Screen star Emma Arends on lockdown shows and getting back on the big stage
Peppa Pig actress set to make her return to performing in front of big crowds
Emma Grace Arends was performing in a Peppa Pig live show at the Guild Hall in Preston when the first national lockdown came in.
The production was suddenly scrapped as Covid cases in the UK began to rise sharply.
Emma says: “We were on a mini tour with Peppa Pig in Preston when the lockdown came in and we were shut down. That was our last show - over a year ago. We had been in Warrington and then came over to Preston, we performed a few nights there.
"We were all staying at the Premier Inn hotel in Preston when we were told about the lockdown coming in. Everyone was saying ‘oh no, this is our last night of freedom’! I first heard about the pandemic from my sister, who lives in the US. She said ‘there is a virus coming’! I said ‘it’s OK, it will be fine’.
"Then everything in the UK started changing. We thought we would all get sent home for a couple of weeks or so before going back on stage. I was quite lucky because I came from the show in Preston to stay with my mum and dad at their home in Southport. Because I had been touring, I kept my distance and stayed away from them for the first two weeks. We didn’t know much about the virus back then, we were being ultra careful.”
Emma was able to return to Preston in the festive season a few months later – but only in a virtual sense – as she played her character Daisy, from the movie Peppa Pig: My First Cinema Experience.
She says: “I was delighted to be able to return to Preston in a virtual sense last year as Daisy for their virtual Christmas Lights Switch On. It was a short two-minute video of me, as Daisy, wishing everyone a happy and safe Christmas.”
Emma Grace Arends is now looking to make a splash when she stars in the Sleeping Beauty pantomime next month, alongside pop star Gareth Gates. Emma says: “I am just so happy that theatres and other venues are finally reopening and productions are getting things going again. It is so positive.
“This is a really big step for the theatre companies. Some tried to reopen last December, but then suddenly had to close again when Covid cases started to rise. It has taken a long time to happen. I’m proud of the production companies that are taking that leap of faith.”
After more than a year of closures, there is much anticipation over theatres finally being able to open their doors again. When Emma Grace Arends stars in Sleeping Beauty it will be her first post-lockdown live performance.
Emma is best known as the only live character Daisy, in Peppa Pig; My First Cinema Experience and has travelled the world with the show. She performed in Sydney’s Opera House and two UK No.1 tours with four Christmas West End residencies including The Duke of York’s Theatre, The Criterion and The Phoenix Theatre.
To lift spirits during the first wave of the pandemic, Emma dressed up as Daisy and surprised her fans with safe garden visits – with social distance measures in place – and personalised videos. All the proceeds went to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool.
She says: “So many people have been out of work, worried about money, jobs, how long this pandemic and lockdowns will last, which has been hard, but on the flip side it was quite nice to just stop rushing around and enjoy a slower pace of life for a little while and just breath – which was probably quite nice – enjoying the nature around us.
“We have been out for walks at the Marine Lake, Hesketh Park, the Botanic Gardens, along Lord Street, and lots of other lovely places in Southport. I think we have been so lucky being here during lockdown.
“I just started doing lockdown videos and visits to cheer people up, I was so in awe of the NHS I wanted to be able to give something back in my own field of work. I have enjoyed doing them.”
Emma grew up in Southport and fell in love with performing at an early age. At 16 she attended London’s Arts Ed Sixth form as a compromise with her mum to finish off her studies. She then went on to the three-year BA honours degree at Arts Ed Drama School and has toured with Open Air Shakespeare companies playing roles such as Hermia, Juliet and Hero.
She also performed at The Liverpool Empire years ago as Young Helen in Twopence to Cross the Mersey and worked on ITV’s big budget dramaCilla as the choreographer with Sheridan Smith.
Before the pandemic, Emma starred in a TV pilot in Los Angeles called Across The Pond and has been seen all year in the Galbani Television advert. Many children in the audience at Sleeping Beauty will recognise her as Daisy from Peppa Pig; My First Cinema Experience.
Emma says: “It really was a lovely thing to do! I had never done kids’ TV before Peppa Pig; My First Cinema Experience. Since appearing in the film I have had some lovely messages from children and parents who have enjoyed watching it and something even telling me how their children have improved with their speech or development – which just melts my heart.”
She adds: “I was in the panto at Southport Theatre in 2019, and used to love watching pantos in Southport when I was growing up. Southport is panto mad!
“I used to appear in the All Souls panto productions, and in the Little Theatre shows. We used to go and see the big ones at the Floral Hall. I used to go to Miss Bambers dance school in Southport, I was one of the ‘Bambers Babes’. I loved it, I have very fond memories.
“The pandemic has been so hard for children these past few months. They have not been able to see their friends, they have not been able to go to school, they have not been able to enjoy days out or do things like seeing live performances.
“Being able to come back into the theatre and seeing them interact with the cast is going to be so exciting. When I was younger, I loved going to the theatre to watch shows, and I used to think ‘that is what I want to do when I’m older’!
“For the past year children have not been able to go out, play football, experience theatre, get involved in new activities and find a passion for what they might want to do when they’re older, whatever that might be.”
Rehearsals come next, as well as meeting her new co-stars. The buzz of live shows is something Emma has missed. So is being out at all, and getting back to enjoying some of the things that people used to do before lockdowns.
But things will be done with safety first in mind. The seating capacity at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool has been reduced from 1,350 to under 500 for Sleeping Beauty. Emma is now looking forward to starring alongside pop star Gareth Gates.
Gareth was the runner-up in the first series of the ITV talent show Pop Idol in 2002 and has sold more than 3.5m records in the UK. Emma says: “I have not met Gareth yet, so I am looking forward to meeting him. I remember the whole thing with Pop Idol, and watching the show with my Mum. It is very exciting! I’m looking forward to being back in rehearsals with other actors and can’t wait for the shows to begin.”
Sleeping Beauty, starring Emma Grace Arends and Gareth Gates, takes place at The Auditorium, at the M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool, from May 29 to June 5. For tickets visit: mandsbankarena.com