FOR most of the next 12 months, Vicky Entwistle will be sharing her life with a three foot parrot puppet - and she couldn’t be happier!

The former Coronation Street favourite, Vicky played Janice Battersby in the top TV soap for 14 years, is starring in Doctor Dolittle the Musical which is at The Lowry, Salford Quays over the festive period before heading out on a nationwide tour.

She’s the voice and, at times, the operator, of Polynesia the parrot; Doctor Dolittle’s wise companion who acts as his conscience in the colourful show.

“This show takes things to another level,” she said. “It demands levels of energy that at 50 I didn’t think I had. I’d never done anything like this before and it’s been a real eye opener.

“To put your thoughts and emotions into an inanimate object takes a lot more energy than if I was doing the role as myself. I love her to bits but it’s taken me seven weeks of rehearsals to get used to working with a puppet.”

Vicky admits that she didn’t really know what she was letting herself in for when she was offered the role.

“I don’t know why but for some reason I thought that that I’d be the parrot in some kind of mechanical contraption,” she said. “So when I went down to London and was shown the prototype puppet I was shocked. I was asking them ‘how am I supposed to make that work?’

“I think I spent the first four weeks in rehearsal going ‘I cannot share this part with this bird’ but now I can’t imagine being on that stage without her.”

Allowing Polynesia to take centre stage also has it’s advantages.

“I can hide behind her in a way,” said Vicky. “I go on stage with no nerves because if anything goes wrong it’s her fault!”

Doctor Dolittle the Musical is based on the children’s story by Hugh Lofting - the original film starred Rex Harrison in the title role. For the stage show that part now falls on the shoulders of Harry Potter and Fast Show star Mark Williams.

The storyline and music were written by legendary Hollywood figure Leslie Bricusse who was heavily involved in rehearsals.

“He was such a lovely, kind man,” said Vicky. “He’s 87 and not at all precious. He rewrote a couple of scenes and wrote a couple of new songs. He wanted the show to evolve and be current – and it is. It’s beautiful.

“Leslie also said the kindest thing anyone could say to me. He said ‘I always loved Polynesia but she never had any depth but you have made her three dimensional and I’ll never be able to thank you enough for that’. I burst into tears in my dressing room; it’s not every day a writer says that to you.”

Accrington-born Vicky who lives in the Ribble Valley is relishing the opportunity the show has give her to spend the festive season at home.

“The chance to sleep in my own bed every night is just fantastic,” she said. But although she will be touring the UK for most of next year, she won’t be separated from husband Andy.

“I really didn’t want to leave Andy for all that time and I told them that so they gave him a job. So he’s with me now and coming on tour.

“He’s a carpenter and a props guy so he’s get a technical role in this show and he’s loving it.

“I would have missed him but now he’s getting on my nerves,” she laughed. “We’ll probably be divorced by the end of it!”

Doctor Dolittle the Musical sees Vicky being reunited with Brian Capron, Coronation Street serial killer Richard Hillman who plays circus owner Albert Blossom in the show.

“I’d worked with Brian on Coronation Street. Obviously I managed to escape from his murderous ways, I survived,” she said. “But what a funny man he is; he’s delightful, I always knew that.

“Capron’s 70 but you’d never know it. Everyone loves him. I’m not really on stage with him but when I stand in the wings watching him, I’m laughing my head off.

“Off stage, I can’t get rid of him. He’s always in my dressing room having free cups of coffee!”

Vicky also knew Mark Williams slightly before going into rehearsals, having worked with him on an episode of the TV drama Father Brown.

“When you go into that first day of rehearsal and you know someone it makes such a difference,” she said.

“Mark is lovely man,” she said. “He’s brought a warmth and generosity that is difficult to find in actors. He has that in bundles. The puppets are brilliant, and we have all learned how to bring them to life but he has added another dimension to that by the way he looks at them and the way he talks to them, It’s very clever.”

Doctor Dolittle the Musical, The Lowry, Salford Quays until Saturday, January 5. Details from 0843 208 6005 or