Champions of Magic


The fabulous Champions of Magic comes to Camberley Theatre on March 31st, there are two performances – 2:30pm and then 7:30pm.

Tickets can be bought by clicking here.

We spoke to Alex McAleer, Kayla Drescher, Fernando Velasco and double act Young & Strange, the cast of Champions Of Magic, ahead of their forthcoming tour. Here’s what they had to say…

Q: Magic is going through a particular rich vein of global popularity. What would you put that down to?

Alex: I don’t think it ever went away but more recently people have remembered that magic is something to experience live. I think people know that what they see on TV or YouTube might not be the whole picture so the more opportunities they have to see it live the better.

Young & Strange:  In the past 25 years the success of David Blaine, followed by Dynamo and then the resurgence of David Blaine more recently has helped carve a new interest and fashion for magic. In the 80’s and 90’s it had a reputation as being too cheesy and dated. With the current wave of television talent, magic doing very well on the ‘Got Talent’ shows and magic being perfect for online viral videos, it’s brought magic right back into the 21st century.

Kayla Drescher: I credit the current popularity of magic to the amount of quality magic going around the world.  By quality, I not only mean strong magic.  I also mean a more relatable type of performance.  You have magicians, like Derren Brown, who have had these killer tours, popular YouTube videos, and Netflix specials.  Penn & Teller’s “Fool Us” continues to dominate television while focusing on making each performer be the best representation of magic.  There are many magic touring shows that allow audiences to see magic live and up close.  And most of these shows no longer spotlight the magician in the cape and top hat basically saying “I’m awesome, watch me” through his appearance and vanish of card fans. It’s now about being real and being human.  It’s about showing a purpose through magic as an art.  Because magicians are making themselves more relatable and therefore, more interesting, audiences now want to watch more than ever.  Watching David Blaine actually get shot by a bullet was more emotion-invoking than any card trick ever could be.  We are all striving for more connection with each other.  Magic is able to provide just that; an intimate interaction with a group of people.

The cast of Champions Of Magic (3) SMALL

Q: Magicians are notoriously competitive with each other. How do you manage to all get along so well?

Fernando: We don’t get competitive with each other , but instead we work together to make one fantastic show.

Alex: We all have a genuine respect for each other’s acts and what we each bring to the show. Every time we go on tour it’s like a group of old friends or family coming together.

Kayla: We are all such completely different performers with different expertise and different styles.  Because of that, there’s no need to compete with each other.  Our main goal is put on a killer magic show each and every time we hit the stage.  That can only be done if we support each other.  There’s no need to be competitive when we all have the same goal and need each other to accomplish it.

Young & Strange: Our act is ALWAYS the audience’s favourite in the Champions of Magic show, so there is no need to be competitive or have any sort of ego. Compliments should go to the rest of the cast who are great fun to work with and who are also our very good friends. That really helps in the world of magic which is littered with magicians whose self-belief and importance outstrips their talent.

Q: Can you share some memorable moments with us? Both on stage and off?

Kayla: On stage, there was one show where, as we all walk out for the final bow, we see Sam Strange trip on some confetti and completely face-plant.  He sprung up like nothing happened, fixed his tie, and joined the bow.  It was hard to laugh right then as we’re in the middle of the show.  Luckily, there was video, so we were all able to laugh well after the show was done.

Off stage, I really enjoyed when we were in Cleveland, Ohio and we all rang in the New Year together.  The hotel bar was closed, but had the festivities on the TV.  We huddled together at the glass door, counted down enthusiastically, and all spent the beginning minutes of 2018 as the Champions family.  It was really a lovely way to start the year!

Young & Strange: It genuinely is a great fun show to be a part of. The relationship off stage with all the acts is terrific and constant ‘ribbing’ of each other’s performances is part and parcel of a standard day in ‘Champions of Magic’.

Q: Have you always wanted to be magicians? Any other careers you may have chosen?

