Ledbury actor Melissa Johns has praised the role of local theatres and amateur dramatic societies in the community.

The Coronation Street star is set to play Mistress Quickly in a West End production of Shakespeare’s Henry V, and will soon be back on our TV screens in a new season of Grantchester.

But Melissa, who took a break from rehearsals to speak to the Ledbury Reporter, says it all started with LADS (Ledbury Amateur Dramatic Society) pantomimes.

“The Market Theatre was 100% where it started,” she said. “I don’t think amateur dramatic societies get the credit they deserve - they are a lifeline for some people.

“I took my love for it and have been fortunate enough to make a career out of it but for a lot of people - of all ages - it’s a chance to get away from the stresses of home. It’s a release, it’s a chance to play. Where else do we get that?

Ledbury Reporter:

“My first panto was Cinderella in 1998. The first play I was cast in was Through the Dark Clouds Shining. I was cast by a lovely Ledbury lady called Barbara Jones - and I owe much of where I am today to her.

'Opened my eyes

“She took me to see lots of shows at Ledbury, in Malvern and at the Courtyard - opera, contemporary theatre, dance, anything - and she opened my eyes to what live theatre was.”

That love for theatre has taken Melissa to the West End, where she will star in Henry V from February 12 to April 9. A recording will also be shown at the Market Theatre on May 4.

Ledbury Reporter:

“I knew it was going to be screened as part of National Theatre but had no idea it was going to be shown in Ledbury,” said Melissa. “It is a really brilliant thing to happen.

“It is so important for people who can’t get to London for whatever reason. People love the theatre and the West End is wonderful, but it’s not accessible to everyone.”

Melissa is hoping to avoid a clash with the launch of her one-woman show, Snatched, and attend Ledbury’s Henry V showing herself.

“I am really hoping to be there,” she said. “I want to sit next to my Nanna Pam and watch it with her.”