MENTION Lesley Joseph and most people will immediately think of the ultimate tart with a heart, Dorian Green.
With her penchant for high heels, leopard prints and a complicated love life, she was one of the most iconic television characters of the 1980s and 1990s in the BBC TV sitcom Birds Of A Feather. She’s even been described as a national institution.
The hugely successful comedy ran for nine years and at the height of its popularity was pulling in 20 million viewers making Lesley a household name.
The series ended in 1998 before being brought back by ITV earlier this year but in between times Lesley not been putting her feet up.
In fact far from it. The 68-year-old, who exudes warmth and joire de vivre, has been incredibly busy, doing everything from Shakespeare to panto not to mention reality show Celebrity Come Dine With Me.
She is currently preparing to revive her character of Myra, one of four women in the smash hit musical Hot Flush!.
It is the third time she will have reprised the role and will be taking the show, which she describes as “outrageously funny” around the country beginning the tour at the New Wimbledon Theatre on Tuesday, March 4.
“It’s a fabulous show,” she gushes as we chat in a break from rehearsals. “It’s a musical and I’ve done it twice before. It’s outrageous and naughty – like a saucy seaside postcard,” she chortles.
“People just loved it which is why the producers wanted to bring it back. I’m delighted!”
The show features four women, all of whom have different lives, characters and sets of issues but whose lives intertwine with hilarious results.
Lesley plays Myra, a lawyer who she says behaves disgracefully. “She’s quite a ballsy character. Her son is having an affair with one of her friends and her husband leaves her for a younger woman.
“She’s great to play and I do have a lot of fun with her including singing one song which is actually quite raunchy,” she laughs.
“It’s really a series of sketches and vignettes where we see these four women go about their lives and all the funny things that go on. The audience gets to see them at their best, at their worst and everything in between and shares all these ups and downs.
“It’s not just for women – men will get a lot out of it too – but every woman will relate to these things and recognise aspects of their own lives in these characters.
“Things like losing your phone in your bag, hearing it ring and not being able to find it in time despite turning everything in the bag onto the floor - which is something that happens to me on a daily basis,” she chuckles.
“It’s very funny but quite near the knuckle,” she adds without pausing for breath. “But the best thing is that the audience will have a great time, laugh their socks off and leave on a real high. You can’t beat that for a great evening out.”
And is Myra anything like Dorian, I ask.
“There are some similarities but on the whole no,” she says. “Myra has a professional job and isn’t a man eater like Dorian!”
And she insists she doesn’t mind at all that most people will remember her for alter ego.
“Dorian is an amazing part of my life and she opened a huge amount of doors for me so it’s been a blessing. She is a life force!”
And when I tell her Dorian has been described as a national institution she roars with laughter.
“Do you know that’s such a lovely thing,” she says. “She’s not altogether a likeable person but it’s so nice people have taken her to their hearts.
“I love playing her and the three of us, myself, Linda [Robson] and Pauline [Quirke], were delighted when ITV asked to bring it back. We’ve had to move the characters on of course but it’s like slipping on old shoes. It’s been great fun.”
But although she is perhaps best known for Birds Of A Feather she insists theatre is her first love.
“I come from a theatrical background and always loved theatre,” she says. “It’s in my blood, it’s my first love and since Dorian I’ve been incredibly lucky to have been offered Shakespeare, Chekov and other theatrical roles including panto which I absolutely love.
“Even better most things I’ve done have been well received so I know that I can go on stage, do a show and entertain people – that’s important to me.”
And although she says she hopes Birds may be commissioned for another series, her focus is very much on Hot Flush!.
“We are all hugely excited, especially to be opening in Wimbledon which is such a beautiful theatre,” she says.
“I’ve performed there before in a couple of shows and I love the place. It has a real warmth to it. The audiences are always fantastic and know what they like!” she laughs. “We are going to have a great time.”
Hot Flush! Is on at the New Wimbledon Theatre on Tuesday March 4 and Wednesday March 5. Tickets from £22.40. Visit www.atgtickets.com/shows/hot-
flush/new-wimbledon-theatre/ to buy tickets