Musical comedy Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be at Theatre Royal Stratford East

By Rachel Bishop on May 11, 2014 10:25 AM |

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Maybe it's an East End rite-of-passage. As Jessie Wallace, best known as EastEnders' Kat Moon, prepares for her new role in Stratford, she follows in illustrious footsteps.

Because the redoubtable Barbara Windsor, like Kat a former landlady of the Queen Vic, also trod the boards in the same production at the same theatre 55 years ago.

Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be is a musical comedy about cockney lowlifes in the '50s, drawing on rich Cockney dialect. The title song was made famous by Max Bygraves and become a standard.

The production, described by its original director Joan Littlewood as being "like Guys & Dolls but with its flies undone," will be at Theatre Royal Stratford East this month.
The original production, ran in 1959 at Stratford before moving to the West End.

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Jessie says she is getting used to the shift from TV to theatre as her character Lil.

She said: "Nobody's going to shout out 'Cut!' on stage and yet even in rehearsal I'm still waiting for someone to call 'Action!'

"Sometimes in EastEnders you'll find you have given a great performance that you then can't see when you watch it, because of the way the scenes have been shot and edited. But on stage you're in control and the audience doesn't need a director to tell it where to look at a particular moment. They can look where they like."

Former prostitute Lil runs an illegal gambling den in Soho's murky '50s underground scene, which Jessie wonders may still be thriving somewhere today.

She said: "I'm sure that there are corners of Soho and of the East End where life resembles what happens in Fings. My partner lives in Soho and what you can see from his window is better than anything you'll watch on television."

Looking to the future Jessie says she would love to play the role of Nancy in Oliver! written by Lionel Bart, who also wrote the music for Fings.

She said: "I'd love to play her before I'm too old for the part. I love the music so much and I'm sure that I could go on even with my Zimmer frame."

May 8-June 8, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Tues-Sat; 7.30pm, matinee Wed; 2pm, Sat and Sun; 3pm, £7-£38, stratfordeast.com.

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