Alex: When I was five I used to say I wanted to be a magician or a shopkeeper. As an adult I suppose I could have become an actor, designer, or cult leader.

Kayla: Not at all! I always loved magic, but I really wanted to work in the green energy field.  I worked for a short while understanding Hydrogen Fuel Cell power and hoped to convince college campuses to switch their power source to fuel cell power.  I also studied education and would have loved to combine my love of green energy and education to help save the world.  But once I had a real-life job, I immediately knew I had to perform.

Young & Strange: We have had a passion for it since childhood and our friendship helped to inspire us towards making it our profession. Young’s dream job was working in the bakery section of a supermarket and he was subsequently sacked for overfilling the jam in the donuts. Magic always had a draw to it and we are fortunate enough to make a living from it. It won’t be long before that bubble bursts though and we are back to filling jam donuts….

Q: What was the first trick you mastered and who did you impress?

Alex: Probably the first piece of mind reading I ever learnt was a skill known as ‘muscle reading’ – I had a friend hide an object somewhere in the house and then asked them to think about its location until I found it. Took me about two minutes. It’s a bit like a game of ‘hot or cold’ but they only think about where it is, saying nothing aloud.

Young & Strange: The very first trick we learnt together as an act is an illusion that is still in the show today. It uses a cardboard box, in which one of us sits, and 23 wooden stakes which are rammed into the box at speed. We still make changes to the illusion 10 years on, so it’s unlikely we will ever consider the trick to be ‘mastered’. The very first time we performed it, we are adamant that the only people impressed by the illusion was ourselves….

Kayla: The first trick I really learned and did for a while was the cut and restored rope trick.  This first made it’s appearance in my second grade school talent show, where my Dad and I wrote a “comedy” act together.  I must say, the jokes still hold up!  I still do some rope magic in my full show, today!


Q: Who would you most like to make disappear?

Young & Strange: Aspiring young magicians. Our position on this show is dubious at the best of times and it would only take some younger act to meet with the producer. It wouldn’t be long before we are back in Sainsbury’s filling donuts with the correct amount of jam.

Kayla: Trump. Can I also add his entire cabinet?

Q: Who is your greatest inspiration?

Alex: Too many to mention.

Young & Strange: We absolutely love large scale stage illusions. Interestingly, we believe that’s not a sentiment that is generally shared with the British public, who tend to prefer close up sleight of hand or mind reading. With this in mind we would always answer with David Copperfield as our greatest inspiration. His career and body of work is something that can only inspire and excite.

Kayla: Celine Dion.  Sounds dorky, but I absolutely love her.  Whenever I’m upset, frustrated, or questioning my career decisions. I play some Celine or watch an interview.  I just love her class and dedication to being herself.  She really influences me to work hard and be unapologetically myself.

Fernando: He has nothing to do with magic but the Mexican singer Alejandro Fernandez because of his passionate performances. He just gives the crowd all he’s got, and I love that. Another person who has nothing to do with magic is the Mexican boxer Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez whose story and background give me a lot of inspiration and motivation.

Q: Champions Of Magic is a pretty full-on show. Have you had any personal disasters on stage?

Young & Strange: Our role within the show is to provide the spectacle and bombastic finish. We always say what we lack in talent is masked by production. That production includes the use of Pyrotechnics and we have had a couple of near misses through our own stupidity. We have had 2 incidences where the theatre has been evacuated during the performance due to the pyrotechnics.

Rachael Kean performing in Champions Of Magic (2) SMALL

Q: When on tour what do you do to relax?

Alex: Before the show I like to hang around in the auditorium, sit in the stalls and get a feel for the place. After the show it’s just chatting with the cast and crew about that nights show.

Fernando: I really like to go out and explore whatever city I am in.

Kayla: I’ve fell back in love with reading recently.  In school, when you HAVE to read, it’s a chore. But now that I can read at my own leisure with no one to report to, I am really enjoying it.  I also watch a LOT of dog videos. I love giant dogs with big heads and like watching videos of them being silly.

