Office girl to theatre stage

The Office was one of the biggest television comedy hits of last year. But Sally Bretton, who played surly teenager Donna, has left the nine-to-five routine to take the stage. Her first theatre production Hay Fever comes to Derngate later this month ...

BEHIND the scenes in a paper merchants does not sound like fascinating television.

However, The Office, which featured an over-keen and insincere manager, his desperate assistant and a cynical work force was an instant hit when it was screened on BBC Two last year.

Sally Bretton, who played Donna, the work-experience girl who was more interested in the pub than the paper, was one of the stars of the spoof fly-on-the-wall documentary, which was the brainchild of Ricky Gervaise.

“It was fantastic, everyone was really lovely,” said the 26-year-old, who trained at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama. “The Office was a real labour of love for Ricky and his writing partner.

“They had been working on it for years and finally they had been given a chance to get it on the air.

“When I went for my first audition I read the script and I knew it was going to be big. It was the funniest thing I had ever read.”

The show received almost universal critical acclaim, but Sally has not yet achieved full celebrity status.

“I was never recognised once from the show,” she added. “I look a lot different now, my hair has changed and to be honest it’s quite nice not to have to deal with all that celebrity stuff.”

A second series of The Office is now in production, but Sally will not be returning to the paper merchants.

“My character was only there very reluctantly on work experience,” she added. “I think she made it very clear that she wouldn’t be coming back.

“I had such a good time working on the show that I was hoping Donna would have a change of heart and become incredibly hard working so I could stay around for the second series, but it wasn’t to be.”

However, after various appearances on television, Sally is now starring in her first play.

Hay Fever, a comedy by Noel Coward, is set in the roaring twenties and focuses on the eccentric actress Judith Bliss who together with her writer husband David, lives in bohemian chaos with their son Simon and daughter Sorel, played by Sally.

The eight-week tour is already underway and will arrive at the Royal Theatre for five night run in Northampton later this month.

“I left drama school three years ago and have been quite lucky as the television work has been pretty constant,” said Sally.

“However, I always wanted to do theatre and this was the perfect opportunity.

“The first night was incredible. It was the first time I had been on stage in front of an audience as a professional.

“The nerves were pretty big as I was waiting in the wings, but as soon as I got on stage they went.

“However, my family hasn’t seen it yet . They’re giving me time to settle in.

“It’s a totally new experience for me and at the moment I’m really enjoying it.

“You don’t stay in any one place too long to get bored, although if you ask me in a couple of weeks you might get a different answer.”

While enjoying the tour Sally has big ambitions and it seems unlikely that she will fall into a nine-to-five job like her character Donna.

“I think I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to go into film, but to be honest I don’t quite know how you do it.

“I think ultimately you have to go to the States, but you need to build up a big cv before that happens or otherwise you’re just a tiny fish in a very, very big pond.

“Having said that the British film industry is pretty good, although there is still a lack of good female parts.

“At the moment I’m quite lucky because I get cast for characters who are much younger than I actually am. Donna was supposed to be about 17 or 18 and Sorel is 19-years-old.

“Who know how long I can keep playing teenagers, but at the moment I’m not complaining.”

% Hay Fever runs at the Royal Theatre from Tuesday, June 18 to Saturday, June 22. For more information or to book tickets call the box office on Northampton 624811.