By David Hennessy
“I think you need them whenever,”answers Zoe Salmon without a bit of hesitation when The Irish World asks if we can ever get too old for fairy tales. The former Miss Northern Ireland and presenter of Blue Peter can currently be seen in the title role of Cinderella at New Victoria Theatre in Woking. “I just think there is no age limit and I am living proof of that because every day when I go in, it’s always a joy, every second has been a pleasure. You’re just immersed in this magical fairytale world and I like to think that in 50 years’ time, I will be reminiscing about my days as Cinderella and reading fairytales to my grandchildren and still as much in love with it all as ever.”
Zoe gained a law degree before getting her big break on children’s television in 2004. Since leaving the world’s longest running children’s show in 2008, Zoe has enjoyed stints on Dancing on Ice and Celebrity Masterchef as well as playing a television presenter in the Russell Brand film, Get Him to the Greek.
Is acting onstage completely new for Zoe? “I did it amateur-ly as a child. I was with the Bangor Amateur Operatic Society and I did productions there when I was really young but that was a long, long time ago. It was a real privilege to be asked to do it professionally and it really is such a joy and the cast is just phenomenal.
“Acting’s definitely a passion of mine. I suppose I’ve never really pursued it before because I’ve been always so tied up with other projects but I cleared my schedule when I got offered Cinderella because I just thought: ‘You can’t turn Cinderella down’. I’m delighted I didn’t, I really am living the fairytale. Fingers crossed it’s something I can do a bit more of alongside the presenting.”
Joining Zoe’s Cinderella onstage is presenter and actor Justin Fletcher as Buttons and well known comedian Hal Cruttenden, who recently impressed at the Royal Variety Show, as Dandini: “I’m overwhelmed to be surrounded by such talent.
“Hal’s such a super talent, he really is. I think anyone who is into their comedy, can’t not love him. The kids are gonna love him, everyone’s gonna love him. Our Fairy Godmother who is another Zoe, Zoe Curlett is a fabulous West End lady. Her voice is just amazing. People will cry when they hear her voice. Our Prince Charming is Liam Tamne who was one of the contestants on The Voice and I just melt every time I sing with him. We have been so lucky with the talent in this production. Between Liam’s beautiful singing a lot of people will recognise from The Voice and Zoe’s incredible soprano, with the talent in this show…it could hit Broadway,” Zoe laughs.
A character in the Channel 4 sitcom London Irish suggested recently spoke of the “conspiracy” that no Irish people got Blue Peter badges. We thought Zoe would be the ideal person to raise this with. Was there a conspiracy? “It’s funny because I did an interview recently with Tubridy and he said that. I think he said he tried to get one when he was younger but he didn’t. It’s funny, quite a lot of Irish people said it. I don’t know, that I don’t understand. I know when I was on Blue Peter, I certainly got Irish fan mail. I remember signing things for people from all over Ireland so maybe they’ve changed things, maybe I changed things.”
Zoe was new to the BBC flagship programme when she famously said:”I’d Try Anything Once”. This led to her being invited to take on several dangerous or embarrassing things on the show. But she has no regrets and still has the same attitude: “I absolutely love the fact that I was able to try anything once and the fact that I got to take on all these amazing challenges. Yeah, some scared me, some I loved. It’s nice to push yourself even if you think ‘I can’t do it’ and it’s nice for people watching to think ‘maybe I could do that too’. Its about inspiring people which is why I was always willing to give things a go and you see those books, 100 Things to do Before you Die and I feel like I’ve done most of them. That is all thanks to trying anything once so I’m very lucky.”
Would she ever try the jungle? Zoe has competed on Dancing on Ice and Celebrity Masterchef, would she ever go on I’m A Celebrity like we have recently seen Kian Egan do? “I did meet with them but I decided to do Dancing on Ice because with my thespian background, that catered for me a little bit better but those TV shows seem to be the future, they’ve taken over the TV. I would never rule anything out. You never know. Acting first, though.”
So what is next for Zoe? “I would like to explore acting more. There’s things that are on my agenda roughly but it’s about getting everything into place at the right time. I’m really looking forward to 2014. I think it’s gonna be a brilliant year. Wish all your readers a very very happy Christmas and an even happier new year from me.”
Cinderella is showing at New Victoria Theatre, Woking until January 5. You can book tickets by calling the Box Office on 0844 871 7645 (fees apply) . Groups Booking Line 0844 871 7601 or online at www.atgtickets.com/woking.