Phantom of the Opera aged 18, Annie aged 11, actress Shona Lindsay’s CV reads like the ultimate goal for anyone dreaming of a career on the stage and now she’s coming to dazzle Watford Palace Theatre audiences in Alan Ayckbourn’s am dram comedy, A Chorus of Disapproval.
The story revolves around the members of The Pendon Amateur Light Operatic Society who are busy rehearsing for their latest production: The Beggar’s Opera. When quiet, unassuming widower Guy Jones comes on the scene he is suddenly catapulted into the limelight and finds it impossible to say no, whatever the demands made of him by his fellow players.
Shona takes on the role of seasoned swinger Fay in this witty satire, which also introduces some of Ayckbourn’s most memorable characters – from the power-crazed director Dafydd (Sion Tudor Owen) to desperate housewife Hannah (Katy Seacombe).
Given her early start in theatre, I wonder if Shona managed to bypass the local route entirely?
“Not quite,” admits the 37-year-old actress, whose first major TV role was in The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole.
“I grew up in the West Midlands and oddly enough Katie Kerr (Bridget in A Chorus of Disapproval) was looking at Sion, who plays the director of the amateur company, and he’s absolutely a doppelganger for the director of the am dram society we both belonged to when we were kids. It’s very strange and very entertaining for me to watch him play that role every night.”
After making her professional debut in Annie, Shona went on to play numerous children’s roles including The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole and The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole for Thames Television. She later joined the company of Crossroads for Central TV, playing the role of Sara Briggs for two years. Her theatre roles include Godspell, Singin’ In The Rain and Grease and playing Christine in The Phantom Of The Opera in 1991, when at 18, she was the youngest actress to play that role. Shona recently released her jazz-tinged debut album, Control Yourself.
Despite such successes, Shona tells me she didn’t set out to become a star.
“My mum was involved in amateur dramatics, but I had no desire at all. I didn’t go to dance classes or the usual routes, but my mum said they were looking for kids for Love From Judy and I could come along and if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t have to go the next week, but I absolutely loved it.”
By the time Shona played Barbara Boyer, the love rival to Pandora Braithwaite in The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, she already had an agent.
“I was very excited,” says Shona. “The book was huge and the dramatisation involved a starry cast of incredible actors. I was 14 at the time and 16 on the second series. Beryl Reid was incredible.
“I had a fantastic time, but Lindsey Stagg who played Pandora hated every second of it.”
More recently, Shona has been on the UK tour of Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, reprising her West End role as Milly. She’s also appeared opposite Steven Pacey in Same Time, Next Year and in Aspects of Love last year with David Essex. Her most recent show Jeckyll & Hyde reunited her with Singin’ In The Rain co-star Paul Nicholas.
Shona says she’s glad to be tackling more mature parts.
“Aspects of Love was my first grown-up part. Prior to that I was still being shoe-horned into the ingénue role and I’m not complaining, but there are lots of young, beautiful girls coming up and casting directors tend to pigeon-hole you as a telly bod, a straight bod or a musical bod.”
“Fay’s a great part. I wish I had the guts to be like her. She’s one of the only characters who doesn’t sing and that’s good for me, as I don’t have to worry if the voice is there.”
A Chorus of Disapproval is at Watford Palace Theatre from Tuesday, March 24 to Saturday, April 4. Tickets: 01923 225671, www.watfordtheatre.co.uk (£11.50-£21.50)