Menopause the Musical is coming to Lanark Memorial Hall

Just like her character in Eastenders, Cheryl Fergison is a George Michael fan which, to my mind, makes her even more likeable!
Just like her character in Eastenders, Cheryl Fergison is a George Michael fan which, to my mind, makes her even more likeable!

It seems only fitting that, as a die-hard George Michael fan, I’m interviewing London-born actress Cheryl Fergison about her latest role.

For Cheryl played the much-loved George superfan, Heather Trott, on Eastenders for five years until, in a dramatic doof, doof, doof finish, Phil’s son, Ben Mitchell, hit her fatally with a photo frame in March 2012.

Nothing in common...well, at first you would think so but Maureen Nolan, Rebecca Wheatley, Cheryl Fergison and Katherine Lynch soon discover otherwise.

Nothing in common...well, at first you would think so but Maureen Nolan, Rebecca Wheatley, Cheryl Fergison and Katherine Lynch soon discover otherwise.

Her character is often still referenced in the BBC One soap by surly sidekick Shirley and is instantly recognised by its many fans.

Indeed, when I catch up with Cheryl in between rehearsals in Glasgow for her upcoming Scottish tour of Menopause the Musical, she has just brought a deaf bingo session to an absolute standstill!

She joked: “I could see them all signing: It’s Heather, it’s Heather! It went round the room like wildfire.

“I get recognised all the time, probably because the character was someone people really related to.

“It’s lovely to be remembered for that part because I had the time of my life on Eastenders.

“It’s sad that I can’t go back but now that I live just outside Blackpool with my husband and son, I could always do River City instead. I can see myself as a Morag!”

Joking aside, Cheryl has a real affinity for Scotland as part of her childhood was spent in Skinflats, just outside Falkirk.

Her mum Avril and stepdad John Campbell, who adopted Cheryl and whom she proudly called dad, lived there while Avril was pregnant.

Cheryl vividly recalls, aged six, going into Falkirk to buy her new wee brother a pair of bootees.

She said: “I got the blue bootees and then went into a bakers and asked for a dozen baps – they didn’t know what I was talking about!”

The family also spent many weeks in the town on holiday, visiting Cheryl’s great-grandad, grandad, aunties and uncles.

She said: “My room was upstairs at my great-grandad’s and I could see right into the neighbouring pub.

“It was the first time I saw live music and sawdust on the floor!”

While Cheryl’s Falkirk relatives are all now sadly gone, her love of Scotland has never diminished.

And she’s proudof her Scottish surname, which is her dad’s middle name, albeit with a different spelling!

She explained: “I couldn’t be called Cheryl Campbell on my equity card as there was another actress at the time with that name.

“So I asked dad if I could use one of his middle names instead and I was proud to take Fergison.

“But when the card came back my dad said: It’s Ferguson, not Fergison!

“I got the spelling wrong on the form which is why my surname is so unusual. Dad laughed and said at least it was unique!

“Thanks to my stage name, which I love, I’ll never get rid of my Scottish roots. It’s always felt like home.”

That’s just one of many reasons Cheryl is looking forward to touring Scotland once again, reprising her role in the acclaimed Menopause the Musical for a fourth time.

She explained: “Audiences in the south tend to be pretty reserved but the further north you go, the more up for it they are!

“The audiences here in Scotland are always fantastic.”

And Cheryl (53) is more than comfortable with the musical’s subject matter, not least because she has been going through “the change” herself and knows the impact it has on women who come to see it.

She explained: “About 98 per cent of the audience are women; grans, mums and daughters.

“The grans relate because they’ve lived through it, the mums are often going through it and it lets the daughters know what to expect in future!

“We adapt well known songs; Hot Stuff, for example, has become Night Sweats and I sing I Will Survive ... Being Wide Awake, something I can relate to as I struggle to sleep at night. A lot of women come up to us after the show or write letters saying how much it meant to them. They realise they’re not alone.”

But the real beauty of the musical is that, as well as being a whole lot of fun, it’s also educational.

Cheryl said: “It tells you it’s okay to talk about the menopause, with a lot of songs and laughs along the way.

“It’s actually a shame we don’t get more men coming because it might explain a few things to them.

“The two per cent that do come along always love it. In fact, my uncle said it explained why my aunt threw a Tonka toy at his head!”

Cheryl is as down to earth and likeable as her Eastenders character.

But I had one last question for her: was she a George Michael fan, just like Heather?

“Those who don’t like George must be aliens,” she added.

Well, that just made me like her even more!

Starring Cheryl Fergison, Maureen Nolan, Casualty’s Rebecca Wheatley and Katherine Lynch of RTÉ’s Wagons Den, the hysterical Menopause The Musical has entertained and inspired women across the world since 2001.

It’s an all-singing, all-dancing comedy bringing together four women at a department store sale, who on first appearance have nothing in common.

However, the sale of a black lace bra soon stimulates heart-to-hearts on hot flushes, night sweats, memory loss, chocolate binges, not enough sex, too much sex and plastic surgery.

Menopause the Musical will be staged at Lanark Memorial Hall on February 20 at 7.30pm. For tickets, visit www.sllcboxoffice.co.uk.