Sarah Manners

Soap star Sarah Manners revisits her childhood in Birmingham and reveals her fitness ‘secret’ to David Johns

Actresses and fitness DVDs go together like cardio and vascular. Over the years we’ve all got used to a wave of second ‘healthy lifestyle’ careers being launch by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Cameron Diaz et al. So, when local actress and soap star Sarah Manners told me she was really into pilates, I took it with a huge pinch of protein powder. When she added that she’d just qualified as a pilates instructor and was setting up her own business, I had second thoughts. “I’m passionate about it,” she added. “I was in the process of completing the setting up of my own pilates business when I got the call to do this gig. But I’ll still be going ahead with it.” ‘This gig’ is a leading part in a new play, Circles by Rachel De-lahay, one of the most exciting young writers in Britain today, and Sarah has a starring role in the production which is currently touring in the Midlands after premiering at Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

FAMILIAR TERRITORY

Sarah is best known for her roles in a range of hit TV soaps, including Casualty, Doctors and as WPC Kirsty Knight in The Bill, but Circles brings the 38-year-old actress home in more ways than one. “The script is fantastic because it mentions quite a few of the places I know very well from when I was growing up in Birmingham as a child. As I’m reading through it I keep saying: ‘I know there… and there… and there!’” Rachel De-lahay is also a Brummie, growing up in Handsworth and her powerful new drama is set on the number 11 bus which circles the city. As a Blue Coats and King Edwards Grammar School girl, Handsworth is somewhere Sarah knows very well. “The original script even mentioned Harborne which is where I grew up and the Swimming Baths which is where I learned to swim,” said Sarah when we spoke during a break in rehearsals at the REP. Strangely for a Brummie actress, this was to be her first time playing the theatre. “I’ve been here many time to see productions, but never before to appear in one. It’s a wonderful theatre and I’m delighted to finally be here. It also means that I get to stay with mum and dad while I’m here.” While her work dictates living in London, Sarah is a regular commuter back to her parents, who now live to the south of the city. “There’s nothing we like better than going for a lovely walk on Lickey Hills or for a meal in the local villages. I’m one of four children and all the rest of the family still live in the area. My sister has twins and I’m often to be found bouncing around with them on the trampoline in their back garden!”

SPORT FOR CHOICE

There we go again on that fitness thing. “Yes, I think you could say I’m quite sporty,” said Sarah – her official biog lists her leisure interests as ‘abseiling, athletics, fencing, horse-riding, ice skating and stage combat’. Wow! “I think being fit and taking an interest in fitness makes you a more positive and rounded person,” he explained. “That’s where the pilates comes in. Looking back, I think I would love to have been a physiotherapist actually.” When asked about future ambitions beyond Circles, Sarah is pretty laid back about the whole subject. If more theatre, TV or films come around so be it, but she says: “Whatever happens, happens. I’ve learned to just take life as it comes.”

Sarah Manners is in Circles at The Hive, Worcester on Wednesday 18 June (tickets: www.thehiveworcester.org 01905 822866) and at Artrix, Bromsgrove on Saturday 29 June (tickets: www.artrix.co.uk 01527 577330)