JENNY Eclair isn’t that impressed with the hotel she’s staying in.
Speaking to the Journal from Manchester ahead of going on tour with the Grumpy Old Women: Fifty Shades of Beige stage show, she’s been doing interviews all morning, and her patience had been tried before she even started – at breakfast.
“Everyone knows a hotel can do a poached egg,” she says. “They just don’t want to. They have fried eggs that have been sitting there on the warmer for hours.”
But breakfast aside, she’s really quite bright and jolly.
“I can be perfectly charming,” she admits. “But it depends on what mood you catch me in. I can turn into a grumpy bitch very quickly.
I can’t stand all this ninnying around that people do. I’m forthright. If it’s wrong, say it’s wrong.”
Eclair, 54, grew up in the north of England and as a child wanted to be an actor. “But there weren’t that many role models for someone like me,” she says.
By the time she got to drama school, comedians like Victoria Wood were coming to the fore, and Eclair decided she might have found something she could aspire to.
“I’m not a very good actress,” she admits. “There are lots of people out there better than me, so I leave it to them.”
Comedy proved to be a vocation that suited her, and in 1995 she was named the first female solo winner of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival’s Perrier Award.
Grumpy Old Women began on BBC2 as a continuation of the theme started by the Grumpy Old Men series, and Eclair was involved in its development from the beginning.
She co-writes the stage show with Judith Holder, and it has been touring at various times and in various incarnations since 2005.
“It is totally different each time,” she says.
“The hardest thing is convincing people that we haven’t just been taking the same show around for all these years. It’s like writing a play. I mean, no one thinks David Hare writes the same play every time.”
The key to the success of Grumpy Old Women is in large part down to the way it taps into what was previously a largely untapped section of the entertainment market – middle-aged women.
“It makes you realise that there are a lot of us out there and a lot of us in the same boat, but in a nice way,” says Eclair.
The show has toured to Australia and Scandinavia and has proved to be a big hit, but one country it couldn’t crack was the US.
“They objected to the word ‘grumpy’ and particularly to the word ‘old’,” explains Eclair. “They find it offensive.”
Grumpy Old Women is very British. In Britain you cope with the ageing process, in the US you are botoxed and have toy boys and do all those things that are supposed to be ‘empowering’ but are really ridiculous.”
As well as appearing in and writing the show, Eclair has also written several novels and non-fiction works, and says she would like to do more.
“I want to get better at writing,” she says.
“Each time I sit down to write one I think I’ve forgotten how to do it and it is really painful.
I’d like to get to the point where I don’t feel like I’m pulling my own teeth out.”
She has also appeared on reality TV shows including I’m a Celebrity: Get Me Out of Here, Celebrity MasterChef and Splash!
“People can be a bit precious about reality TV shows, but they are part of entertainment now. I think they have made me a better performer.”
And she’s still enjoying Grumpy Old Women even after nearly a decade.
“I’m so lucky,” she says. “Sometimes I’m standing there with a plastic bucket on my head thinking ‘what am I doing?’, but how many middle-aged women are allowed to muck around for a living?
“A friend called me earlier to say she’d been told off for swearing at work. I don’t have that. So many people have to pretend to be someone else while they are at work.”
The Grumpy Old Women: Fifty Shades of Beige tour started on April 22, with Eclair joined on stage by Kate Robbins and Susie Blake.
In the meantime, Eclair has lots more interviews to get through, but lunch comes first and she’s hoping to put the poached egg experience behind her.
“There’s a Wagamama around here,” she says. I’m going to treat myself.”