Cleo, Camping, Emmannuelle and Dick.

at the Bolton Octagon Theatre

By Andrew Mosley

Sophie Ableson was not even born when the Carry On series of movies was filmed - yet that could be an advantage when she takes the part of Barbara Windsor in the Octagon production of Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick.

Sophie, aged 25, who has just moved to London from Manchester, has an advantage over most actresses in the part she is playing. She said: "All through my life I have had people saying I look like a young Barbara Windsor and had the nickname Babs, so when I saw the part become available I wrote to the Octagon and got an audition, and here I am."

Currently in rehearsals, Sophie has spent the past month watching Carry On films and reading Windsor's autobiography, and says she intends to put her own stamp on the character in Terry Johnson's play, which begins its three-week run on September 21.

Sophie, from Southport, said she saw TV repeats of the films when she was younger but watching the films again has brought back a lot of memories. "I read Barbara Windsor's autobiography as well, and she had quite a tough life, which a lot of people don't know about," she said. "A lot of people will come along expecting the Barbara we all know and love from the Carry On films, which they will get, but they will also get my interpretation of Barbara herself. "A lot of the humour of Carry On and the relationships between the characters is brought out, but there is also the darker side of what went on behind the scenes. Hopefully it will make people laugh and cry," she said.

Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick, directed by Paul Hunter, who also took charge of the theatre's Accidental Death of an Anarchist, and Beauty Queen of Leenane, tells the story of the relationships between Barbara and co-stars Kenneth Williams and Sid James, in whose caravan-cum-dressing room backstage at Pinewood Studios the play is set.

Sophie, who has previously appeared in the likes of She Stoops To Conquer at the Royal Exchange in Manchester and Dancing At Lughnasa at Salford University, has particular praise for the writer and director and said rehearsals are so far going well. "They are all big characters and we are putting our own interpretations on them. It's not about impersonating them. "It's a great piece of character writing and it's a real challenge, which I love. It's an absolute pleasure to work on a script with so many great moments in there," she said.

Cleo, Camping, Emmanuelle and Dick - which won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy in 1999 - is at the Bolton Octagon Theatre between September 21 and October 14 2006.


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