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Ruth Madoc on going nude and returning to Norwich in Calendar Girls

PUBLISHED: 13:50 26 November 2018

Ruth Madoc Credit: Darren Bell

Ruth Madoc Credit: Darren Bell

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From starring in classic TV sitcom Hi-de-Hi! to stepping out on stage in Calendar Girls The Musical, acting legend Ruth Madoc has had a ball in her 60 years in show business.

Front: Tim Firth, Gary Barlow, Back: Rebecca Storm, Fern Britton, Sara Crowe, Denise Welch, Ruth Madoc, Karen Dunbar, Anna-Jane Casey Credit: John SwannelFront: Tim Firth, Gary Barlow, Back: Rebecca Storm, Fern Britton, Sara Crowe, Denise Welch, Ruth Madoc, Karen Dunbar, Anna-Jane Casey Credit: John Swannel

When Ruth Madoc takes to the Norwich Theatre Royal stage in Calendar Girls The Musical in February, it will be something of a homecoming for the former Hi-de-Hi! star.

For Ruth – who became a household name in the 1980s as chief Yellowcoat Gladys Pugh - was born in our fine city and credits Norwich Theatre Royal as being among the first places where she was inspired by theatre.

“I know the Theatre Royal extremely well. I must have been about four when I saw a pantomime there,” said Ruth, who spent the first few years of her life in Norfolk.

“I was born in the Norfolk and Norwich [Hospital].

“My mother and father were out at Pulham Market, they were master and matron of an institution there, also the one in Wicklewood and Wymondham, but I was looked after by my grandmother because my mother had no staff so what staff they had, they had to eke out.

“My very first boarding school at four was at Bungay, All Hallows Preparatory School, and I went there for a year, but I was taken back to Wales after that because my parents moved.”

Since then Ruth’s 60-year career has often brought her back to Norfolk and the theatre where her four-year-old self enjoyed watching pantomime.

“I’ve been back to Norwich Theatre Royal many, many times,” she said, adding that one of those times was actually with the previous play version of Calendar Girls.

Soon she will be heading to Norwich with Calendar Girls The Musical penned by Tim Firth and Take That star Gary Barlow.

L-R Denise Welch, Rebecca Storm, Karen Dunbar, Fern Britton, Sara Crowe, Anna-Jane Casey, Ruth Madoc, Credit: John SwannelL-R Denise Welch, Rebecca Storm, Karen Dunbar, Fern Britton, Sara Crowe, Anna-Jane Casey, Ruth Madoc, Credit: John Swannel

It is the latest incarnation of the famous story of a group of women from Yorkshire who 20 years ago posed nude for a Women’s Institute calendar to raise money in memory of one of their husbands who had died from cancer.

Ruth, who previously played Marie in the Calendar Girls play, is now playing Jessie in the musical version, and when asked what she enjoyed most about being involved in the shows, she said: “It’s the story itself.

READ MORE: New season announced at Norwich Playhouse including BGT and Strictly stars

“When the Calendar Girls come and see it, which they do on a regular basis, it’s wonderful to meet them, and 20 years ago how very brave they were to do this thing because nobody had ever done it.”

Just as the original Calendar Girls posed nude, so too do the cast of the musical, and when asked if this was a daunting prospect each night, Ruth said: “It’s all done very tastefully. I’ve got an awful lot of knitting in front of me! I won’t tell you any more than that but I’ve got a lot of knitting that I’ve knitted on stage.”

The original Calendar Girls have raised nearly £5 million for the blood cancer charity Bloodwise, and this latest musical adaptation is helping to raise even more funds.

Of course the character that Ruth is most famous for is Gladys Pugh, chief Yellowcoat at Maplins holiday camp in BBC sitcom Hi-de-Hi! and who won the hearts of the nation in the 1980s.

“She was great…for me she was a memory of all the women that I had grown up with in the 1950s,” said Ruth.

When asked what she thought Gladys would be doing now, she said: “Gladys went off sheep shearing in Australia, she married Clive Dempster, so yes she would be in Australia now and she would be very loyal, very loyal.”

Ruth is still good friends with Hi-de-Hi! co-stars Su Pollard and Jeff Holland, and when asked about her fondest Hi-de-Hi! memories, she said: “It was the camaraderie and the amazing response that it had from the audience.

“They talk about [viewing figures of] six million, eight million now but we used to regularly clock up 17 million!”

Calendar Girls comes to Norwich Theatre Royal from February 5 to Saturday 16 February and you can book tickets at the box office, online or call the box office on 01603 630000.

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