Friday, 17 March 2017

Coronation Street Blog Interview: Marji Campi


The actress Marji Campi has been appearing regularly on our screens for many years now. She has played in many classic television shows and theatre productions but is probably best known to Coronation Street fans for her part as Dulcie Froggatt, a bit of a minx who came between the Duckworths back in the 1980s. I caught up with Marji to find out more about playing Dulcie and some of her other well-known roles.

Can you tell me a bit about how you first got started in the acting profession?

It’s what I wanted to do from the age of about eight and I really got a taste for acting in school plays. I eventually did a part time drama course at ‘The Actors Workshop’, then read in The Stage about East 15 Acting School, which had only been open a year and was auditioning students for the next year. I was a great admirer of Joan Littlewood’s work at Theatre Workshop, which the school was an offshoot of, auditioned and was thrilled to be accepted. After graduation I went into repertory theatre, as most actors did in those days and where one got to play a huge variety of parts. The most fun there is, I think. I also started playing small parts on television.

I read that you appeared in several live episodes of Z-Cars in the 1960s. What was it like to work in live television drama?

Terrifying! Hearing ‘Thirty seconds to go, quieten down studio', then the Z Cars music and having the first linen the programme was an experience I’ll never forget. Once you’re off, there are no chances to reshoot, you have to get it right first time. Actually, I only did one live episode, but went back to be one of the ‘BD’ girls for a while, by which time it was recorded, so not quite so nerve wracking, although in those days most things were done in one take. We did have more rehearsal time than nowadays though.

You appeared in two episodes of the coronation Street spinoff show, ‘Pardon the Expression’. What was it like to work with the likes of Arthur Lowe and Betty Driver on that Show?

Lovely! Arthur Lowe was a charming man and Betty Driver used to keep us amused with tales of being in variety years before. They were very kind to me and the other young actors. 


Coronation Street fans will remember you as the wonderfully named Dulcie Froggatt back in the 1980s. What are your memories of playing that character?

Yes, isn’t it a wonderful name? I loved playing Dulcie, she was such a tart and it’s always more fun playing those parts than the goodies. Bill Tarmey and I had a lot of laughs and I really enjoyed the over the top make up and clothes. I had some great storylines with Bill and then, of course, I also seduced Terry when he came round selling dusters. As I said, such a tart!

Your role in Coronation street saw you work with two absolute legends in Bill Tarmey and Liz Dawn. What were they like to work with?

Legends indeed! They were both hilarious and fun to work with and utterly professional. I only had one scene with Liz, when she came to my house to tell Dulcie to keep her hands off ‘our Terry’ but I used to see her often in The Old Schoolhouse bar when I was shooting Surgical Spirit at Granada and we would always have a chat and a laugh. I had a lot more to do with Bill of course. He was a lovely man and I was so sad when he died.


Why do you think Coronation Street is still so popular nearly sixty years after it was first broadcast?

Because it’s about real down to earth people who most of us can identify with- their hopes, fears, disasters and joys and long may it last!

Another of your best known roles was in the long running ITV comedy, Surgical Spirit. What are your memories of making that series?

One of my strongest memories is of my face aching from laughing! We had such a good time and I used to really look forward to starting again each year. I like doing television with a live audience as well. It’s sort of like acting in theatre, but being aware of the camera positions and all the technical stuff at the same time. The scripts, written by Peter Learmouth (and later other writers as well) were brilliant and the whole company gelled and worked well together. I recently had a reunion in my flat, because Peter, the writer, was over from the Philippines, where he now lives and most of us were here and it was as if we’d never been apart. Some of us still meet regularly, including our costume designer Frances Haggett and Suzanna Allan, make up designer, when she’s in London. I made friends for life on that show. One of my favourite jobs.


You played Jessie Shadwick in the Channel 4 series Brookside for four years. What was it like to be part of that iconic series?

Hard work and often very cold! We weren’t in a nice warm studio, but in the actual houses and the windows and doors were always open for cables to come through! Often twelve hour days, then learning tomorrow’s lines before bed, just as in any other ‘soap’. However, I loved it. Great people to work with and lots of interesting storylines. The producers were very good at putting up advice lines at the end of each episode when something disturbing was happening so that people could get help if they had been involved in similar problems to the characters.

You worked with Coronation Street veteran Kenneth Cope on Brookside, What was he like to work with?

Very experienced and professional. Very kind and funny and I think we worked well together. Mind you, I started off as a very nice woman but ended up being a bit of a bitch and poor old Ray (Ken) kept getting it in the neck He held his own though and was a really strong character.

As an actor do you prefer working in theatre, television or film  and why?

That’s a hard one! I just like working. I think most actors would say that they love working in theatre, because there is something special and exciting about playing to a live audience, unless they hate the play of course, then it’s agony! On the other hand, television requires a different technique, smaller and more intimate, which is also very satisfying. I was lucky enough last year to work in theatre, television and radio, which I also enjoyed.

Of all the roles you’ve played, which has been your favourite and why?

Another hard one! Impossible to have a favourite. I loved Dulcie Froggatt in Coronation Street, because she was such fun, Joyce in Surgical Spirit over fifty episodes got stronger and funnier and I think Shirley Valentine, who I played three times, is a wonderful part and probably my favourite theatre job. One of my all time favourite jobs was when I was with Theatre at Sea, swanning round the world doing plays on board the QE2 and The Canberra, playing lots of different parts, seeing the world and dancing the night away.

Finally, what’s next for you?

I’m just finishing a short film with Ashley Campbell and Leon Lopez, both recently at the Royal Shakespeare Co. Leon was also in Brookside (Jerome) with me. Ashley, writer and actor in the film and Leon directing. Another one of my favourite jobs. I have also just done a bit in a programme for NBC and it was interesting working with an American crew. After that, who knows? We actors always think we’re never going to work again, but we always live in hope!

I'd like to thank Marji for taking the time to answer all my questions and also James at Narrow Road for helping to set up the interview.

You can follow me on Twitter @GraemeN82

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