Preview: Maurice’s Jubilee, Pleasance Courtyard

Sheila Reid as Madge
Sheila Reid as Madge
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Sheila Reid is best known as the wonderfully foul-mouthed granny, Madge Harvey, in the hit ITV series Benidorm, but the Scottish actress is no stranger to the Capital, nor to the Festival.

“I’ve been to the Fringe several times,” she recalls - the last time was in 2008, when she appeared in Pornography, which was described as the most shocking play on the Fringe at the time.

“That was a great success and I did Kate Atkinson’s only play, Abandonment there too.

“Sharman Macdonald, a wonderful Scottish playwright and the mother of Keira Knightley, wrote When I Was A Girl I Used To Scream And Shout, which we also did in Edinburgh. I remember, there was a wonderful review in the paper which said; ‘You may call this a play. I call it disgusting’.”

She bursts out laughing, “Which I love. It was quite a challenging piece but I like to do challenging work; to play characters that are unexpected and that have hidden lives.”

Which brings us nicely to Maurice’s Jubilee, in which she stars with the award-winning Julian Glover and Nichola McAuliffe, pictured.

“It’s a very surprising play. All the characters have their secrets. It’s also a very moving play, very funny... a wee bit like a rich fruit cake, it’s very satisfying, but then you come across little unexpected nuts in it and all sorts of surprises, and then on top, there’s icing with lots of things to make you laugh. It’s a real feel good play with depth as well.”

Maurice’s Jubilee runs at the Pleasance Courtyard until August 27, and the 74 years young Reid cannot disguise her delight at being back at the Fringe.

“The excitement of the Fringe is that there are all different types of people mixing together. I suppose I’m the eternal student, I just think you can go on learning. We learn from them and maybe they’ll learn from us. The secret is to do, do, do and keep on learning.”

Of course, no conversation with Reid would be complete without mention of her other alter-ego, Benidorm’s mobility scooter driving Madge Harvey.

“I love her. Imagine being given the chance to say all those things that people long to say. It’s heaven isn’t it? I just open my mouth and out it all comes. She’s so feisty... the world owes her a living and my god she is going to get it.”

The role of the straight-talking northerner has allowed Reid to win the hearts of millions... many of whom are surprised when they learn of her roots.

“The northerners have this wonderful directness about them which I honour and love. People are very surprised when they discover I’m from Glasgow. They’re also very surprised when I talk posh, but that’s an actors armoury, isn’t it?

“I’m just so privileged to be playing a character that makes people laugh and never expected the success that has come - it just hit a vein. It’s thrilling.”

Poignantly, Reid reveals that all her success hasn’t come from a childhood desire to perform, but from a need to escape.

“I was the original little fat girl with crooked teeth and a squint. So I used to go away and imagine that I was somebody else. I guess that was it. I was never the show off or the one that made people laugh... I just needed an imaginary world.”

Maurice’s Jubilee, Pleasance Courtyard, until August 27, 4.25pm, £8-£15.50