MILLIONS watched her die at the hands of Coronation Street’s murderer, Richard Hillman. But has Tracy Shaw turned killer herself?
The actor is one of the many star names appearing in the Theatre Royal Windsor’s first play of the new year: a revival of The Cat and the Canary.
Originally performed almost 100 years ago, the comedy-thriller is a whodunit set in a mansion 20 years after the death of Mr West. His descendants have come together to learn who will inherit his wealth and who will take the family jewels.
But avarice overcomes and when the heir is revealed, the heritage hunters become prey.
Just who is hiding in the shadows and who is the killer?
The show, directed by the famous actor Roy Marsden, is premiering at the Theatre Royal Windsor from Wednesday, January 16, ahead of a national tour. And the cast includes Bond girl and legendary actor Britt Ekland, singer Marti Webb, Minder star Gary Webster and Mark Jordon, who had a role in the hit ITV drama Heartbeat.
“It’s just an honour to appear alongside them,” says Tracy during a break in rehearsals. “Britt is just a legend and I grew up watching Marti on television.”
Tracy is full of praise for the rest of the cast, which she says are “amazing”.
“We’re a family already,” she says.
Tracy plays Annabel, a writer who went to New York but is now back and ready to find out if fortune awaits.
“It’s a wonderful part for me,” she says. “She’s a lovely leading lady, it’s quite a big piece for me and it’s just a joy.
“I love the live dynamic [of being on stage], I feel alive being a different person.”
The play was originally performed in 1922 and was set 100 years ago, but this Cat and the Canary is singing from a different age.
“We’ve adapted it to the fifties,” Tracy explains. “It’s a completely different style and brought up to date. We’ve had to change the words a little bit and we’ve adapted it as we learn our characters.
“It’s not like the original to be honest, there are some more twists and turns that await.”
She is keeping tight-lipped ahead of curtain up on Wednesday.
“I’m having to talk in code at the moment, I can’t give clues away,” she says. “but it’s a big experience. There are wonderful costumes, it’s got a wonderful set, and a wonderful cast.
“It’s a wonderful drama we’ll present to you, come and see it!”
The actor, who lives in nearby Reading, is pleased to be launching The Cat and the Canary at Windsor before its national tour.
“It’s such a beautiful and wonderful theatre, it’s got a lot of heritage. It’s an honour to be here and go where people have gone before,” she says.
Her degree is in theatre studies, and spent her formative acting years at the Royal Exchange in Manchester, so it’s no wonder that she has an affinity for the stage. But there’s no airs and graces here: down-to-earth and honest, she is full of praise for the team around her that make the theatre such a great experience.
“The people who work in the theatre, backstage, the box office … it’s a community and [being on tour and joining them], it’s an honour to be part of that,” she explains.
Tracy’s role on the famous cobbles of Coronation Street might not have happened had her career gone a different way. At theatre school she studied circus skills.
“Trapeze was my main thing,” she recalls. “It was my big thing. I thought when I left drama school I’d go and do that.”
And she also specialises in mime, stilt walking and unicycling. It’s an impressive CV and not a side you’d expect to see. But surely those skills will help her make people laugh in this comedy thriller?
“There’s lots of funny scenes, but you have to play it so seriously,” she says.
But is Tracy the killer? She smiles. “You’ll have to wait and see. Everyone is a suspect.”
The Cat and the Canary is performed at Theatre Royal Windsor from Wednesday, January 15 through to Saturday, January 25. Tickets cost from £19.50. For more details, or to book, log on to https://theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk/catandthecanary/ or call the box office on 01753 853888.