Mel gives her opinion on Great British Bake Off
Imagine a job where you hang out with your best mate, have a laugh, eat cake – and get paid for doing it. Mel Giedroyc has done that for the past three years on The Great British Bake Off, the television competition to find the best amateur baker.
But she will soon be taken out of her comfort zone when she appears in The Opinion Makers, a new musical which is coming to Derby Theatre for a short run.
Mel will play a secretary in the show which is set in a down-at-heel market research company in 1964.
“It’s before the Beatles, before swinging London. I play a very dowdy spinster. Imagine Peggy Mount meets Pat Coombes meets Joan Sims.”
Mel has been in panto – she played Ms Hardup in Cinderella at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith last Christmas – and has also appeared in a show about the Eurovision Song Contest, Eurobeat the Musical. But she admits The Opinion Makers will be totally different because she has to sing two numbers.
“It’s a small cast – there’s only seven of us on stage. And there’s a lot of music, so all of us are singing a lot. It’s a real challenge, actually. It’s not like panto where you can get away with lurking at the back of the stage and hoping all the good singers will mask you. This is quite nerve-racking but it’s good fun. Hopefully the theatregoers of Derby will really enjoy it.”
Daniel Buckroyd, who runs the Mercury Theatre in Colchester which is co-producing the show with Derby Theatre, saw Mel in panto and offered her the part in The Opinion Makers. She did not even have to audition for it.
“I love musicals, always have done. Any new musical is always worth checking out and I think it’s absolutely brilliant.
“I really couldn’t say no to the part. We’ve got a fantastic cast and it felt like an opportunity not to be missed.
“I feel so lucky to be able to do this. It’s something challenging. It keeps you on your toes – it keeps life interesting.”
Known as a writer, TV presenter and actress, Mel is hoping her career will now lead her in another direction: theatre.
Born in Epsom, Surrey in 1968, Melanie Clare Sophie Giedroyc has Polish, Lithuanian, Belgian and Belarussian ancestry. She studied Italian language and literature at Trinity College, Cambridge where she met Sue Perkins. Both became members of the Footlights comedy club.
After a few years writing for Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, they hosted a lunchtime show on Channel 4 called Light Lunch.
Since then Mel has been on all sorts of shows, playing a receptionist in Gimme Gimme Gimme; narrated Celebrity Driving School; was in one episode of The Vicar of Dibley; and appeared as a life coach in the second series of Miranda, the sitcom starring Miranda Hart.
Mel was reunited with Sue Perkins in 2010 for The Great British Bake Off. Regular viewers will have heard her “warbling”, as she calls it on the show.
“Singing keeps you happy. The musical theatre people I’ve worked with, and I’ve worked with quite a few now, are so full of energy and optimism when you compare them with comedians who can be quite dark, introverted people.
“We’re really excited about coming to Derby. I’ve never played in that theatre and everyone tells me it’s just fantastic and it’s a fabulous theatre to play.”
Mel was an hour late calling me for our chat as she had not been told what time the interview should have taken place.
“I’m just making the most of it and enjoying this good patch we’re going through.”
Her prolonged apology appeared sincere and she struck me as being just as warm and enthusiastic about her work in person as she is on screen. Yet she seems to have a streak of insecurity which affects so many people in showbusiness.
Talking about The Great British Bake Off, she confided: “I know these things don’t last forever. I’m just making the most of it and enjoying this good patch we’re going through. Without wanting to sound too pessimistic, you have to enjoy these things while they’re there.”
You might think she is talking about a little-known show that goes out at a bad time and is watched only by insomniacs and television addicts. But The Great British Bake Off has been a phenomenal hit. It won a BAFTA two years running for top TV feature and seven million viewers watched the latest series. The programme will move to BBC1 when it returns next year.
Much of its success is down to the chemistry between Mel and Sue Perkins. “She’s an absolute darling,” says Mel. “Our friendship is a quarter of a century old. Nobody on this planet makes me laugh like she does. We just howl with laughter.”
“There’s quite a lot of cheese involved,” says Mel. “I think cheese somehow goes with the show. There are some terrible puns. If there is a pun to be made, I’m afraid I have to get in there and make it. Sorry!”
She admits to putting on nearly a stone every series as temptation gets the better of the two of them.
“If there’s good food around, it seems almost criminal not to enjoy it. We’re also very greedy and quite lazy. It’s a bad combination: cakes and weak-willed people. But who cares? Life’s too short to worry about that sort of thing.”
Mel admits that she has got the baking bug after being involved in the programme. But she’s stumped when I ask her to reveal her favourite food.
“I love all food. My dad and I have the same relationship with food: ‘wow, look at that, let’s tuck in’.”
Diners in Derby should be aware that they might find themselves sitting at a table next to the cast of The Opinion Makers who will be checking out the city’s curry houses after a show.
Unfortunately The Opinion Makers will have only a short run, two weeks in Colchester and ten days in Derby.
“I’ve been offered quite a lot of touring theatre work which is fantastic.”
“It feels a shame in one way because it’s a hell of a lot of work when you put together a new musical. It’s a very long and quite intricate process.
“Fingers crossed, we’ll see how it goes down and then maybe in 2014 it’ll have another life. That’s the hope.”
A short run fits in well with Mel’s family life. She is married to television director Ben Morris and they have two children, 11-year-old Florence and Vita who is nine. Mel has ruled out long tours in the past.
“I’ve been offered quite a lot of touring theatre work which is fantastic. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. But more often than not I have to say no.
“The Opinion Makers is great because it’s very short. I just can’t clear off for weeks on a tour which doesn’t really fit in with family life. But my girls are getting older now.”
Where does Mel think she will be in five or ten years’ time?
“Who knows? The Bake Off will probably have been moved to some very small, out-of-the-way channel. It will have totally lost its zeitgeist moment.
“Mary (Berry) will still be going strong – she’ll be the most lively out of all of us. Sue and I will be about 15 stone and waddling around, still punning really badly.
“I hope Paul (Hollywood) will still be wearing the same hair products and still be trawling out some bakery-related nonsense.
“My girls will have left home out of sheer embarrassment and hopefully I’ll be involved in a lot more theatre. That’s the dream.”
- This article appeared in the November 2013 issue of Country Images magazine