Service with a smile

Maggie Service as Dolly Tate. Annie Get Your Gun at the Crucible. Credit Johan Persson
Maggie Service as Dolly Tate. Annie Get Your Gun at the Crucible. Credit Johan Persson

Although she had never previously appeared at the Crucible Maggie Service had long thought of the Sheffield theatre as a spiritual home.

“My mum did a play here called Glorious Miles in 1975 and it was where my parents got engaged and 41 years later they are coming to see their littlest child perform,” she says.

Annie Get Your Gun, in which she is playing the comically mean-spirited Dolly Tate, is the actor’s first musical. “I’m having the time of my life. There’s no particular reason why I haven’t done one before . I’ve done plays with songs and concerts and cabarets and things but never a full-fat official musical.

“I was a music scholar at school so I have always loved singing. Seeing Guys and Dolls was what made me want to be an actor but I guess you take the work and follow the path that you are given but it’s been glorious and I have done lots of stuff I am wildly proud of. It feels marvellously sparkly to be in a musical.”

Maggie’s mother, Joanna Tope, had a career in acting which was put on hold after she married and moved to Scotland and raised three children.

“My mum was best friends with Clare Venables who ran the Crucible from 1981 to 1992. I was born in 1982 and have never worked here but it’s wonderful feeling her presence everywhere.

“I feel so comfortable here, whether it’s to do with the familiarity of the stories, I don’t know, but I feel absolutely at home.

“She was a fabulous woman, Clare. She was my mentor, really, and the kind of person if you had a problem who would ask you the right questions.

“ She died when I was in the second year of drama school but she worked with me a lot to get me into drama school. We had lots of plans for me and now to be in her spiritual home is wonderful.”

Maggie did actually see Annie Get Your Gun when her mother took her to see it in Glasgow as a child. It remains her father’s favourite musical, largely because he likes Westerns, she reckons. He had no theatrical background. “He was an insurance broker but he’s retired now and has set up a charity, so he’s nothing to do with the business.

“He came down to see my mother here and now he’s bred another one so he’s spent half his life, bless him, in darkened theatres,” says Maggie who has two older brothers, Radio 3 presenter Tom Service, and the other a designer for a record label.

She’s tried her hand at comedy with a one-woman show at the Edinburgh Festival, splendidly entitled Maggie Service With a Smile, and she’s also been in Doctor Who story, Deep Breath.

More recently on screen she did an episode of Red Dwarf and will be in a BBC drama coming out next year called Three Girls.

“The last play I did was Rules for Living at the National and I was also in the 50th anniversary gala where I got to do Guys and Dolls and Jerry Springer, so I got a taste of musicals.

“I was in the film of London Road having worked previously with Rufus Norris in Table which launched the National Theatre Shed and there was lots of singing in that, a capella, lots of harmony singing so he knew I could sing and gave me that which was a real treat.”

Annie Get Your Gun continues at the Crucible Theatre until January 21.