After a summer at Chichester Festival Theatre as Parchester in Me and My Girl, Jennie Dale makes a rapid return, this time as Matron in David Walliams’ The Midnight Gang ( until November 3) – the story of a gang of children who each night escape from their hospital beds.
“I loved being in Chichester this summer,” Jennie says. “I have fallen in love with Chichester. It is just one of the warmest theatres that I have ever come across. It is like its own little community. I think it is because the offices are there and there is a fabulous green room and the dressing rooms are lovely. You have got everything you need. It is like stepping onto a lovely running ship. It was great.”
In My and My Girl, she played a male solicitor: “I think if I am honest they changed it to having a woman play it because the character is not the most challenging of roles. At the time they wanted to do something different with it and give him a bit of life.”
Now it is a question of “everything crossed”, hoping that the show will find its way into the West End: “Everyone is hoping that it will have a life ahead of it. A lot of it depends on theatre availability, finding the right-sized theatre at the right time… but I am not letting go of the dream.”
And that dreaming is one of the most difficult parts of the job, Jennie admits: “I think that is why people decide that the job is not for them. You just don’t know what is around the corner. It might not happen… or suddenly in a couple of weeks you might suddenly have the most incredible job. You just don’t know what is going to happen.”
Which is why Jennie was all the more delighted that The Midnight Gang is now bringing her her second show in Chichester within weeks: “I discovered that I had got the part while we were still doing Me and My Girl. I didn’t even have to audition. I was very lucky. My agent said ‘I have got a job for you’, and I said ‘I haven’t even auditioned for anything.’
"But I know that (director) Dale had popped into the rehearsal rooms and they had hopefully seen enough of me. It rarely happens like that, but I suppose the older you get, the more years you have been doing it, people will know your skill set a bit more. Sometimes you don’t have to do as many auditions. Sometimes you have still have to do loads!”
Jennie describes the piece as a fantastic, imaginative story about a group of children escaping from hospital every night.
“I am playing the matron and she is horrible. She is the Miss Hannigan of the orphanage. She doesn’t want them to have any fun, picks on them and confiscates their sweets and calls them all the names under the sun. She brings them all the misery which is the flipside to all the happiness in the adventures they are having.”