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‘I’ve had great jobs. I’ve been so lucky’: Catherine Tyldesley on her career since Corrie and her first musical theatre role

© Darren BellCatherine Tyldesley.
Catherine Tyldesley.

Leaving a secure and long-term job to start afresh is always risky. When that job is on Britain’s favourite television show, the peril is heightened. But walking away from Coronation Street has proved not to be a misstep for Catherine Tyldesley.

While some actors fail to replicate the success and security a major soap role brings, since leaving behind the character of Eva Price six years ago the actor has had one high-profile job after another, including Scarborough, 15 Days, Viewpoint and as a contestant on Strictly.

“I remember saying to my mum and dad, ‘I’m going to go, I’m going to take the plunge’, and my dad asked me if I was crazy,” smiled Catherine. “It was a wonderful place to work; I didn’t leave because I was unhappy.

“Creatively, as an actor, I wanted to grow and develop and push boundaries, to get out of my comfort zone. I felt I had to do it as a performer and as a person, but I’ll always be so grateful. And never say never.

“People always ask me if I’ll go back. If the story is right and they wanted me, then of course. The writing on Coronation Street is nothing short of brilliant. But at the moment I’m enjoying doing lots of different things and experiencing lots of different walks of life with characters. That’s why I became an actor.”

A musical first

The latest of those is a first for 40-year-old Catherine – a starring role in a musical theatre production. She is part of the touring cast for Bonnie And Clyde, which won best new musical last year when it debuted in the West End.

Despite training in musical theatre at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, which she graduated from in 2006, she has never done it professionally until this tour, which started last month.

L-r, Sam Ferriday, Catherine, Katie Tonkinson (Bonnie) and Alex James-Hatton (Clyde).
L-r, Sam Ferriday, Catherine, Katie Tonkinson (Bonnie) and Alex James-Hatton (Clyde).

“I did musicals at drama school and in amateur productions, but this is my first one professionally,” she explained. “I’ve wanted to do it for a long time, and we had been approached about other musicals in the past, but nothing I fell in love with. When this landed, I knew straightaway. Even my husband said, ‘This is what you’ve been waiting for, this is for you’, and he was right.

“I adore the script, I love the music, and I feel lucky the cast aren’t just talented but lovely and chilled. It was nerve-wracking but everyone has been supportive and people seem to like what I’m doing, which means the world to me. It’s been an incredible journey and I feel like I’m learning all the time.”

The story of the small town American kids who became bandits has gone down in folklore, but what isn’t so well-known is Catherine’s role of Blanche Barrow – Clyde’s sister-in-law and a reluctant member of the crime gang.

“The research phase of any job is always my favourite part and to be able to delve into Blanche’s diaries and all that incredible information has been a joy,” Catherine said.

“I’d loosely heard the tale of Bonnie and Clyde, but Blanche was the only person who lived to tell the tale and the diaries she kept were a great insight into her – she was very devout of faith but so in love with her husband Buck that it was borderline obsession. She was also very witty and I have some great one-liners in the show.

“But her diaries also delved into everyone else’s personality, so we get a great sense of the animalistic and charismatic views of Clyde and the fame-hungry, driven and ambitious side of Bonnie. All these wonderful ingredients that make them complex characters, which Katie Tonkinson and Alex James-Hatton and Sam Ferriday in our cast do so well at immersing themselves in.

“Blanche was an incredible lady and I wanted to make sure her story was told in the right way. She didn’t die all that long ago, and still has lots of family alive, so I’d like to think if they saw my performance it would make them smile. I want to do her justice.”

Catherine Tyldesley © Darren Bell
Catherine Tyldesley.

On the road

Being on the road and living out of hotels means that Catherine, who married Tom Pitfield in 2016, must juggle being on tour with being a mum to nine-year-old Alfie and two-year-old Iris.

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard work in terms of balancing the children. I don’t mind the driving involved – I listen to audiobooks and scripts, and I have a couple of other projects on the go which gives me time to do audio research – and the time spent in the car is my downtime.

“It can be tiring, I won’t lie. Especially when I go home, I’m a full-time mummy, so I don’t get much Cath time, but I’m grateful to be this busy. And there’s a lot of coffee involved!

“I go home most Sundays. When the venue is close to home, like Sunderland, Newcastle, Sheffield or Birmingham, I’ll drive to the theatre on Tuesday so I can get two nights at home, but just now it’s only been 24 hours with the kids, which is difficult, but they’ll join me in some cities.

“They might join me in Aberdeen and Glasgow, which they’ve never been to before. Alfie is excited about that, so hopefully we can make weekends of it. He sees it all as an adventure.

“I was in Cardiff filming for four months and he loved it – there’s a chuffing great big castle in the middle of Cardiff, which he thought was the coolest thing ever!

“We try to make it for the kids and as easy as possible. They do miss mummy and I miss them, but my husband is really supportive. Alfie understands but Iris is only two. When you ask her, ‘Where’s mummy?’ or ‘What does mummy do for work?’ she starts singing, which is so cute.”

Visiting Scotland

Although Catherine has filmed in Glasgow before, she says she was stuck inside a studio and didn’t get the chance to explore, and she’s never visited Aberdeen.

“I’m dying to see both cities. One of my best friends is from Glasgow and raves about it. The cast tend to get together in the morning to explore and have brunch, so I’m looking forward to looking around.”

Catherine reunited with Shayne Ward for Channel 5’s The Good Ship Murder. © Supplied
Catherine reunited with Shayne Ward for Channel 5’s The Good Ship Murder.

Although she’s currently on tour, Catherine won’t be off our screens for too long either, taking a break from Bonnie And Clyde in the summer months to film new projects which are currently being kept under wraps.

Her last TV project was Channel 5’s The Good Ship Murder, a crime drama in which Shayne Ward played former detective Jack Grayling, who interrupts his pursuit of becoming a cabaret singer on a luxury cruise ship to investigate a series of murders on board, with the help of the ship’s first officer, Kate, played by Catherine.

“When would you ever get to see all those countries and spend so much time on a cruise ship?” she smiled. “It was great to be reunited with Shayne and we had a blast. It was so lovely.

“I’ve been so lucky since leaving Corrie to be part of so many brilliant projects. I have to keep pinching myself with these great jobs.”

‘Show relates to today’s world’

As a big history buff and fan of vintage fashion, Catherine Tyldesley is loving being part of the Bonnie And Clyde stage musical.

“I always adore doing period dramas on screen because I love history and we spend a lot of our weekends visiting National Trust places and now we share that history with the children,” Catherine said.

“It’s bliss to immerse myself in that world for the show. The art, costumes and wigs teams have done a great job of creating that environment.

Catherine as Blanche in ‘edge-of-the-seat’ musical Bonnie And Clyde. © Richard Davenport
Catherine as Blanche in ‘edge-of-the-seat’ musical Bonnie And Clyde.

“The Great Depression was exactly as it says on the tin. Ironically, a lot of things that were happening then are happening now under this government, so a lot of people are finding the show relatable on lots of levels and I think that’s part of the reason why audiences are loving it so much.

“We had to change certain things to tell the story in a shorter time frame, but 90% of the show is factual and I’m trying to make her as accurate as I can.

“The show has a bit of everything – it’s a real mix of emotions. It’s a rollercoaster story, real edge-of-the-seat stuff. It’s also a phenomenal love story with heartbreaking elements, but laugh-out-loud funny. And every song is a corker.”

Bonnie And Clyde, His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen, April 9-13, King’s Theatre, Glasgow, April 16-20