Natalie Li catches up with actress and charity ambassador, Vicki Michelle, to talk about her stage work, Epping and why we still love ‘Allo ‘Allo!
You’ve just finished off panto season, how did it go?
It went really well. I played the Fairy Godmother (Fairy Fabulous) in Cinderella, and the Lost Slipper at Grimsby Auditorium. It was a great production, starring my former co-stars and friends Frazer Hines and John D. Collins. We were all staying at the same hotel so that was fantastic.We took lateral flows every day – we were lucky to get through the run without one show cancelled. The audiences loved it, thank god!
After panto I finished tour dates for Dirty Dusting with Leah Bell and Vicky Entwistle. It’s a show about three cleaning ladies who set up a chat line, a real laugh out loud comedy. We started touring before panto, but we lost a few dates due to the pandemic. We performed 14 dates on the trot from Basildon to Blackpool.
Do you like being busy?
Around 90 per cent of actors are out of work at any one time so I feel lucky to be working, but after all the recent work I will have a rest!I have done lots of charity work which I love, and I find presenting and hosting easy. I hosted my own show on Essex radio station Phoenix FM. I like talking and finding out more about people – you’re always learning. I’ll be starring in The Wizard of Oz at the end of February playing Glinda the Good, I can’t wait for that.
You’re often referred to as ‘Allo ‘Allo’s Vicki Michelle’. Considering the number of acting credits to your name, has that ever bothered you?
No, never. A lot of actors might get funny about that, but I consider myself to be very lucky to have starred in a brilliant comedy show which has sold to 80 countries worldwide and is still being sold all over the world. It made me a household name and it brought me to the public eye. Whenever anyone mentions it, it’s always remembered with fondness.
Why do you think ‘Allo ‘Allo is still well loved?
It’s a family show and it makes you laugh out loud. It sends up the characters – the Germans, French and the English. The French were portrayed as randy, the Germans as kinky and the English as stupid. The actors who played all the characters were very strong in their roles. Some of the catchphrases – like “if you listen carefully, I shall say this only once” – really stuck. It has just finished on Drama channel, and it still gets great viewing figures today. It has been dire recently and we need to laugh!
Early in your career you worked with some proper comedy heavyweights. Who was the funniest to work with?
I absolutely loved working with the Two Ronnies and Les Dawson – he would always go out onto the street and chat to everyone. Little and Large were brilliant. Performing a French love scene with Ken Dodd on Skegness beach stands out for me – hilarious!
During your career, have you always lived in Essex? If so, the same part?
Yes, I have lived in Woodford, Chigwell and now reside near Epping.
What do you love about the county?
My family live close by, which is important, and I love that you can get into London in 30 minutes.
Do you have any favourite outdoor spots?
I love nature, watching the birds and insects and being outside, particularly walking around Epping Forest.
If possible, can you pick three places you love visiting the most?
Essex has such a rich history and there are so many places I like to visit such as Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, lovely walks around High Beach and nosing around Debra, a fashion boutique in Chigwell.
You support several charities, including one local to us: The Dream Factory. Why were you keen to lend your support to the charity?
I am good friends with Avril Mills, founder of The Dream Factory. She used to work with Haven House Hospice, and we’d been friends for a long time, so she asked me to get involved. I am now a patron. It’s been important to support her to make dreams come true for young people. My sisters, Suzie and June, have been heavily involved, too.
What else is on the horizon for you in 2022?
I don’t know what the rest of 2022 looks like after the Wizard of Oz. I’m the eternal optimist and I always know there is something around the corner. In March I am hosting a Talking Pictures event with Frazer Hines. That will involve interviewing some interesting people. As for the future, I’d love my own comedy series. My sisters – Anne, June and Suzie – are writers and actresses. They are genuinely funny. It’d be brilliant to launch our own series or podcast, with my daughter too, and make people feel good!
The Wizard of Oz Half Term tour runs 12-26 February at various locations – see more at vickimichelle.co.uk; Vicki Michelle and Frazer Hines host Talking Pictures: The 9th Festival of Film on 20 March 2022 at the Alban Arena Civic Centre, St Albans