Lesley Joseph stars in Hot Flush at Playhouse

Lesley Joseph in Hot Flush. Pic: Comp
Lesley Joseph in Hot Flush. Pic: Comp
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EDINBURGH has played a big part in my life,” says Lesley Joseph, iconic man-eater Dorian Green in the smash hit TV sitcom Birds Of A Feather.

“I love it. I’ve played long seasons at the Traverse; won a Fringe First at the Netherbow and over the years have worked at the King’s... the Playhouse... done musicals...

“So I’ve spent a lot of time in Edinburgh,” the actress elaborates.

One of those musicals was a production of Godspell, at the King’s in 1973, alongside Jess Conrad.

However, there is no denying that it was Birds Of A Feather’s stiletto-heeled, middle-aged temptress that launched Joseph into the big time, making her a household name.

From 1989 to 1998 her outrageous character could regularly be found stealing scenes from co-stars Pauline Quirke and Linda Robson in the long-running BBC sitcom written by Marks and Gran that pulled in more than 20 million viewers at the height of its popularity.

Indeed, Joseph’s last visit to the Capital was in a stage version of the show, which led to the TV series being revived after a break of 15 years - although even the stage version, took some planning.

“Producers tried to get me without the girls, then the girls without me,” recalls Joseph.

“I think it was a financial thing, which was just stupid. People must think we don’t talk to each other, but in the end we all decided that if we did it, we did it together or not at all.

“Eventually it came together, but the first script they gave us was terrible, so we said, ‘You can’t do this without the original writers, it just doesn’t work’.

“After a lot of careful preparation we finally got on stage. We didn’t really think about where it might go. But once we started talking, first to the BBC, and then to ITV, who took 15 minutes to make their minds up (they just needed it to be pre-watershed and done by January), it was full steam ahead.”

The ‘Birds’ returned to TV earlier this year, proving such a hit with viewers that the series was quickly recommissioned, but Joseph admits to a hint of nerves ahead of the broadcast of that first comeback episode.

“Having done it, we knew it worked,” she says.

“I think what were more nervous about was whether or not the viewing public would take it back to their hearts.

“In the 15 years since we were last on, sitcoms have changed a lot. You’ve had things as The Office, which were much edgier than ours. But then you also have Mrs Brown’s Boys, which I would call an ‘old fashioned sitcom’, and people adore that.

“So we hoped it would be all right, but we were very nervous before the first episode went out... and look what happened.”

Returning to the role was second nature for the actress.

“I have a very different reaction to it than first time around - then it sort of elevated us up and opened all the doors. To a certain extent the doors have stayed open since, so now it’s just like any another job, as opposed to a life-changing experience, but it is very satisfying to find we have this wealth of love for the characters out there.”

Joseph returns to the Capital, for one night only this evening, when she stars in Hot Flush at the Playhouse.

Described as ‘the naughtiest comedy musical in town’, Hot Flush takes audiences on an hilarious journey, which delves into the friendships, secrets, laughter, tears and ups and downs of four ordinary women and the many men in their lives.

Meet Myra (Joseph), Sylvia (Lori Haley Fox), Helen (Anne Smith) and Jessica (Ruth Keeling), a quartet of feisty menopausal women who get together every Tuesday night at a local bar to offer each other moral support, cry on one another’s shoulders and, of course, most importantly, gossip and malign the men in their lives – 15 of them, all played by Matt Slack.

Myra, a successful barrister specialising in divorce, had always considered herself a together sort of person until she began to develop symptoms of you know what, and her rat of a husband left her for a big blonde bimbo from his office.

Jessica is the wife of a wealthy man who had the perfect life until she experiences something of a mid-life crisis.

Sylvia, has been married to Joe since she was 20 and has been bored with him since she was 21. Now she’s decided that life is for living and is making up for lost time.

Finally Helen, a widow, whose only daughter has left for university, is feeling somewhat lonely but tries to take one day at a time – it’s just that sometimes several days attack her at once.

Collectively referred to as The Hot Flush Club, Myra, Sylvia, Helen and Jessica will not leave a stone unturned or a story untold in the matters of relationships with the opposite sex and the menopause.

“Each character is an everywoman,” explains the actress. “It’s full of vignettes of people’s lives and is very funny.”

Although the show has toured for a number of years now, Joseph promises, “If you haven’t seen us in it, it is completely different.

“We have a stronger bond, it’s very much a team show and just works amazingly well.

“Although there is a script, I’ve been given a bit of leeway in the part where I talk to the audience - it’s almost like stand-up, I can adjust it slightly depending on who I am talking to.”

With a smile, she adds, “I have never heard such huge laughs in anything I have ever done in my life... and I have had quite a long career.”

Hot Flush, The Playhouse, Greenside Place, tonight, 7.30pm, £19.90-£25.90, 0844-871 3014