Tracey Childs: From acting to producing

Tracey Childs might be most known for playing Lynne Howard in the 1980s drama series Howards’ Way. She has also starred as Linda Cosgrove in the television series Born and Bred and most recently Elaine Jenkinson in Broadchurch.

Her absolute favourite roles however include Martha in Who’s afraid of Virginia Wolf and Tracy Lord in High Society. The last one is a musical in which she doesn’t sing but dances and plays the part of an uptight, isolated woman who never drinks until one evening when she does and turns into a complete nymphomaniac.

“I don’t know what that says about me but there you go” Tracey says laughing.

Martha in Who’s afraid of Virginia Wolf was however the most interesting role she ever played she says. The play, which was first staged in 1962 by Edward Albee portraits the difficulties of the marriage of a middle-aged couple, Martha and George. When Martha one day invites a young couple over for drinks they get pulled into Martha and George’s bitter and frustrated relationship.

“It’s the most appalling thing to watch as these people tear each other apart and tear the other two guests apart and destroy them and make them admit things to each other that means their marriage will never be the same again” she says.

There are some actors who work from the inside out and then there are those who work from the outside in Tracey says. Being the latter herself she says that in order to step into the shoes of her roles she quite literally needs to put on the right shoes in order to play her part.

“It’s interesting as an act of getting yourself out of your own comfort zone so for instance for Klein I would wear really heavy boots that were kind of like Nazi boots really but they just really grounded me and made me feel very strong” Tracey says.

Elizabeth Klein was a character she played as part of a Doctor Who spin-off in the audio story Colditz. Kline came from an alternative timeline that had been created when the Seventh Doctor left a piece of laser technology in the hands of the Nazis at Colditz castle resulting in their victory during World War II.

Quite early in her career at the age of sixteen Tracey also starred as the younger sister Marianne Dashwood in the BBC series Sense and Sensibility based on Jane Austen’s novel with the same name. It was her third acting job and she and her co-star had to lie about their ages in order to make sure they got their roles. It was the first time she ever got really nervous and the first time she had ever felt such a big responsibility.

“The show is called Sense and Sensibility so if you don’t think those two people are right then you don’t have faith in the show before you even start and I can’t tell you how much that terrified me, that dawning realisation. So for the first time in my life but not my last I spent the night before vomiting madly, I just couldn’t stop being sick, I was really scared” she says.

Being a natural actor however Tracey went to the read-through the next day completely calm on the surface and managed to pull through. Looking back at it now she says that for the most part she is satisfied with how it turned out.

“There are some scenes when I was sick that I thought were awful but actually the rest of it I looked at it being, “do you know what for a sixteen year old it’s not bad” she says.

Tracey is perhaps most know for her part as Lynne Howard in Howards’ Way which aired on the BBC in the 80’s. The show, which has been said to be a British version of Dallas set among wealthy sailing communities became immensely popular at a time when there were only four channels. She says she still occasionally get’s recognised for it and sometimes people even sing the theme music to her.

“We regularly had fourteen to sixteen million viewers, at its peak it had eighteen million and a half which at the time is unheard of, well its unheard of now. You know if you think about it, one in four in the country knew who you were so it kind of transformed telly a bit really” Tracey says.

One of the later roles she played on television was Linda in the TV-series Born and Bred, which aired on BBC from 2002 to 2005. The show was a light-hearted British comedy drama based in Lancashire during the 1950s and she played the part of Linda Cosgrove, a nurse working at the village hospital.

“That’s probably my favourite telly part I think. I love that woman, I absolutely bloody adored her. I would have played that part forever if the BBC had just kept running that series its such a show” Tracey says.

Her most recent appearance on telly was on the BBC TV-series Broadchurch when she starred as CS Elaine Jenkinson in 2013. Since then Tracey has moved onto producing and put her acting job on the shelf. Looking back at it now she says she realises that she was always a nosy actor and would often ask questions like how many seats there was in an auditorium, the price of tickets or what the break figure was.

“I was determined to learn how to do the producing thing properly and I went of to a charity called Stage One who were fantastic and taught me a great deal and gave me a safe network and gave me mentors and were just amazing” Tracey says.

Stage One was set up by all of the West End producers to support upcoming producers when they realised that the new generation of producers wasn’t coming through. They run workshops, teach how to produce, give out bursaries and have both mentor schemes and apprenticeships. Tracey is currently teaching modules in their workshops as a way of giving back. She received a three-month living allowance when she was just starting to move over from acting to producing and got a fully paid apprentice from the charity.

“They are just amazing, it’s the most supporting inclusive network. They will tell you everything you need to know” she says.

Tracey was working on the board at the Mercury Theatre when they decided to bring in a different structure and hire a producer. She submitted an application and went to the interview with lots of other people. She got the job and has been working and the theatre for almost four years now since October of 2014 and is responsible for producing all of the in-house shows at the theatre.

“I’m incredibly proud of the shows we’ve produced, we’ve just produced a brand new British musical with a gay love story at its heart which is incredibly hard to do” Tracey says.

The musical, which is called Pieces of String, is set during the Second World War and in the recent past. The first number opens with a young couple moving in to their first home. Simultaneously the daughter, Jane of that couple arrives at the age of fifty to pack up her father’s house having just been at his funeral. After a visit from and old woman who leaves a package from her brother to Jane’s deceased father, Jane discovers something that will have an affect on both the relationship she has with her own children but also herself.

“It’s absolutely beautiful I love it” Tracey says.

At the moment she is also doing a play called Europe After the Rain, which won the Mercury Playwriting Prize in 2017. It’s set in a post-Brexit Britain on the eve of an election when a far-right government is about to take control and is both humoristic and thought provoking.

Europe After the Rain runs at the Mercury Theatre from the 25th of May to the 9th of June. Ticket prices goes from £9.5 – 16£. You can call the Mercury Theatre box office on 01206 573948 or book tickets online.

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