“We all need a bit of glamour in our lives, don’t we darling?” Michelle Collins tells Stage Review.
The glamour in question comes in a role she has dreamed about since she was just a little girl, that of Miss Scarlett, the most glamorous and potentially most deadly member of the cast of Cluedo.
Now she is one of the key players in the hilarious comedy whodunit, Cluedo, based on the film Clue, which was originally, of course, from the murderous board game that Michelle was obsessed with as a child.
“We all wanted to be Miss Scarlett,” says Michelle, who is famous for parts in EastEnders, where she played Cindy Beale and then Stella Price in Coronation Street.
She’s also been in everything from Doctor Who and Casualty (several times) to Sunburn and Two Thousand Acres of Sky.
“Miss Scarlett is one of the most iconic characters, along with Colonel Mustard and Professor Plum maybe, which makes it more difficult to play,” she goes on.
“Me and my sister would go and stay with my five cousins and we would all fight for that part but because I’m the bossy one, I would always get it,” she laughs.
“And I think because of lockdown people have gone back to board games, just to be together really.”
Then she remembers how her mum once bought her a board game that turned out – to her horror – to be a ouija board.
“Doing séances at the age of 10!
“Cluedo was actually invented during the Second World War when people were stuck at home during air raids. It adds a lovely dollop of nostalgia to the fun – and the murder! – of Cluedo”.
It may sound a bit of a strange concept, a play based on a film based on a board game but to Michelle it makes perfect sense.
“It’s a comedy whodunit,” she says. It’s the story of a group of people who turn up to a mansion one dark and stormy night at the behest of the one person they all have in common: their blackmailer.
“I’ve done a Miss Marple and everyone loves those,” she goes on. “And it’s great to dress up in period clothes, 40s clothes. So glamorous!
“And we are in the hands of the perfect director in Mark Bell (The Play That Goes Wrong and A Comedy about A Bank Robbery). It takes a very particular director to get the best out of something as fun and escapist as this.”
As for her character… “I’ll have to have my own take on her but it’s really exciting to play someone who, like most women, has more going on than you see on the surface.
“She has a history. She’s very smart, looks glam and dressed up, but she’s a smart cookie.
“I’ve never seen the film but I might swerve it because this will be very different: very funny, very dry, a little dark at times, but ultimately great entertainment.
“And I think it’s the perfect climate for something feel-good like this. People are desperate to get back to the theatre. They miss that creativity in their lives.
“And it’s great that the play is something for all the family, something everyone can enjoy after the couple of years we’ve had.”
The fact that this is the British premiere of a play that has been a smash hit in the States makes it even more exciting, says Michelle. “And it’s kind of nice that it’s not all on me, it’s an ensemble piece.
Indeed, Cluedo also stars Midsommer Murders veteran Daniel Casey as Professor Plum; Etisyai Phillips is Miss White; Wesley Griffith plays Colonel Mustard; and Goes Wrong stalwart, Tom Babbage, is the Rev Green.
The are joined by Jean-Luke Worrell, Laura Kirman, Judith Amsenga, Harry Bradley and Meg Travers.
The last time Michelle went out on a major tour like this was for the musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang when her 25-year-old daughter was just a child.
“And I’ve actually got friends in most of the places we’re visiting, so it will be fun to see them,” she says, meaning it may well be Michelle you see with a group of people in the corner of your local bar.
“Touring can be hard but you get used to living out of a suitcase and my partner will come and see me.”
So, is Miss Scarlett the one to watch? Is it her in the library with a revolver? Or Professor Plum in the library with a candlestick? She taps her nose conspiratorially. “Well, you’ll just have to come along and find out, won’t you?” she laughs.