Strictly Come Dancing and Holby star Chizzy Akudolu is on stage in Cambridge
Former Holby City star Chizzy Akudolu is ditching her famous scrubs for a corset in an English production of a play that is currently taking Paris by storm.
She is joined by actors Freddie Fox, Henry Goodman and Josie Lawrence in the multi award-winning romantic comedy Edmond de Bergerac, the show of the story behind French play Cyrano de Bergerac.
The story is set in Paris in 1895. Edmond is a struggling playwright with writer’s block. His last play was a flop, he’s down on his luck. Until he helps his best friend Leo woo a girl called Jeanne by penning romantic letters to her as if from Leo… and it’s a brilliant idea for the plot of his brand-new play, Cyrano de Bergerac.
Chizzy plays Marina, a faded star who agrees to appear in Edmond’s new play and is ‘a bit of a div’.
Chizzy says: “She is a great character to play - she is juicy. I think we all want to be a bit of a diva sometimes. I basically get to walk around like I own the place. She's a bit of a cow really and is mean to Edmond because she knows he’s been a bit of a flop. But she is the sort of person who knows her worth so i can imagine if she was alive today she would be fighting for equal pay.
I do have a fabulous costume in the show, a beautiful green silk dress. This is my second time in period costume and ever and I’ve found it just totally changes your character. The dress is long and there's lots of swishing and picking it up as I walk up the steps. I love it.
The corset is fab too because it makes you sit up straight and stops your back hurting. I may have to invest in one but I'll need someone to do it up for me.
I have to rethink that because my cat won’t be able to do it but it improves your posture no end.”
This is the life story of French playwright Edmond Rostand who wrote Cyrano de Bergerac 1897, which is turn was a fictionalisation on the life of French novelist and playwright Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac.
This story behind the writing of Cyrano de Bergerac is the French equivalent of Shakespeare in Love and has had a 700 performance run in Paris so far. Edmond Rostand wrote one of France’s most enduring love stories and in this show we meet him as he has hit rock bottom in his career.
However, Chizzy does not have much sympathy for married Edmond’s situation, and his falling in love with Jeanne when he writes love letters to her for Leo.
“If it were my husband I would chop it off, regardless of whether you are using the girl in the situation as a muse,” she laughs.
“Obviously, this not real it is a bit of fantasy, a bit of fun; but if it was real I would kill him. It is still cheating . Cheating is not just about sexual contact, it is about emotions.
“The thing for Edmond’s wife is these are love letters that he used to send to her and now he is sending them to another woman, so of course she is going to feel betrayed.”
Chizzy left her long-running role as surgeon Mo Effanga on Holby City at the end of last year, and says it was the right time to go.
“If I was going to be in another long running show it would have to be in America - I don’t think I could do a continuing drama again
“I used to get up at 5am to go to work on set and get back at 8pm, which leaves no time to do anything and then in winter you are basically living in the dark and coming home in the dark and then learning lines at night. I really miss the show a lot but I’m enjoying life and I think you need to keep moving around.
“I realised I wasn't being challenged any more on Holby and I could have stayed there forever but I just wanted more.”
Asked if her plans to go to America were serious, she said she was currently looking at organising her visa.
“I still want to live here but I want to be able to work there. If I could do anything I’d want to be in SVU Special Victims Unit Law and Order, which I have loved since its inception. But also I would love to be in a new show and do a pilot that gets taken up. I think I would like to be a real ballsy police officer.”
There are lots of exciting opportunities lining up for Chizzy, but in the past she has found herself talking on Loose Women about her experience of mental health problems.
“You don’t kind of expect to talk about it and then stuff comes out and you think, oh no! I’m always happy to talk about the depression, but the eating disorder I just think I didn't really mean to talk about that.
“I’m feeling much better. I have a therapist who is really brilliant and every time I start to feel low I get on the phone to him and we Skype. The food issue, I’m in a good place I think, not where I need to be but im in a good place.
“It's just a case of every day trying to top up that serotonin and stay happy. Apart from the antidepressants I’m still on, I meditate in the morning and I try to focus on positive things. So anything negative I literally just cut out of my life and anyone who says anything negative, I just don’t engage with them.”
Edmond de Bergerac is at the Cambridge Arts Theatre on Monday 15 – Saturday 20. Tickets from £25. Box Office: 01223 503333 or cambridgeartstheatre.com
More by this authorAlex Spencer