Milkshake star, Olivia Birchenough, the rags to riches heroine in this year’s Blackpool Grand Theatre pantomime Cinderella, admits she hadn’t heard of prestigious panto awards until she won them.
“I was in Cinderella at the Floral Pavilion in New Brighton last year when they tweeted someone was coming to see the show,” she says.
After whittling down from a long list to a short list Olivia admits she was “shocked but delighted” to eventually win Best Female Lead at both the Great British Pantomime Awards and the Panto Insider Awards.
“It almost felt like winning an Oscar – the GB award looks very swanky on my mantelpiece.”
She did her training at the Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance and the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre. Er, Estonia?
“Yes, it’s affiliated to the Rose Bruford so I spent six months there learning aerial skills and working with silks.”
If that all sounds a bit adventurous for the daughter of a Sale dental nurse and a teacher it certainly seems to have served her in good stead.
“It was a big help that my parents have always been so supportive,” she admits. “They didn’t even flinch when I tootled off to Estonia!”
Barely had she graduated than she was snapped up as a presenter for Channel 5’s leading children’s show Milkshake!
That was five years ago and she hasn’t looked back – or barely stood still – since.
“I consider myself very lucky – there are so many talented people out there after so few positions.”
It probably also helps that she is rarely seen without a beaming smile on her face.
Olivia admits she loves the challenges both Milkshake! and pantomime throw up.
“They’ve both constantly got a new audience as the viewers and theatre going youngsters grow older and move on to something else,” she says.
“You’ve got to keep learning and adapt as you go along. You can’t fool youngsters – if you aren’t enjoying yourself they would soon spot it. And you certainly can’t do pantomime unless you love it.
Cinderella plays at Blackpool Grand Theatre from December 5 o January 7.