Sunset Boulevard at the Kings Theatre, Southsea

Sheila Elsdon plays Norma Desmond, a faded star from the silent movie era in Hollywood.
Sheila Elsdon plays Norma Desmond, a faded star from the silent movie era in Hollywood.
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The moment a deranged Norma Desmond stares down the camera lens while uttering the immortal line ‘I’m ready for my close-up’ is one of the most famous in film history.

Andrew Lloyd-Webber saw the theatrical potential in the black comedy Sunset Boulevard, which satirises the fickleness of Hollywood, and adapted the 1950 film for the stage in 1993 to great critical acclaim.

Now the Portsmouth Players are giving audiences the chance to see the musical at the Kings Theatre, Southsea.

Norma Desmond, an ageing star of silent movies, lives in her decaying mansion on the titular Los Angeles street. Desperate to recapture her former fame and filled with delusions of grandeur, a chance encounter with young screenwriter Joe Gillis throws Norma a lifeline to the silver screen. Romance follows and tragedy soon after.

Gracing the stage of the Kings as Norma is Sheila Elsdon from Havant. When the Players announced this show, the 63-year-old knew she had to audition.

She says: ‘Norma is an older actresses’ dream. When I read the script I saw her as very needy. She is completely bats really – she writes this huge script about Salome that she wants to star in, but the character is meant to be 16. She thinks she’d get away with it because she believes the public still love her.’

The costumes are so heavy – if I don’t lose any weight over the run there is no justice

Sheila Elsdon

The music, Sheila says, helps to further the story, but this is an acting part first and foremost. She uses the elaborate costume and heavy-handed make-up that is Norma’s signature style to get into character.

‘The costumes are so heavy – if I don’t lose any weight over the run there is no justice,’ she jokes.

‘My co-star Stuart [Warner, Joe Gillis] calls me The Turbanator because Norma wears so many turbans. I gave him The Turbanator stare in full make-up and he said “for God’s sake stop it, you’re freaking me out!”’

Runs from October 13-17 at the Kings. Tickets from £11, visit kingsportsmouth.co.uk or call (023) 9282 8282.