Q: Describe the Champions Of Magic show in 5 words

Alex:  See it to believe it.

Fernando: The Best Family Magic Show






The Bob Dylan Story

The Bob Dylan Story is at Camberley Theatre on Saturday 3 February. We caught up with Bill Lennon, who plays Bob in the multimedia show to ask a few questions….

Bob Dylan Story

What can the audience expect when they see the show?

A show which is both poignant and rocking in equal measure, performed by genuine Dylan fans who take pride and pleasure in reproducing the songs exactly the way people remember hearing them. Think of a Dylan concert in his full mid-sixties pomp and prime, throw in some carefully chosen visual projections to set the scene, a few stories about Dylan’s life and songs, and you’re getting very warm!

How did the idea for the show come about?

It’s a no brainer really – I have always been a fan and really it was just waiting for the right time. And although there have been other Dylan tributes, I felt it needed a proper theatre show to really do it justice.

When did you start being a fan of Bob Dylan’s music?

My dad had The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan on vinyl when I was a kid and I fell in love with it. Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right, which we do in the show, is the one that really sticks out for me from that album – it seems to be a fan favourite. I also remember hearing Positively 4th Street and Like A Rolling Stone back to back on the radio when I was a teenager and the sound of those records just blew me away.

What is your favourite Bob Dylan song to perform?

Well we do about 25 in the show and they’re all a joy to perform in their own way, but I guess it would be either Quinn The Eskimo, which was of course a massive hit for Manfred Mann, or Rainy Day Women Nos. 12&35, simply because the band just have so much fun with them, as do the audience!

What do you make of the Nobel Prize award?

Well it was a surprising choice on the face of it, but he’s certainly earned it considering his contribution to popular culture over the last half century; people will say “but it’s not literature”, yet I challenge anyone to read the lyrics to songs like Tangled Up In Blue, Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall, Like A Rolling Stone, Subterranean Homesick Blues and then tell me the guy’s not a poet.

Which song do you think the audience will react to the most?

Well I guess that will depend on their own preferences, but there are some very poignant moments in the show – we know A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall has reduced some to tears, not least because of the accompanying visual imagery and the continuing relevance of its message; Knocking On Heaven’s Door and Forever Young are particularly emotional moments too.

The Band 1

What will the audience take from the show?

We hope people leave with a nostalgia-infused warmth, a renewed appreciation of Dylan’s music, and an eagerness to tell their friends what a great time they had.

Why is Bob Dylan such a legend?

He is an absolute legend, and actually has written many songs that might cause even non-Dylan fans to question their judgement! Mr Tambourine Man (The Byrds), Make You Feel My Love (Adele) and All Along The Watchtower (Hendrix) are three examples that spring immediately to mind and are all performed in the show. And ultimately, I think he gave people licence to demand more from their music experience than a lightweight “boy meets girl” ditty at a time when that was the norm.

What are the trickiest things about performing Dylan’s music?

For me, committing all the lyrics to memory so they can just flow out without me even thinking about it. As for the band, it’s been about reproducing the sounds and notes as authentically as possible so that the audience hears the songs the way they remember them. But they’ve done a fantastic job. They’re all brilliant musicians as well as being fans of the music and this show is lucky to have them.

For tickets to see The Bob Dylan Story, here on Saturday March 3 – click here.




Omid Djalili Interview


We are thrilled to welcome Omid Djalili to Camberley Theatre on November 23rd.


Following a massive 110 date tour of his show Schmuck for a Night earlier in the year, award winning comedian and actor Omid Djalili has just announced a brand-new batch of dates for Autumn/Winter 2017/2018. After a break from touring this summer to take a starring role in Chichester Festival Theatre’s production of Fiddler on the Roof, Omid will be returning to stand up with 36 new dates announced across the UK, from Sunday 29th October 2017 – Saturday 27th January 2018. Here he sits down for a chat…


Your stand-up show is called ‘Schmuck for a Night’ – you toured it for 110 dates throughout 2016/early 2017. That’s a lot of nights to be a schmuck! How was touring earlier this year?

