She’s played Dawn Swann, the scheming EastEnders barmaid, wowed Strictly voters and is now starring in ITV’s historic drama The Halcyon.
But none of these performances is anything like the one Kara Tointon brings to York next week – as Brenda Manningham, the oppressed wife of a devious, amoral husband Jack.
Grand Opera House, York
Mon Jan 30-Sat Feb 4
The play, written in 1938 and set in 1880, is considered one of the greatest theatrical thrillers, and was made into a film in which Ingrid Bergman played Bella.
It is a three-parter. While Jack (Rupert Young) is on the town each evening his wife Bella is home alone. She can’t explain the disappearance of familiar objects, the mysterious footsteps overhead or the ghostly flickering of living room gaslight – is she losing her mind?
Does the terror exist in her imagination or are dark secrets living in her home? The surprise arrival of retired Detective Rough (Keith Allen) leads to a shocking discovery that will shake her respectable Victorian marriage to its core…
“We think it’s domestic bliss from the opening. But it soon becomes clear that there’s something going on, and we’re not sure what,” Kara told YorkMix.
“She’s a very well-written female character. Patrick Hamilton seems to be able to do that well.
“He’s written most famously Rope, which was made into a Hitchcock film, and he’s really good at setting this dark suspense that builds.”
Fun part to play
It’s a long way from Albert Square. Kara says she looks back “with great fondness” at her time in EastEnders, which finished in 2009.
“I liked Dawn because I thought she was funny and not someone to be taken too seriously – and those are always fun parts to play.
“But it is an odd thing, being part of a show that’s on constantly – because you read your initial scripts and you don’t know where it’s going.
“With every other job you have your beginning, middle and end so you can really gauge what’s being asked of you.
“But with that it just never ends. Really you’re living two lives.”
Siblings and Strictly
Kara went on to star in Mr Selfridge – alongside her sister Hannah. But she says there’s no sibling rivalry.
“There’s a four-year age gap. So we’ve never had a rivalry. We always laugh when anyone suggests it.
“It’s such an odd industry that it’s comforting having your sibling there to help you. ”
Meanwhile Strictly Come Dancing audiences were wowed by Kara – and their votes cast her as champion in the 2010 series.
Did she set out to win it? “I didn’t. I thought ‘if I can make it to week four or five, that’s respectable, I’ll be happy with that’.
“And slowly you think, ‘I don’t want to go back to normal life just yet’ – and you get soaked up. \\”I’m not a very competitive person naturally – I am very competitive with myself – and all of a sudden I thought ‘I really want to stay one more week, one more week’ – and somehow I made it to the end.”
The Gaslight tour is bringing the Essex girl to some unfamiliar places – including York.
“I haven’t spent much time in York at all,” she said. “But whenever people ask where I’m going on the tour and I say York, they gush.
“I’m really excited to spend some time here. I’ve already seen a little bit, and I know what I’m going to go and see, so I’m really excited.”