THE only thing that worries farmer’s wife and commoner Christine Duell about appearing on a hit TV show next week*** is whether she may look... well, a bit mad.
The 63-year-old queen of am-dram did rather well on Channel 4’s Come Dine With Me, which follows a group of strangers as they cook for each other over a week, rating each other out of ten and competing to be the best host for a £1,000 prize.
Mrs Duell, who lives on a farm in Burley, wowed her guests with a fantastic Wizard of Oz-themed evening featuring beef she reared herself, home-baked bread and squirrel paté made from creatures she shot around the Forest.
“It takes quite a few squirrels to make a decent meal,” she said. “There’s not much meat on them. But they taste like rabbit.”
In the show, it is likely they will feature Mrs Duell – star of countless Burley Players, Ringwood Musical and Dramatic Society, Theatre 2000 and Highcliffe Players shows – bursting regularly into song. At one point the crew filmed her shooting game while singing Shirley Bassey’s Big Spender.
She said: “I was singing, ‘The minute you walked in the joint, BANG BANG as I shot.
“I think people who don’t know me may think I’m a couple of hazelnuts short of the full squirrel...”
Mrs Duell beat 2,000 applicants to appear on the show, which will be on slightly earlier next week because of the Paralympics, at 4.20pm each day.
Yet she never applied, having been asked to join the interview process by a theatre friend who had been approached by producers.
Until two production people showed up in her house brandishing a camera, she says she thought “someone was pulling my leg”.
It was only when producers picked Mrs Duell, who has two children, 41-year-old Rebecca and 42-year-old Stephen, that the worrying started: “My husband Keith said, ‘how are you going to do that, then? Your oven doesn’t work’.
“I had a week to get a cooker, learn how to use it and try and get all the costumes and set to do the Wizard of Oz.”
Medical secretary Mrs Duell’s am-dram friends all turned out as Munchkins to help, and she dressed the other contestants as Dorothy’s new friends, according to how she saw their personalities.
“I made one the Tin Man as he had no heart and was a hard businessman,” she said. “And one was the Scarecrow as he’s made of straw, with no substance. I told them this and they didn’t seem to mind.
“In fact, I was amazed at how well we all got on. It was a fantastic week – I could do it all again.”
The show was recorded in May, and Mrs Duell and the other contestants have been on tenterhooks waiting for it to be aired.
We can’t tell you who won of course – but we hear she did a grand job.
***The show will now be aired from September 10 after it was put back due to the Paralympics.