10 minutes with Fenella Fielding | Living North

10 minutes with Fenella Fielding


Fenella Fielding
From gossiping with Kenneth Williams, to Lord Byron being handsome. We spoke to the first lady of comedy ahead of her evening at Newcastle’s Tyneside Cinema

You have had an exceptional career with a list of credits spanning from the ‘50s. It is impossible to keep up with you! What keeps you so vibrant?
I think it’s work! Work is what keeps you very brisk really – I adore it. I think when I’m not working I’m less energetic.

When you’re not working do you relax and go abroad?
I nip about and see things so it’s not just about me – I try to see what’s going on! I’m sure my secret is to keep working.

You are appearing at the Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle on the 2nd of August – could you talk us through your appearance?
I am going to read a chapter of Frankenstein.

Oh amazing! Mary Shelley?
Yes! Have you read it?

I studied it at University on my English Literature course. She was my favourite author on the module!
She was amazing, wasn’t she? She was so young and managed to write the first book of its kind. I only came across it two or three years ago, I really couldn’t believe it. You were very lucky to study it at University. Is that why she ran away with Byron? He was very gorgeous though.

Do you feel like you connect with the book, is that why you are reading it aloud?
Well the connection is really rather a loose one, but it is connected with the comedy with the Carry On Screaming film. It was meant to be terrifying, but it really is not!

With Carry On Screaming, why do you think it is so relevant 50 years later?
I think it’s very well-made. I think it’s got a very good plot, which makes all the difference between a film you enjoy and a film you have to apply yourself to. The plot is there and I think there’s just enough horror to put it in the right place – with just the right amount of comedy.

Why do you think you are still quoted now as comedy’s first lady, from that film especially?
I really don’t know! I’m happy that it is quoted but I don’t know why I should be... I don’t think it’s a very good idea to question these things – I’m just grateful.

Has anything especially embarrassing happened on the Carry On set?
Let me see, no nothing embarrassing happened!  In between scenes we just all sat and gossiped in the ordinary way. Like, ‘What are you doing?’ ‘What is so and so up to?’ ‘Do you think those two are having an affair?’ – the usual like that!

Did you have a particular favourite person to gossip with?
Well I gossiped a lot with Kenneth Williams who was a huge gossip! He was censorious, and he was very down on certain people having an affair with others. I thought it was a killing, it did make me laugh!

Do you prefer performing monologues like Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues and your upcoming evening at the Tyneside to onscreen credits like Carry On? We know that you have a fascination with Greek poetry that you tend to perform at intimate events.
I do adore Greek poetry. I only conjured a fascination for that two or three years ago when I realised how marvellous it is. With terrific translations, it makes it very easy on the audience. With a lot of translations from Ancient Greek, they are very stiff as if they understand the Greek language but without a real connection. Good translations make a lot of difference. I love doing poetry.

You did ask about the Vagina Monologues though, that was quite a while ago [2006]. I loved doing it, I thought it was a very good piece to have put together. I went to Dublin to do it which was a big surprise and did it all over Ireland. It was a good thing – there were a lot of people who very uptight and performing made them un-uptight! I’m amazed it’s still going on.

Do you feel like you have achieved everything so far that you would have liked to?
Oh you never have really! There are certain things that I would still love to do but certain things also become too late. I’m very grateful that you think I’ve done a great many different things.

You have done so much! Radio shows, theatre performances – you’re a role model to women.
Oh that’s the biggest compliment I’ve ever heard! Thank you very much!

Do you have any advice for young women and hopefuls of such an esteemed, and lengthy career?
It is always good to follow your intuition and your instinct. That is the most important thing, otherwise you just sit and can fiddle with all the ins and outs to such an extent that they get wiped away. It’s very good to plunge in every now and again – that is my advice. It is very good to take a little risk, and perhaps go into something where you are the only one who knows what is going on. Suddenly you might find that it is the best thing you ever decided to do. 

Fenella Fielding will perform at Newcastle’s Tyneside Cinema on August 2nd at 7:30pm, after an exclusive screening of Carry On Screaming! For more information and ticket prices, visit www.tynesidecinema.co.uk/whats-on/fenella-fielding


Published in: July 2015

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