WEARING nothing more than a string of pearls and a pair of high heels on stage night after night hasn’t been the greatest professional worry Karen Dunbar has faced.

“At the Commonwealth Games, with the millions watching I was apopleptic with fear an hour before,” she recalls.

“But when the camera went on to beam me all over the Commonwealth I was as calm as a Hindu cow.

“All I thought about was ‘I’m glad the rain has gone off.’

“Yet, sometimes I can get really stressed. I remember reading about how Bob Monkhouse had a sick bucket in the wings just before he appeared in the Royal Variety Performance.

“And there are times when I feel like that.”

Not at the moment. Dunbar is appearing in the touring production of Calendar Girls.

It’s based on the true story, the film and the award-winning play about the Women’s Institute members who bare all for charity. (To date the women have raised almost £5million for Bloodwise.)

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“I’ve only got the pearls and heels on for five seconds,” she says, smiling.

“Don’t get me wrong. I was tentative about the scene. I didn’t think I would just stroll on without a care in the world.

“But after a few weeks into the run it becomes more about getting into the next scene. And you are covered up so quickly.

“On top of that, the response from the audience is massive so I don’t have much to complain about at all.”

The Ayr-born performer adds; “I loved the film, I loved the play and now we have the musical.

“And I had no idea the impact it would have on audiences – and the cast. There are people laughing at gags for minutes on end. The sadness and poignancy is such you can see people in the audience crying.

“And there are times when Denise Welch and I have been coming off stage and saying ‘I was crying too.

“And when that happens you have to fight back the tears. I found myself saying ‘Hold it together, Karen. Take deep breaths.’”

She adds; “The impact the show has is mind blowing. There’s nothing like being out of your head without the use of hallucinogens.”

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When Karen Dunbar was a teenager growing up in Ayr and working at the Post Office she dreamed of appearing on TV one day.

But a more likely reality was performing karaoke in a bar.

“I wanted to be on TV, since the age of four. But I could never have imagined I’d one day present at the Commonwealth Games, perform Tam O’Shanter in America, or have a television series.

“I could never have guessed I’d appear in panto, appear at comedy festivals and tour with a fantastic West End musical.”

She adds, her delivery perfect, “And shout ‘Death to the hoor!’ in a major film about Mary Queen of Scots.

“If anyone had said this would have replied ‘You need to lay aff the acid, pal.’

“But at the same I would have added; ‘ I’m up for it. All of it.’”

The world of Calendar Girls and meeting a Gary Barlow, who wrote the music, is a very different world from more recent stage experiences.

“ He’s a smashing guy who came to rehearsals and we got some good chat.”

She adds, with a comedic note of caution; “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to say we enjoyed a vegan sausage roll in a local café, but he came to a couple of performances and joined us on stage at the end. And the music is great.”

There is a little downside to touring theatre.

“It’s like being inside a beautiful but discombobulated snow globe,” she says grinning.

“I had to ask Anna Jane Casey (one of her co-stars) ‘How do you tour?’ I have brought three quarters stuff to much. I need to know where my digs are, where the theatre is and where do I get food. It’s taken me three days to find marks and Spencers.’”

She smiles; “If and when the next your comes up I’ll be a bit more savvy.”

Recent stage work has seen

Dunbar appear as an 80 year -old pregnant woman in the absurdist play Ma, Pa and the Little Mouths.

“I don’t what it was about either,” she says answering the question.

“It featured a giant chicken and a woman called Neil. But I loved it.”

And she has toured with an all-female Shakespeare trilogy, appearing in London and New York.

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“Meryl Streep was in the audience in New York, and she came backstage after the show. And I’m not going to apologise for saying that. She’s showbiz royalty.”

The fact Dunbar can’t quite grasp the world she is part of is engaging.

“Maybe when I’m living in my wee but n’ ben up north when I’m old I’ll reflect and think, ‘Aye, a did that.’

“But for now I’m sort of looking in on myself.”

What she seems most proud of however is having written a play for Glasgow’s Oran Mor theatre. She loves creating worlds and is keen to write more.

“I’ve got a story and I want to develop it,” she offers.

“The idea of writing lines and having another performer deliver it them is incredible. I had no idea it could be so gratifying.”

But what she’s looking forward to after the musical theatre run is watching old pals from Chewin’ The Fat days perform.

“My next big dream is to be able to see Still Game at the Hydro,” she says.

“I’ve been in New York the last couple of times it’s been on. To see it live will be amazing.”

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Calendar Girls, The Musical, the King’s Theatre, Glasgow, June 11-22, also stars Lesley Joseph, Sarah Jane Buckley, Sue Devaney, Julia Hills, Judy Holt and Lisa Maxwell.