It was truly an honor to do 110 dates. The producers of the TV show “Undateables” said soon as my tour is over I can come back and do another 110 dates.

What can audiences expect from the show?

It’s a comedy roller-coaster. But you have to be a certain height to take the ride. If you’re shorter than my hips you won’t be let in.

Were you driven to take the show back on the road for a brand-new batch of autumn/winter dates by the ever-changing political climate? There must be so much you want to talk about!

I had to come back. There are heckles dating back to October 2016 that I still need to respond to.

Did you find it tricky to constantly keep the show fresh when touring earlier in the year or did the news provide a constant source of ripe comedic material?

All my material is frozen immediately after it’s written so it’s always fresh.

How much had the material changed from the first to last show?

Some of it had thawed and was starting to smell.

What was the schmuck-iest thing you did on the last leg of the tour?

Well that was when I was forced to eat everything in my freezer without defrosting to make room for my jokes. It took hours and I got ill. But the jokes stayed fresh and that’s all that matters.

As part of your role as Tevye you had to sing & dance – can audiences expect you to be infusing that showmanship into your stand up this autumn?

Absolutely. Audiences have been known to riot if I don’t sing and dance. Well maybe just in Charlottesville.

What was it like to work with Director Daniel Evans for Fiddler?

My God is that his name? The whole run I called him Derek.

What are the differences in your own creative processes of putting together a stand-up show and being involved in a musical theatre production?

The differences are huge. In musicals, you need laser like precision to get words and songs right or the show collapses. In stand up all I have to hope for is the audience don’t recommend me for immediate deportation.

In late 2016, you filmed a live-action Disney adaptation of ‘The Nutcracker’ – who did you work with, what was your role & when can we expect to see the film in cinemas?

Helen Mirren was with us for a day and was very nurturing and motherly. Especially towards me. When she noticed I was uncomfortable and kept tugging at the groin area of my trousers she advised me never to run out of clean underwear and avoid wearing my teenage son’s swimming trunks a). because they are too small and b). chlorine from the swimming pool will always cause itching. I’ll never forget that. Amazing woman.



Katie Piper interview

Katie Piper is coming to Camberley Theatre on May 31st 2018. Emma Cox caught up with her to ask some questions about what we can expect from the show.



Where did the idea for a tour come from?

Well, I get a lot of responses to the books that I’ve written. In my autobiography I started off writing very much about my personal experience, and then I expanded into self-help which drew on my own experiences, and those of psychologists and life coaches experts that I’d worked with and benefitted from.

I now feel that I’m on a position where I’ve got techniques and a mantra and things that have worked for me, and I want to help other people.

I am constantly inundated with letters and just people in the street and in restaurants coming up, asking me, ‘How can I get through this?’.

So I thought, if I can take it into the theatres and go onto the road with it, it would be great to help people.

It’s sharing parts of my journey, but it’s not about me re-telling my story word for word. Hopefully it will be uplifting and help people who are having their own battles with anxiety and depression and whatever they are going through.


Is it a day to day part of your life now, talking to people who want your advice?

Yes, it is, and it’s one I feel I can fulfil.

I can help burns survivors practically through my Katie Piper Foundation by giving them funding, we can help with treatment, we can mentor them, we can connect them.

But this is an extension of that: helping people with mental health issues.


What sort of people are you hoping will come to see the tour?

I think lots of different people will come because I think society is changing. With Prince Harry, for example, coming out and talking about mental health, and lots of other people have also come out and said, ‘I suffer from depression’ – people who look outwardly happy.

I think now we’re realising that so many of us are affected by mental health issues.

