Theatre Interview: Paula Lane, Kinky Boots, Empire Theatre, Liverpool

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Paula Lane has had quite the varied career on the small screen (most notably on Coronation Street), but she has also made a big splash on the theatre stage. And her current role may be her biggest yet, as she plays a leading character in Kinky Boots, one of the biggest productions in the UK today. We spoke to Paula about her role in Kinky Boots, her time on the Corrie cobbles, and we also ask what lies in the future for her!

First of all, tell us about your character in Kinky Boots.

I play the character of Lauren. At first glance, you might describe her as a ditzy blonde; she doesn’t appear to be all there at times, plus she has no filter, and she gets herself into a few sticky situations as she says the first thing that comes into her head. But actually, beneath all that, she’s got real heart, and she means well. She’s not a bad person by any means. She’s also got great comedy, so she’s a hoot to play; it’s a real scream to play Lauren.

I’ve noticed that the boots themselves are quite interesting. Is it a challenge for the cast to put them on given how long they are?

Oh gosh, yes! It’s really hard, so it requires a lot of practice in rehearsals for those wearing them. For the boys especially, when they’ve even worn a pair of semi-high heels, can you imagine what it’s like to perform in them? But they’ve mastered it; they’ve done really, really well. I think their feet hurt, don’t get me wrong, but we’ve all done quite well. I don’t have the knee-high boots, as I have a quick change in the finale, so I have little shoe-boot ones on. But they’ve got a life of their own; I joke that they’re my bed shoes, because sometimes they play and sometimes they don’t! (Laughs)

You have performed in other local productions such as Be More Martyn and The Bengal Lily, but this is clearly a much larger show in terms of scale. Is it harder to perform to a whole host of theatres on a nationwide tour as opposed to just one venue every night?

Well, the vibe across the board has always been really welcoming and really warm. People have completely been behind it, and even if they’ve not really known what they were going to watch, by the end of it, they’ve been up dancing on their feet. We’ve yet to come across a venue where people have been like “Oh no, what’s this?” Northampton were amazing to us, especially with it being set there; they set the bar, really, for our audiences. We’re in Birmingham right now, and they’ve been brilliant too. Honestly, the people have always been behind us belly-laughing, which is great for an actor because you know that they’re with you the whole way.

On the small screen, you are best known for playing Kylie Platt in Coronation Street. What are your highlights from your time on the show?

There’s so many. Crikey! I suppose my first episode when I went in, because I got to do an amazing fight scene with Katherine Kelly to establish our relationship and how fractured it was, as my character came from a bit of a broken family. There were also the live episodes, and also my exit … it would be hard to pinpoint one specific highlight because there was so much to do on the street. I’d probably say my exit, because there was an eerie silence when I was filming that. Everybody was tuned in and with me at a real emotional point.

You interacted with many characters during your time on the cobbles, most notably David Platt, played by Jack P Shepherd. Was it easy to establish an on-screen connection with him, and do you still keep in touch with him and other cast members nowadays?

Yeah, I do still keep in touch with the cast. And yeah, me and Jack hit it off really well from day one, which helped when putting together a duo that were gonna be together and needed to have exactly the right ingredients for a true couple on the street, which we were. Had I chosen to stay, I’m sure that they still would have been together now. And I’m still in touch with Jack now, not a crazy amount, but for example, he came to see me in Kinky Boots in Manchester, which was lovely.

I’ve spoken to other Coronation Street actresses who said that they sometimes felt the struggle that their characters were going through even when the cameras are off, because they had applied themselves into the role so much. Did you ever find that this happened to you?

I can’t deny that when you are playing somebody 12 hours a day, every day, five days a week when I was there and six nowadays, it does take its toll on you emotionally. I don’t think anybody could be hardened enough to switch off that easily. It does creep into your pores; it sounds a bit weird, but when you’re playing that person, especially when they’ve had quite a troubled background as well, I did very much take it home with me. But you have to let it ride, have a good hour and a little drink, and then you come back to being yourself. But especially when playing through quite an emotional storyline, it is very hard to switch off; I found that, anyway.

What are your plans for the future, either on the theatre stage or on television?

I haven’t really got anything set just now. I would love to return to TV for sure; that’s kind of my next goal, but it would have to be the right role. I keep watching these amazing dramas that ITV are churning out, and I’m thinking “Okay, it’d be good to be in one of those one day”. I’ve just watched Katherine Kelly in Cheat, so I’m very much keeping up with where things are at right now. But who knows? If it was a play where the character appealed to me, it might sway me to stay on the stage. But that’s the wonderful thing, because you almost feel like you could go anywhere and in any direction really.

Finally, why should the Liverpool audience come to see Kinky Boots?

I would say that it’s gonna make you belly-laugh until you feel like you can’t belly-laugh any more! That’s what I would say! (Laughs)

Kinky Boots runs at the Empire Theatre from Tuesday March 26 to Saturday April 6. To book your tickets, click here.