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Ex-EastEnders’ star Jessie Wallace invites Colchester thriller fans into a Deathtrap

Jessie Wallace, one of the stars of Deathtrap at Colchester's Mercury Theatre. Photo: Contributed

Jessie Wallace, one of the stars of Deathtrap at Colchester's Mercury Theatre. Photo: Contributed

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Deathtrap - by award-winning playwright and autor Ira Levin, writer of Rosemary’s Baby, The Stepford Wives and Critics Choice - still holds the record as the longest running thriller in Broadway history.

Paul Bradley as Sidney Bruhl and Jessie Wallace as his wife Myra in Deathtrap at Colchester's Mercury Theatre. Photo: James BeedhamPaul Bradley as Sidney Bruhl and Jessie Wallace as his wife Myra in Deathtrap at Colchester's Mercury Theatre. Photo: James Beedham

It’s the tale of Sidney Bruhl, who was once a successful stage thriller writer but is in the grip of writer’s block. When promising playwright Clifford Anderson sends him a copy of his new whodunit, Deathtrap, he invites the young writer to his remote country home, telling him to bring the only other copy of the story with him. The plan, kill the newcomer and pass the play off as his own so he can be the toast of Broadway again.

A new production of the Tony-nominated play visits Colchester’s Mercury Theatre from October 30-November 4. It stars Paul Bradley of Holby City and EastEnders as Bruhl.

Billed as a truly satisfying spine-chiller guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat, I found out more from BAFTA nominee Jessie Wallace, of EastEnders and Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be, who’s fresh off stage playing his wife Myra.

Jessie Wallace as Kat Moon and Shane Richie as Alfie Moon in BBC drama EastEnders. Photo: BBC / Jack BarnesJessie Wallace as Kat Moon and Shane Richie as Alfie Moon in BBC drama EastEnders. Photo: BBC / Jack Barnes

Q: How’s the run going...

It’s going really well... audiences are good, it’s going down really well. I love it, it’s brilliant. It’s a great cast, lovely theatres, it’s a great play so I’m enjoying it.

Q: How did you get the acting bug...

Jessie Wallace as Myra Bruhl in Deathtrap at Colchester's Mercury Theatre. Photo: James BeedhamJessie Wallace as Myra Bruhl in Deathtrap at Colchester's Mercury Theatre. Photo: James Beedham

I’ve always had it since I was a kid... I did school plays, all that.

Q: The play’s described as a nerve-jangler; how much can you say without giving anything away...

When you think you’ve worked something out, then something else happens. There’s loads of twists and turns. I can’t say too much about my character because it will give it away. She’s married to Sidney Bruhl who’s had writer’s block for 18 years. He was the toast of the town in the 1960s and early 1970s. It’s based in the late 1970s. He receives a play from a student at the university who says it’ll make millions, run for years and years on Broadway, become a film; then he mentions he could kill the writer just to get the play and stick his own name on it.

Actress Jessie Wallace can't say too much about Deathtrap at Colchester's Mercury Theatre because she doesn't want to give anything away. Photo: ContributedActress Jessie Wallace can't say too much about Deathtrap at Colchester's Mercury Theatre because she doesn't want to give anything away. Photo: Contributed

My character tries to talk him round to collaborating with him and that’s when it all goes pear shaped. She’s a great character from start to finish because she goes on a bit of a journey. I can’t go too much into it. It’s a journey that happens very quickly, so for me that’s a challenge.

Q: So people are kept on the edge of their seats guessing...

Yeah, you think you’ve worked something out then... I’m so focused on what I’m doing as the character (but) I hear a lot of people jumping as well...

Q: This play has a great pedigree...

Yes, it’s by Ira Levin and ran for four years on Broadway and won a lot of awards as well...

Q: You mix things up role-wise; it must be nice to get out of the shadow of previous roles; obviously many people will automatically think of you as Kat Slater in EastEnders...

I can’t say it’s a shadow of Kat, it’s a character I created myself and it took me 15 years to create such an iconic character so if anything I’m proud of Kat, to be recognised for that. It is nice to do other stuff but it’s nice to have a character like Kat under my belt because I’m proud of her.

Q: People seem obsessed with fame - either getting it, or with people who already have it - why do you think that is...

I’ve got no idea.

Q: Do you enjoy the difference challenge of theatre versus TV...

I enjoy both. Anyone who’s trained as an actor, you train in the theatre; that’s the core of acting, to get out and perform in front of a live audience and do something different every night with your character. It’s the thrill of theatre that I love. Doing TV is a lot different, it’s not gruelling, it’s very enjoyable, I just love acting.

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