And now we know that having a counsellor or a therapist isn’t embarrassing, it doesn’t mean you’re crazy. So I think we’ll see very normal people in the audience. Everyone has a story, or something they’re going through.

The people who read my books are not just young women who’ve been burnt. There’s a real variety.

Katie Piper


It’s interesting you mention Prince Harry: it’s becoming okay for men to talk about their feelings, do you agree?

Yeah, and I hope we’ll see some men there. I do get men coming to my book signings. Sometimes they’re my dad’s age, even. When trauma happens, it affects the whole family, not just the person.

So I think encouraging men to keep talking is great and I hope the show touches them as well.


Can you tell us about some of the subject matter you’ll be discussing?

I’m a mother, I’m pregnant now, and when the tour starts I’ll be the mother of two small children.

And because we live in this glossy, Instagram, dating app sort of world, I think there’s never been so much pressure on us or that it’s ever been so hard to stay in touch with reality.

So I think as well as being a mum, I have that insight of what it’s like to be in that ‘celebrity’ world. Sometimes I’ve stood on that red carpet and I don’t even recognise people in the flesh because they are so photoshopped in all other mediums.

Lots of young people are making unfair comparisons to those role models, and feeling in adequate.

So those comparisons are something I really want to talk about.

For me, I had to find confidence and self-worth against all the odds, so if I can do that, I would hope I could help other people do that, who are just trying to get on with their lives but finding it difficult.

I want to help them find perspective between what is real and what isn’t.


What is the format of the show?

I’m going to talk a little bit about my back story, just to put it into context.

But it’s going to be very much about the present tense and the ‘now’.

I’ve got some interesting images to show people that will illustrate what I’m saying. Some images that I’ve seen on Instagram; and I’ve mocked up some examples of myself to show the difference between real life and photoshop.

I might have some special guests at some of the venues, too.

Then I’ll be taking questions from the audience and interacting with them. What they’ll get is absolute honesty. It’s certainly not just going to be me talking at an audience from a lectern.


You’re used to public speaking, of course, but does a theatre tour feel like something a little bit more intimidating?

It does! I think this is going to be so much more intimate. Because I’ll be interacting with the audience, this isn’t like going into a firm and talking in a certain slot.

It’s like inviting people into my front room and having a coffee and talking.

But I’m hoping that intimacy will keep it refreshing and it also means each show will be bespoke and different from the last one. And that does make me more nervous! But in a positive way.


How have you prepared for it?

I’ve been preparing for the last ten years, technically!

It’s actually harder than writing a book. Writing a book is very structured and you have a beginning, middle and an end, and I am used to writing to deadlines. But writing a show keeps evolving and manifesting. Every time I hear something new, that I like, I add it in.

I am constantly collecting quotes, photos, and mantras. In my downstairs loo, I put up stuff that inspires and motivates me, all the time.

In a way, you don’t know who’s going to be in the audience, so you can only prepare to a certain extent. If they ask a certain question, we might veer off in a totally different direction. And that’s quite exciting.


Is there anything out of bounds as far as what the audience can ask you?

Well I live by the mantra, ‘What happens to us, doesn’t define us’, so anybody expecting me to go over my story again is going to be disappointed. It’s not a story about a specific acid attack – I don’t think that would make a good theatre show.

But I believe that sharing is reciprocated so if I share something about my life, I find that people normally share something about their lives.

I feel like most people who come along will have some kind of issue – like we all do in day to day life – so I feel like it will be an environment that will be free and non judgemental. I hope people can say what they like and the audience will listen and empathise.


Have you practised any techniques to help with your delivery or performance?

When we very first started talking about this, I did wonder if I should learn to sing! But everyone shot me down!

I’ve been speaking for seven or eight years and I do still get nervous. I read to my husband, and I practise beforehand, but I actually don’t mind the nerves. I think that adrenaline is good. If you don’t feel nerves, things can get stale.


Are you looking forward to travelling the country?

