Vicki as "Sally O'Brien" …
By David Hennessy
Many still recognise Vicki Michelle still from the Harp commercials of many years ago, notable for the homsick narrator's wistful line line “Sally O'Brien and the way she might look at you”. Vicki, of course, was "Sally" although she has longsince gone on to play many high profile roles including Yvette in hit long-running sitcom Allo ‘Allo
In addition to appearing in the forhtcoming film adaptation of Ray Cooney’s long-running Whitehall farce Run For Your Wife, which stars Danny Dyer, Sarah Harding, Denise Van Outen and Neil Morrissey, Vicki was executive producer.
The film also features Christopher Biggins, Lionel Blair and cameos from everyone from Rolf Harris and Cliff Richard to Dame Judi Dench.
Was it fun to be working on something with so many big names, all of whom know each other and get on very well? “The shooting of the film was fantastic, everyone was having a fantastic time. It was a happy crew. It was great fun. Ray likes to have fun and it’s the same with everyone, do your job properly but have fun doing it.”
Both with decades of experience in the business, Ray and Vicki had more than ample contacts to call upon when making casting decisions: “There were quite a few names that we doubled up on like Danny, Danny Dyer [with whom Vicki acted in All in the Game] was a mate and I said he would be good for it. Denise Van Outen came through my company, Trading Places. We thought Neil Morrissey was going to be not right visually for the next door neighbour but as soon as you saw him on camera, you knew he was going to be absolutely brilliant, and he was.”
Although Vicki has never appeared in a production of Run For Your Wife, it was another one of Cooney’s plays that brought her into contact with the writer of more than 20 plays: “I’ve done a lot of his plays Funny Money, Life Begins at 40 and a few others, and he came along and saw me in a few of them but I had never worked for him directing. I was working on Life Begins at 40 and he came along to the rehearsals and he loved what we were doing with it and then on the third week of rehearsals the producer ran out of money so Ray stepped in so we got to play it and all down to him at his expense which was amazing.
“Then after that he was doing the Chas & Dave musical Stop Dreamin’ and he rang me up and asked me if I would like to play the part of Vi so I was playing the part of Vi in that and I just said: ‘Ray, do you mind if I get my husband to film the musical?’ And he said: ‘No darling, go ahead. Can I have a copy?’ When he saw the copy, because my husband is a director of photography and producer Graham Fowler, when he saw Graham’s work, he said ‘This is some of the best stuff I have ever seen, let’s go out for a meal’.
“So we went out with him, and his wife Linda, and Graham happened to say: ‘Why have you never done a film of your most successful show, Run for your Wife?’ It’s played all over the world and it’s being played now and Ray said: ‘Yeah, why haven’t we? Let’s do it’.
“So we got together, we raised the money and we were off within six months. To get a film off and running within that time was amazing because sometimes people wait around with the script for a long time but with his pedigree, people wanted to be involved.”
Jeffrey Holland, Richard Briers, Barry Cryer and Ian Cullen are just a few who answered the call to make it a star-studded affair: “They’re such fleeting cameos and when we’ve shown it at previews people, say ‘oh my God, there’s so and so’, and you actually go ‘oh God, I missed so and so, were they there?’ And then someone else goes: ‘Did you see so and so?’ I was interviewing some of the people who came out afterwards and they said it gave them a lovely warm feeling that these characters who are revered all over the world are playing cameos in the film.”
For more from vicki see the print edition of the Irish World