Friday, 26 April 2013

Lisa Riley Talks Strictly Confidential

Over the decade since it began on television Strictly Come Dancing has never failed to surprise its audience with the dancing capabilities of some of its celebrity competitors. However in last years series, actress Lisa Riley was probably even more surprised than her audience.

“The whole experience was a surprise,” laughs Lisa who was paired with professional dancer Robin Windsor throughout the series, “I only expected to last two dances so getting to the semi-finals totally blew me away. The support was great, not only from everyone on the show but the viewers too, so even though people were upset when I got voted off, I just wanted to keep on learning.”

Lisa particularly got lots of encouragement throughout the show from Craig Revel-Horwood, the country’s most notorious entertainment judge and not usually the easiest of people to please when it comes to dance. However he quickly warmed to Lisa’s flare and presentation on the dance floor.

“Craig and I hit it off straight away,” says Lisa, “We’ve since worked together on the arena tour so I’m looking forward to working with him on Strictly Confidential.”

Strictly Confidential will give theatre audiences the chance to get up close and personal with some of the stars of the show. Lisa will be paired with professional dancer Artem Chigvintsev, while Natalie Lowe will be joined by Ian Waite. The dance couples will take fans on an intimate journey into their backgrounds and motivations live on stage, giving audiences a personal insight into what led them to their Strictly Come Dancing adventure.

The brand new show has been written and directed by Revel Horwood, “Craig has devised a show that will provide a new insight into Strictly featuring, singing, acting, narration and questions from the audience,” says Lisa.

I ask Lisa if she had a particular favourite dance she performed while taking part in Strictly, the bubbly actress is quick to answer, “My favourite was my foxtrot, that was like performing on Broadway and I’ll let you into a little secret, I think we’ll be doing it again on stage.”

Has Strictly Come Dancing opened up a new avenue for the actress who was once famed for playing the notorious Mandy Dingle in the TV soap Emmerdale?  “I’ve had a busy career since Emmerdale“replies Lisa, “Rebecca in Fat Friends was undoubtedly my favourite role but my Strictly experience is up there with that.”

Lisa continues to work hard and although her talent for dancing appears to have come to the forefront of her career, she remains busy in presenting TV shows and acting, more recently in an episode of George Gently.
She still has some ambitions too, “I’d love to play a cook in one of those classic dramas, you know, the ones that work downstairs with no teeth” she laughs.

  • A version of this interview by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus Entertainment section The Guide during April 2013.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Still A Number One Performer - Max Boyce Interview

Entertainer Max Boyce is still at the top of his game some 43 years after the release of his debut album. His current tour, which begins on April 6, is already selling out across Welsh venues resulting in him adding a date at Ebbw Vale’s Beaufort Theatre on April 28 to meet with popular demand. “The tours are amazing, it’s as big for me in Wales now as ever,” says Max. “Every tour has sold out, the other theatres want more as well, but I can’t fit them in”

Glynneath born Max needs no introduction to those familiar with his comical poems and songs of mining communities mixed with a passion for Welsh Rugby since the 1970s. “I’m everything,” he says when asked how he defines himself, “I’m not a comedian as such, it’s always been difficult for people to categorise me which is good.”

Much of Max’s inspiration is drawn from his first-person experience of working in the mines during the 1960s. “It certainly inspired some of my early work,” he says, “I've always thought it best to write from personal experience, you can never get it right if you write it second-hand. It gave me a real insight into the industry that made Wales what it is. People can identify with the songs all over, the North East, Lancashire, Yorkshire, all these places have huge mining communities, and it struck a chord with everybody.”

Incredibly however, Max didn't set out to be a performer, “I never had any ambition to be an entertainer or to perform. It was that time in the late 60s, early 70s where everyone seemed to have a guitar. I bought a guitar for four pounds, something just for my own amusement really and started singing folk music. Id always loved folk music and poetry and that went hand in hand. Gradually I started writing what I knew about never thinking it would touch so many people’s lives.”

Max came to national prominence following the release of his Live in Treorchy album in 1974, but the recording of that groundbreaking LP wasn't straightforward. . “Of course no-one had heard of me,” he laughs, “no-one would buy the tickets and they were only 50p. They gave them to the choir and the rugby club, saying, “There’s this lad from across the valleys coming to record an album, will you come?” They came and that was the audience.”

In 1975, his follow up album We All Had Doctors Papers shot straight to Number One in the album charts. “It was the only comedy record (album) ever to go to number one. I was up there with The Beatles and The Stones and it was just incredible to see my name above them albeit for only three weeks.”

Max’s popularity has continued to endure since the heady days of the 70s, his personal highlights including personal appearances at Rugby ceremonies in Cardiff, Wembley and Sydney Opera House.

Following Wales recent win, I ask Max if Rugby fans will be getting new material inspired by the game as part of his latest tour “You Will” he enthuses, “It was fantastic to lose the first game and then not to lose again and end up champions was amazing!”

Max will also be adding some old favourites to the mix too “I tried at one time to change the whole thing and people come up to you and go “why didn't you sing that?” They've become like old friends some of the songs!”
  • This interview by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus  entertainment supplement The Guide during April 2013.
  • Visit Max Boyce Official Website