Well it’s going to be a challenge because I give birth at the end of December and my first tour date is the beginning of March. So I’m going to take the baby with me. I’ll probably be breast feeding, and the baby is going to be very small, so it’s going to be ‘mums on tour’.

But I will talk about that: mums putting labels on ourselves and on what we can and can’t do.

I think being a working mum is challenging, but certainly achievable. So I can bring my experiences from that day into the theatre that evening! I just hope I’m not too tired…


Is Richard going with you to look after the baby?

I think my family are going to share babysitting duties. My mum and my sister are going to help sometimes, and Richie will help at other times. Everyone’s really excited.

Richie is so happy for me to be taking this next stage, but then he always embraces every aspect of my career. I must say, I couldn’t do it without him.


Will he see one or two shows?

I think so! My first show is going to be in my home town and that’s going to be particularly special because I’ll recognise faces in the audience. My family still live there, and I went back to live there while I recovered, and everyone was so supportive, so I have a special attachment to it.


If I told a very young Katie Piper that she’d be touring the country’s theatres one day, what would she say?

It’s definitely surreal! But when I was young I did tap dancing and jazz, and my parents have this fireplace that I would stand on, tap dancing, scratching all the surface. It was our theatre stage, me and my sister. So I’ve always had those aspirations!


So you’ve achieved your dreams, but in a very roundabout way?

Yeah, that’s really true actually, and that’s another lesson I’ll be talking about. Sometimes we get to where we want to be, but it’s not a straight journey: it does veer off to the left and to the right, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I’ve always been interested in the theatre, so it’s really amazing and cool to be doing this.


What else will you be working on before the tour starts?

I’ve been working quite hard on my maternity collection with, so selfishly now I have a wardrobe to wear!

The launch went really well and it was something I’d wanted to do for ages.

It’s been really good fun – and it’s been really nice doing a photoshoot where I didn’t have to breathe in!

It’s been so successful, we sold out some of the lines within a couple of weeks, so I will continue to work with the brand.

It’s founded by a woman who had her first child and she founded it from a laptop in her bedroom, so she’s one of my inspirational women. To keep working with her would be great.

See Katie Piper at Camberley Theatre on May 31st 2018.


The fabulous Arlene Phillips appears at Camberley Theatre on October 12th. Simon Button caught up with her to ask some questions ahead of her tour.

3. ARLENE! The Glitz. The Glamour. The Gossip. Arlene Phillips and Jacquie Storey. Photo Josh Tomalin

How would you sum up the show?

It’s like a tea party with Arlene Phillips where you can ask me any question you like because you’ll hear about everything. It’s a Q&A format, with lots of footage from things I’ve worked on with loads of famous faces and also many photos from my personal archive. I’m working with Jacquie Storey, who is someone I used to teach at Arts Educational school.

What prompted you and Jacquie to team up?

When I created my dance group Hot Gossip [in 1974] we had a few years of phenomenal un-success because we only had a one-night-a-week gig at a club in the West End. I kept thinking ‘We’re going to be famous’ but every time I brought a producer in to see the show I was told ‘It’s too sexy for television’. We were getting nowhere so after three years I told the group: ‘Look, go off and audition and see whatever work you can get. I’m gonna put Hot Gossip on hold’. Within a week or two of delivering that message I had a call that television director David Mallet had seen a photograph of Hot Gossip. Just from seeing the photograph he said ‘I want Arlene Phillips and Hot Gossip on The Kenney Everett Show‘ but some of my dancers had gone out and gotten other jobs. So I turned to some of my students at arts educational school to ask them to be in the show and I was very lucky because three of them said yes, but the fourth one said ‘Oh no, I’m going to do a summer season and I won’t be able to do it because I’m the lead singer’ and that was Jacquie Storey. I caught up with Jacquie recently and she said ‘We have to do a show’. It all started from there.

What’s the glitziest thing you’ve ever done?

