Interview: Carol Smillie, actress, TV presenter

Carol Smillie
Carol Smillie
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IT’S just over 18 months since Carol Smillie last appeared at the King’s Theatre in Hormonal Housewives. Next week, flushed by the success of that first run, she returns to the Capital. Although, talking to her, it seems the TV presenter certainly falls into the category of reluctant actress.

“I actually really enjoyed it last time, so I thought why not do it again...” she says, sounding almost surprised. “It has slightly changed which, I guess, makes life more complicated, but never mind, another challenge.”

For those who missed the show first time around, Hormonal Housewives is ‘a piece of entertainment aimed firmly at women of a certain age.’ Think The Vagina Monologues or Menopause The Musical or Hot Flush The Menopausal Musical or even Grumpy Old Women.

In it, the 46-year-old leads the company through the tales of three women battling against weight- loss, weight-gain, mood swings, PMT, pelvic floor exercises, stretch marks, the onslaught of HRT, make-overs, waxing, men, chocolate, upper-lip hair, chocolate, more chocolate and all the other joys of being a 21st century girl.

Last time Smillie brought the show to town she described it as “sexy, with some comedy and lots of informal chat and sketches about everything to do with being hormonal.”

Nothing much has changed except the afore-mentioned few lines, thanks to a freshening of the script.

“They have swapped a couple of the characters around,” she muses, “So, just when you think you are comfortable with it, you find that some of the lines have been taken out, or new ones added in and you think, ‘Oh gosh, better not slip into the old script.”

Co-written by Edinburgh based actress Julie Coombe, who also appears in the production alongside Shonagh Price, Smillie reveals that the re-written parts also include her playing a different role.

For someone who went on record as saying that Hormonal Housewives was a scary experience first time, this tour would prove to be just as daunting were it not for her co-stars.

“It’s what I would class a right old carry on... being on the road with two other girls, but it certainly hasn’t made me want to do more theatre.

“I like to do this because I like the other girls very much; also, it is a tried and tested formula that works, not only with the audience but with each other. We all get on very well.

“I think there can be a lot of egos in theatre, as there can in television, and I think that would make doing another play a very different experience. So, from that point of view Hormonal Housewives is definitely worth doing but theatre in general is a fairly dull and tawdry place to be working around.”

Emphasising her point, Smillie laughs, “I’m sitting here, a skanky old piano in front of me that looks like it hasn’t seen cleaning fluid forever and my OCD is going into overdrive.”

Known for TV shows such as Wheel Of Fortune, The Travel Show, Holiday and The National Lottery, Smillie is best remembered as a presenter of BBC television’s DIY series Changing Rooms and for her stint on Strictly Come Dancing. She also faced up to the man who allegedly made Gordon Ramsay cry in Marco Pierre White’s Kitchen Burnout.

Not that she considers acting in a TV drama would be any easier than appearing on stage.

“Nobody’s ever asked me to... and I’m not sure I’d be able to,” she says candidly.

“Isn’t that terrible? But I’m not sure all other actors are as generous as Julie and Shonagh are with me on this. They help me quite a lot. When I think, ‘How do I play that, they show me or give me lots of clues. I don’t think all actors are quite that generous.”

So, in an ideal world, where does Smillie see herself? “At home... lazy cow,” she qupis. “No, in an ideal world, work wise, it would be lovely to be in a big glamorous TV studio with proper money spent on proper costumes and lighting, but very few opportunities like that exist any more. That is just the way it is, so I will do away with glamour and go with the fun instead.”

Women, Smillie believes, will love Hormonal Housewives for one very simple reason.

“One of our greatest abilities as females is to laugh at our own shortcomings and to see the funny side of our irrational behaviour - even when guys don’t even realise that we are being irrational. That makes this show the ultimate girls’ night out because we are all aware of these moments that we share.

“Not that guys are unwelcome, it’s just that they might not find it as funny as the girls.”

Another thing Smillie has learned from the previous tour is not to be intimidated by Edinburgh audiences.

“I have learned that it’s not that they don’t enjoy it, but that they show it in a very different way. During the show they are quite reserved but when you speak to them afterwards, they loved it. That is so different to Glasgow.”

Laughing, she adds, “There always seems to be a paramedic involved in Glasgow.... I don’t know why that is, but almost without fail a paramedic gets involved. I’m always disappointed when there isn’t one.”

Hormonal Housewives, Festival Theatre, Nicolson Street, Wednesday-Saturday, 8pm, £18.50-£24.50, 0131-529 6000