The next interview in our stagey chat series is with Catherine Tyldesley, who's currently playing the role of Blanche Barrow in fan favourite musical, Bonnie & Clyde. Catherine is best known for her time on Coronation StreetBonnie & Clyde is currently touring the UK. You can book tickets here.

Get yourself comfy and join us for the next segment of Stagey Chat!

Hi Catherine - thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Can you introduce yourself and the role you play in Bonnie and Clyde?

My name is Catherine Tyldesley and I play Blanche Barrow the wife of Buck Barrow who is Clyde’s brother. She went to prison for the crimes committed, and whilst she was in prison, she kept diaries. Very detailed and informative diaries on which the film and the musical are built upon. Very much the show’s moral compass. She wears the trousers in the relationship. She’s great fun to play. Ivan Menchell who wrote the book gave us some great witty one- liners. She’s an absolute blast to play.

Is there a certain amount of pressure that comes with playing real people that people may already have preconceived ideas about?

Yeah, oh for sure. I want to be as close to the real-life Blanche as possible. We do have creative leeway and there are things in the show that are obviously for entertainment purposes. Reading her diaries was a huge help, I mean it was a huge gift as an actress to get a real sense of who she was through those diaries. I think the thing that comes through with Blanche is how devout she was, not just in terms of her faith but in terms as a wife to Buck. It was almost an obsession for her. Her love was that great and she was willing to do anything for him. So reading her diaries gave me a great sense of who she was but also, of course, what Bonnie and Clyde were like, and what Buck was like as a person. I’ve read her diaries twice and I listen to them all the time on audio when I’m backstage to keep reminding me of things and find new things every time that I’m listening to them again. So, it’s great, really! There is that pressure but it’s wonderful that we got so much to work from.

Did you do any research into your characters when you heard you'd landed the role?

I did do a little bit of research when I got the audition. I kind of fell into a Bonnie and Clyde rabbit hole because I'll be honest, when the audition came in, I'd heard of Bonnie and Clyde, but I didn't know much about them at all. And I've done a few period dramas before, but, you know, delving into the Great Depression in West Dallas, that's specific.  I didn't have a good idea of exactly what it was like. So, you know, I'm a big history buff, I love history. So, again, delving into different eras is just wonderful and fascinating. And it was what it said on the tin. The Great Depression was bleak. There was death around every corner. Crops wouldn't grow. Nobody had anything. I think for me, the research phase of any job is one of the best parts of what I do. 

How has touring been for you so far? Do you prefer a tour as opposed to a fixed theatre home?

I've loved being on tour. It's very tiring and I've got children and a husband, so I really miss them. But I'm loving visiting all these incredible theatres. And you look at the people that have trodden the boards before you in some of these theatres, and it's just insane. You know, when I was in Wolverhampton, Ian McKellen had signed the drawer in the dressing room and I was like, oh my God, this is so cool. So we're getting to play some amazing spaces. A lot of the cities I haven't been to before. So, we're a very close-knit company. We've become a tour family straight away. Everyone is just so lovely. And so, you know, we like to go off and explore and try the local food. And it's been really one of the most incredible experiences of my career so far, for sure.

Have your family been able to see you play the role yet?

My husband has, but most of my family are going to catch it in Manchester, which I think is in about five weeks’ time. I've had quite a lot of friends come and see the show in various cities and I loved it. But yeah, most of my family will come to see it in Manchester, including my little boy, who is also a history buff, and he's very much fallen down the Bonnie and Clyde hole. He finds it fascinating. He's like, "mummy, can I come backstage and see the car and the fake guns?" And he's just really excited. 

Are you gonna let him backstage to see the car and the guns?

Oh, yeah. For sure. He'll love all that. He'll love seeing how everything comes together.

Without any spoilers (although I'm sure most people know the ending), do you have a standout moment from the show?