One of the glitziest things I’ve ever done was the Elton John video for I’m Still Standing. We planned to shoot it in the South of France with a big opening scene showing Elton driving in an open-top car down the mountains onto the promenade in Cannes. When he arrived in Cannes he was going to swerve into a plate glass window, which would shatter and then three dancers would step out of it, with the dancers being brought over from England.

However, when we arrived early in the morning and were about to begin filming, health and safety stepped in and said ‘No, no, no, we can’t insure Elton driving down the mountains into a plate glass window!’ So, I had to think on my feet. My friend owned a dance group and school in the South of France, so I called and asked, ‘Can I get your dancers?’ She said yes so we told them to bring swimwear, then we body-painted them and suddenly it was like the South of France opened its doors to us. Nice gave us the promenade to dance on, and we were given the beaches and ballroom and staircases of the Negresco Hotel. I taught the dancers the choreography and we them immediately filmed it, so it was like instant choreography. It took us two days to film and after we finished on the last night Elton took people to dinner.

10. ARLENE! The Glitz. The Glamour. The Gossip. Arlene Phillips and Jacquie Storey. Photo Josh Tomalin

What’s the most glamorous event you’ve ever been to?

That would have to be the opening night party in New York City for the film Annie. It was a vast and very, very glamorous party. Everything was divine – the food, the wines, the champagnes – attended by the toast of Broadway and the film world. It was very glamorous indeed.

And what’s your juiciest bit of gossip?

It’s probably the little drama I had on Freddie Mercury’s video for I Was Born To Love You when Freddie had to rescue one of our poor dancers after an accident. Off he went with her to Mile End Hospital to get her stitched up, but the big thing that happened is that it introduced me to my partner [Angus Ion]. I had no idea that an argument would end up with me finding my lifetime partner.

Can you elaborate on that?

When Freddie went off to the hospital I went into the green room and while I was sitting there one of the carpenters on the set started blaming me for the girl’s accident – saying that the throw where one of the dancers picked her up and flew her along a catwalk was dangerous and that I just stood back and watched again and again as we filmed it without stepping in and saying anything. This whole argument developed and I was quite put out that someone had come into the green room to tell me the accident was all my fault. He was angry and said ‘I hate violence towards women’ and then I started accusing him, saying ‘Actually you built that catwalk and what you possibly didn’t see was that it was getting shinier and shinier’. Eventually I walked out. It was leading up to Christmas and I seemed to be doing one video after the other, one of which was an AC/DC video at Brixton Academy – which was absolutely filthy, with us all sitting in dust. Again, it was a very long night and towards the end of a long night/early morning Angus, who was on that shoot as well, walked up and apologised. He said, ‘I’m sorry, I really overstepped the mark’. We got talking and we haven’t stopped talking since!

You’re known for being outspoken so will it be a no-holds-barred show?

It is a no-holds-barred show, yes. It’s a Q&A and people can ask me anything they want and I’ll answer absolutely anything they ask.

Why do you think audiences are so intrigued by backstage stories?

I think it’s because what they usually only get to see is the finished product. When they watch something they don’t know too much about how it’s made, what you go through to get it made and what the people you work with are like. Are the stars easy or difficult? Do they behave? Do they do what you want? The public only sees the finished product – whether it’s a musical or a film or a music video – so I think they like to go deeper into it. And people are so involved in dance today. Everyone’s an expert. With all these reality shows they’ve been taught that they can be an expert, that they can comment on something. So the knowledge of how things are put together, how the machine works, really intrigues people.

You’ve worked with so many big names over the years. Who have been your favourites?

Oh gosh, I loved working with Elton John and of course I’ve had a very long association with Andrew Lloyd Webber. He is one of the most exciting creative people that I know, no question. And I’ve worked with so many female divas – from Whitney Houston to Aretha Franklin to Tina Turner to Donna Summer. My collection of female divas were stunning and all very different, some demanding and some not, all asking for different things and you just have to be there for them. A choreographer often exposes what you can and can’t do so you need to keep the choreographer on your side and make sure they show you at your best.

