Above: Amanda Redman is long-suffering wife, Jackie, in ITV’s The Trials of Jimmy Rose. Photo: ITV Studios
Amanda Redman is a woman who knows just what it takes to survive – literally! An active campaigner and charity fundraiser for fellow victims, at just fifteen months old she was pronounced clinically dead after a pan of boiling soup left her with third-degree burns to seventy-five percent of her body. Remarkably, the only reminder today is the scarring on Amanda’s upper left arm which she rightly never sees as an issue and, therefore, never becomes one.
In her career, the actress is on top of her game and, contrary to her recent comments criticising available roles for women in their fifties, certainly appears to have bucked the trend remaining as popular as ever.
Sardines was lucky to grab an interview with the recent star of The Trials of Jimmy Rose, just as the Loose Women were waving her off from their TV studio…
A few years ago I was fortunate indeed to interview Michael Crawford in his dressing-room at the London Palladium. Dressed in his Wizard of Oz costume the theatre veteran talked about the power of television in contrast to that of theatre. He cited an example where you could play for ten straight years at the Dominion Theatre and, in that time, appear in front of the same total audience as a single half-hour episode of Coronation Street. It’s little wonder that actors often talk about ‘keeping their profile up’ and ‘breaking into television’ as part of their career goal.
For the last fifteen years the ever-popular Amanda Redman has completely mastered the art of ‘profile power’ by becoming one of the country’s most regular and best-loved film and TV actresses. However, unbeknown to many, Amanda also happens to be a true champion of the amateur theatre sector where she is not only an active supporter but still heads up the drama school she founded twenty years ago. Oh, and did I mention – she loves Sardines… “And a very good magazine it is too, I have to say. It’s very professionally done,” she delights in telling me having received our latest couple of issues. Perhaps I should cut the interview short and quit while I’m ahead!
As usual, Amanda’s latest TV appearance made a huge impact with television audiences up and down the country as she rekindled her onscreen partnership with her ‘best mate’. Playing Ray Winstone’s onscreen wife for a second time (the first was in the 2000 film, Sexy Beast) has successfully kept the fifty-eight-year-old actress at the top of the pile. I ask if a successful TV profile was ever part of her career-plan. “For the last fifteen years it’s been mainly TV and film but, before that, it was primarily theatre. It’s just how the cookie crumbles really. You get sent scripts and if they’re brilliant, it doesn’t matter which medium you’re in, I’m going to say yes. It just so happened that for the last fifteen years I’ve been offered fantastic stuff onscreen,” …is her modest answer, although I suspect this lady knows exactly how to steer her career in the right direction.
These days, Amanda Redman is happy to take on one big project per year: “I’m just waiting for something fabulous to come my way. I don’t feel the need anymore to do stuff for the sake of it, and I’m in the lucky position where I can wait for something really great to come up. To keep your profile up, you can be on television once a year in something really good and that’s fine by me. It also gives you the chance where if you want to do good theatre as well, then people will be inclined to let you do it.”
Since Sexy Beast Amanda’s career has resembled something of a non-stop TV marathon which has seen the Brighton-born actress hardly leave our screens. Most notably in At Home with the Braithwaites (ITV, 2000-2003, 4 series) followed immediately by New Tricks (BBC, 2003-2013, 10+ series), her busy workload has also included extra roles in numerous dramas and films such as Mike Bassett: England Manager (2001 film and 2005 TV series), Little Dorrit (BBC, 2008) and the acclaimed biopic Tommy Cooper: Not Like That, Like This (ITV, 2014) – the latter of which she starred opposite David Threlfall. 1980 seems an awfully long time ago now, when making her television debut in ITV’s Tales of the Unexpected at the age of just twenty-three.