Oh, gosh. That's a really great question. I do love my scenes with Bonnie, who is played by the incredible Katie Tomkinson. That girl's voice. I keep telling her she's a freak of nature and she doesn't believe me. She is. The range that that girl has got is incredible. But the way that Ivan has devised the script, the tension between the two characters, the differences, the judgement, it's brilliant and very funny. So, I do really relish those moments with with Katie because Blanche and Bonnie are just, chalk and cheese, which is great to play. 

Yeah, they definitely bounce back from each other and you know they have their own willpower in it. 

Which is you know, that is very much creative leeway because in real life they got on really well. Right. They were kind of besties in real life. So that is very much our creative leeway. But it works and it is very funny.

So I haven't written this question down, but I just thought about it. Is there a character, whichever gender, that you wish you could play?

Oh, gosh. In Bonnie and Clyde? Honestly. I loved Blanche the minute I read the script because my roots are in comedy as well. I love the fact that yes, I had heart-breaking, really heavy stuff to do, but I also had some great comedy one liners. So if I was approached and you didn't know the script, read it and said, if they said to me you could play anybody, it would be Blanche. That's probably a really dull answer to your question.

But no, that's an interesting take. Like, you really like that. And she does have some good one liners. Oh my goodness.

Yeah she does.

Another one that I'm going to come up with real quick. What's it like playing against Sam as Buck?

Oh. I feel so lucky. Sam (Ferriday) is a phenomenal actor. He's absolutely brilliant. His voice is incredible. But not just that. He's a very generous actor. I feel very safe with him. I know that if anything was to go remotely wrong on stage, I am extremely well held with Sam. We've got a great relationship where we we trust each other very much so, and we discover new things each night on stage. We have a little play with the characters, and it feels like a really safe and fun space to do that when I'm with Sam. I feel like I've really landed lucky being partnered with him. What he has brought to the role of Buck is he's very detailed. He's a phenomenal actor.

The blog is called Stage to Page. So, with that being said, if you could change or turn any book from page to stage, what would it be?

Oh, my word. That's a great question. There are so many. Do you know what? When I was growing up, it would be different now, right? But when I was growing up, and throughout drama school, my favourite fairy tale, if you will, was Alice in Wonderland. And I always wanted them to turn it into a musical. I don't know if there is one now. I've not looked recently, but can you imagine how fun that would be? That would be.

I'm not a theatre performer. I can sing, I can take a photo, but I don't act. But I would love to be in that.

I mean, you could make it really dark and quirky, kind of almost a little bit Kit-Kat Club Cabaret-esque. You know, it could be. I mean, there's too many to name that I would love to see on stage. But I always remember thinking when I was growing up and when I was training. Oh God, I wish somebody would do Alice in Wonderland

I think you're on to something.

Yeah, maybe right for that.

And finally, why should people get tickets to the UK tour of Bonnie and Clyde?

I think if you are after a night of rounded entertainment that ticks every box, this is the show for you. It has a real adrenaline spike. You're on the edge of your seat, but at the same time, you find this real empathy with the characters. It's a fantastic love story. It's funny. The music is insane. I am a huge fan of Don Black and Frank Wildhorn. Every single song is a corker.

People keep asking me what my favourite number is and I just don't have one. It changes all the time. They're amazing. I just feel genuinely that it ticked every box and I know I'm right because audience feedback has been exactly the same. You know, we've had standing ovations every single show, even the matinees. Reviews have been great. Touch wood. Everyone seems to be loving it. So I do feel that people feel that they are getting a great night of entertainment, and then people keep coming back. You know, there was a girl there the other day that's seen it six times since we've been on tour. And I was like, wow. It's definitely an audience pleaser. And the talent in the cast, our leads, Katie and Alex, I'm still completely agog with them, to be honest. I do stand in the wings thinking: wow, that's insane because they're wo very, very, very difficult things and they make it look so easy. 

You can book tickets to see Catherine in Bonnie & Clyde on its UK tour, here.

Review by Dani

**photo credit: Richard Davenport**

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