Any tough customers?

Diana Ross wasn’t easy at first but by midnight she thawed. [Laughs] She thawed in the freezing cold while we were filming outside. Generally, I don’t think I’ve ever done anything where I’ve finished with a mortal enemy.

You made a name for yourself as director and choreographer of Hot Gossip in 1974. Were you being deliberately saucy?

The group was created at a time where I was not only teaching rock jazz but also going out clubbing at night, feeling the excitement of London and the way people were moving in clubs and discos. Putting those two together with the clothes I was wearing – which was not a great deal – seemed so opposite to the smiley dancers that were shown on television on the likes of Seaside Special and the Saturday night entertainment shows, full of vitality and bonhomie with simple steps and lots of energy. I felt at odds with that. I wanted to put into dance what I was experiencing at night in the clubs, namely a more immediate form of dance and physicality where you connected to it and didn’t always have to smile. It was about using your body and expressing your feelings so it became very sexy. Then there were the clothes, which were really borne out of having no money. Lingerie was cheap and cheerful and you could dye it lots of different colours. Everybody in Hot Gossip was doing part-time jobs and one of the boys was not only driving a taxi but also worked part-time selling clothes in a sex shop. He was given some of the clothes by his manager for us to wear so the whole image visually and physically became very sexy.

What have been your subsequent career highlights?

A big highlight is Starlight Express – trying to get triple threats and having them rollerskate or teaching skaters what a bar of music is and getting them all to stop at the same time on a count of eight. For me that was so thrilling and the show goes on and on, celebrating its 30th birthday in Germany next year. It was a real challenge and I loved it being part of my life. I also loved doing a lot of the music videos, especially Duran Duran’s Wild Boys where I had such great dancers. Gosh, there have been so many highlights.

What did you most enjoy about your time on Strictly Come Dancing?

I loved doing Strictly. I’ll never forget it, especially the excitement in the beginning. I remember being there for the pilot with Len Goodman where we really didn’t know what the show was going to be about. It seemed like it hadn’t quite formed, then gradually it found its feet. We had the amazing Natasha Kaplinsky, who really took to dance, and there was the comedy element where everyone fell in love with Chris Parker when on his paso doble he just ran around the floor stamping his feet with a cape on his back. The format was formed, with these wonderful professional dancers who were going to go on winning and these extraordinary characters who the audience fell in love with.

What is it liking to launch the show at the Edinburgh Fringe?

I love Edinburgh. I’ve only done one show there before, Brazouka, which was a Brazilian dance show. Edinburgh Festival Fringe is so exciting; with the audiences there you almost feel like you’re in your living room with you. They’re all around you and it feels like you’re chatting just as you would to friends.

Do you have any pre or post-show rituals?

I always eat grapes. [Laughs] Don’t ask me why, but I nervously eat them before going on stage. I don’t mind if they’re green or red as long as they’re really hard. I will not eat a soft grape. They have to be crunchy otherwise they don’t pass the Arlene test. I don’t know why that’s my ritual but it somehow calms my nerves. Then after a show I get changed as quickly as possible and get out of the venue while my mind is still fresh, get my notebook out and scribble down what I think worked and what I think didn’t.

When fans meet you what are they most intrigued to know?

The questions that come up the most are about being a mother at 47 and about my time on Strictly. Then many people tell me what their favourite musical is and where they saw it.

Peter Pan Photo-shoot!

We’ve been having fun and working hard – casting ‘Peter Pan’ for this Christmas and taking photos – yes, in the summer!

Here’s Nana the Dog saying ‘hi’

And here’s us sneaking a photo of the photshoot! Meet Tinkerbell, Capt.Hook and Peter Pan! Watch this space, we’ll be going Peter Pan crazy, we promise! 🙂

Tickets are on sale now, get yourselves ready for an awfully big adventure!