much as I can.

Published: 7 Aug 2007

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