OffWestEnd talks to Jill Greenacre who is appearing in “How to Build a Better Tulip” at Upstairs at the Gatehouse until 20 November

Born and bred in Norfolk, Jill Greenacre trained at The Drama Studio,London.  Her Stage and Screen career has spanned 4 decades (so far!). She is best known for playing Linda in the popular BBC Comedy series The Brittas Empire which ran for 7 years. She also had roles in Andy Robson (Tyne Tees ), Brookside (Ch4), The Knock (LWT), and Down To Earth (BBC). Feature films include Hard Shoulder, Black Smoke Rising and, soon to be released, Nowhere.  Theatre wise, Jill has toured the country extensively with roles ranging from Tigger to Jane Eyre and has performed in many open air, promenade and site specific productions including The Cherry Orchard, Richard III and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She has had leading roles in 18 major pantos. She now lives in beautiful Cornwall with her beloved dog, horse and ponies.


What first attracted you to the theatre?
I was first attracted to the Theatre through my parents who were both members of our village amdram group Theatre In Brundall. My Mum was a keen actress and my Dad was often the Musical Director and pianist if the village was producing a musical or pantomime.  My sister often acted in shows with me  also.

My first appearance was in a play called Dear Octopus when I was 8 years old, followed by various pantos, plays and Music Halls. I think it was through playing Ratty in Toad Of Toad Hall  when I was 13 years old  that I truly fell in love with performing.It was well directed by a lovely man who told me he thought I could do this professionally if I wanted to. This was backed up by a wonderful teacher at Thorpe Grammar school who directed a mega production of Carmina Burana in which I danced. The seed was sown!


If you could pick any one person or theatre company to work with on your next project, who/which would it be?
I am a huge admirer of Emma Rice, formerly KneeHigh Theatre company, now Wise Children.

I am always deeply impressed and moved by any production she has directed and love the use of live music.So working with her would be an ambition fulfilled, theatre wise.


What is your opinion of Off West End theatre, in general?
I think Off West End Theatre is massively important for many reasons …it is affordable in comparison with West End prices…It provides work for talented performers and the opportunity to experiment with exciting new writing and concepts.


What was the most inspiring performance you have ever seen? Why?
Oooh …difficult question ! I have seen SO many inspirational performances in my life so far !!

Ive thought long and hard and I’ve chosen War Horse. It made me cry as soon as it began with the stunning depiction of the horses through the most amazing puppetry and the story (which I already knew through Michael Morpurgo’s wonderful book and the film) is so important and deeply moving.


What piece of work are you the most proud of?
Another difficult one !

I think it might be the production of Richard III, outdoors at Stafford Castle in 1999 in which I played Lady Anne. It was a stunning production with Ian Reddington as Richard… set in the future, beautifully directed, designed and produced and I was particularly proud to have co directed the big battle which was done in slow motion to a track from Fatboy Slim. I’m also proud to have just played the Duchess Of York in another production of Richard III.  This was a musical production performed with an orchestra and the challenge was to either sing or curse in perfect rhythm with the orchestra, watching the conductor as well as my fellow actors. It was very simply staged with us all playing multiple roles …and we only had two weeks to rehearse… a big achievement!


What things in your personal life do you draw from when you perform?
I try to draw upon my life experiences if they are relevant or find parallels in my life that I can relate to.

Also, I have practised Transcendental Meditation and Hatha yoga for over 40 years which have kept me well and fit along with keeping horses and dogs and, in the last few years, cold water swimming in the sea. I feel all these practices have provided me with a deep well of energy and recourses that I can draw upon.


Who is the best actor/actress performing on Off West End today?
I think, out of loyalty and deep respect and because I haven’t had an opportunity to see other Off West End Productions whilst I’ve been rehearsing, I will name all of my fellow cast in How To Build A Better Tulip, all of whom are wonderful… Bryony Tebbutt, Beth Burrows, Christopher Killik and Richard Lynson.


Musical, comedy or drama- what’s your preference to watch?
I love them all! It depends on my mood and what is going on in my life. Sometimes I need the emotional lift and total escape into a big musical, sometimes the therapy of laughing from my belly at a great comedy and sometimes the total involvement in a wonderful drama!


Can you tell our readers about what you’re doing now/next?

At present I am performing at Upstairs At The Gatehouse in How To Build A Better Tulip.

I’m waiting for the release of a feature film Nowhere in which I play an incredibly rigid strict Head of English department and, before Christmas I shall perform in the Christmas show at The Eden Project in Cornwall.


Jill Greenacre is appearing in “How to Build a Better Tulip” at Upstairs at the Gatehouse until 20 November – click HERE for more info.