Amanda is so used to the TV-making process now that she rarely has the chance to watch the programmes as they air. At …the time of our interview, The Trials of Jimmy Rose was drawing to its tense conclusion (hence the Loose Women appearance), …however, for the blonde star it’s ancient history: “I don’t actually watch it when it’s broadcast. We get sent DVDs very early on and also go to a screening just for the cast and crew, so I saw it a long time ago.” As it turns out, ‘a long time ago’ meant almost a year! “We finished it last Christmas, but I’m so used to the waiting now – it’s just the way the business works. Once you’ve finished, that’s it and you move on to the next thing. Then you get reminded when it’s being transmitted. Sometimes you do have to remind yourself about what happens in it, but I’m pretty used to it now.”
It wasn’t always like that of course, even though it’s virtually impossible to think that Amanda Redman MBE was ever going to become anything other than a star. But those of us who have been in the amateur sector long enough won’t be surprised that it was non-professional theatre where she first discovered her love of acting. “From the age of five I went to a Saturday morning drama class and absolutely loved it,” remembers Amanda. “When I was fourteen, I was old enough to join an amateur company in Brighton called Centre Stage, and I stayed with them right up until the time when I was eighteen. So I did quite a few productions with them. Then, after I’d done my A-levels I auditioned for drama school and ended up studying Drama at Bristol Old Vic.”
Amateur theatre remains very close to Amanda’s heart to this day. “Yes, I think it’s very, very important. It’s great for the local communities and it introduces all sorts of people – all very different – to the glories of Theatre,” she enthuses. “I also think it’s a very important thing for people who want to be in the profession to get involved in when they’re young, but also lovely for people who are happy with their jobs but have got this artistic bent that they want to explore.”
To back up her passion for us non-pros, in her birth town Amanda was President of Brighton Little Theatre from 2004-07 and, earlier this year, threw her full support behind (and also took part in) James Beeny and Gina Georgia’s brand-new WWI musical The Dreamers which was performed at London’s St. James Theatre by an entirely amateur cast from Kent. Currently Amanda is Vice President of The Questors in Ealing, the town where she lives. The Questors is the largest amateur theatre company in the country and Amanda is in no doubt as to the sector’s importance in today’s society – where local Rep Theatre is a thing of the past. Is amateur theatre now the place for tomorrow’s professionals to cut their teeth? “It is! You’re absolutely right!” is the immediate response. “Certainly I can speak for where I live in Ealing. Questors put on some fantastic productions, some of which have only recently been in the West End. And it’s far more affordable than if you go to the West End where ticket prices are ridiculous. They’re just very professional; their whole attitude and in everything they do.”
ARTISTS THEATRE SCHOOL
“With my drama school we perform my graduation shows and the kids’ shows at Questors every year and, when I can, I’ll go along to see one of their productions, as well as get involved in various functions. I can’t even remember how long I’ve been Vice President now but it’s been going on for some time.” Amanda founded Artists Theatre School back in 1995 and is still its principal today. Also based in Ealing, the school specialises in training people who, on the whole, tend to be amateur performers. Amanda explains, “We wanted to set up a drama school for people with a real love of acting who wanted to learn the craft, as opposed to those who just wanted to be famous and didn’t care about the work itself. So we founded the school where you could be taught by those in the profession, to instil the passion and the love of it really.” Presumably this means any X Factor wannabes need not apply!
So twenty years down the line, does the school still function just as it used to or has anything altered? “I think society has altered. It’s harder now. We’ve found that people have less of a concentration span than they used to, and we’ve found that to be quite tricky. Also, in the last ten years there’s been a huge get-famous-quick-without-putting-the-work-in ethos, far more than when we started it.”
After attending the school’s recent showcase at the end of the summer, I noticed from the programme that quite a few students were at the end of their second or even third year. That’s quite a testament when the school only signs students up for one year at a time. “Yes, they sign up for a year each time but some people come back for more,” she confirms. “The first term is filled with master-classes given by all sorts of experts who are either with the school or visiting, then the last two terms are spent in rehearsal for the graduate shows. Sheila Hancock [who I sat next to at the showcase] is one of our patrons and has been a fantastic supporter of the school, as was her late husband, John Thaw. In fact their daughter used to be one of our students.” Well, you can’t argue with Inspector Morse, now can you!
For more information about Artists Theatre School visit: www.artiststheatreschool.com
The Trials of Jimmy Rose is now available on DVD.