Denise Van Outen is looking radiant and sounding upbeat.
She may have gone through the heartbreak of separating from her husband Lee Mead, but she’s looking forward to the future – and the prospect of turning 40.
“I have lots of friends who feared their 40th birthdays but I’m not scared of it,” insists Denise, who hits the milestone in May.
“I’m going to embrace it and celebrate. I feel quite good about turning 40.
“I have a lot to be thankful for – I have a lovely daughter and fabulous friends and I am starring in my own one-woman play.
“It feels like a positive year for me.
“I’m looking forward to having a party and having all my friends in one room.”
Denise and Lee met when she was a judge on Any Dream Will Do, the BBC1 talent contest which he won.
They married in the Seychelles in 2009 and had daughter Betsy in May 2010, but last July the pair confirmed they had split, though they remain amicable and are sharing childcare.
Of her approaching birthday, Denise insists: “I look my age close-up, without my make-up on, believe me!
“But I like to take care of myself and make an effort. Even when I had a newborn baby and had hardly slept, I still washed and blow dried my hair – it made me feel better.
“A good haircut can knock years off you, some people have the same style for ever but it is ageing.”
Turning 40 causes some people to reassess their life and make a list of things they still want to achieve, but that’s not Denise’s style.
“I’m a do-er, I don’t wait until I turn 40 to do something, I just get on with it,” she proclaims.
And that often means taking on gruelling challenges for charity.
Last year she walked the Great Wall of China for Leukaemia Research and she’s completed an Inca trek in Peru for Breast Cancer Care.
This year she’s planning to cycle in India and has promised to take part in Sport Relief.
She doesn’t know yet whether she’ll be running, swimming or cycling but anything will be better than climbing Kilimanjaro with Cheryl Cole, Gary Barlow and others in 2009 for Comic Relief.
“That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” she winces.
“It was a hideous yet amazing experience. It’s the altitude that really gets to you.
“It was a very bonding experience. I became great friends with Kimberley Walsh.
“It’s very hard to say no to such a good cause. I’ll be doing something for Sport Relief this year, though I don’t know what yet. I’d prefer to cycle as I like going out on my bike, but I’m not a very confident swimmer.
“I want Betsy to learn to swim though, so I’ll be heading to the pool in the spring.”
But first Denise is tackling another challenge – taking her one-woman play, the first thing she has written, on a UK tour which includes Birmingham and Wolverhampton.
Some Girl I Used To Know sees her play Stephanie Canworth, a happily married, successful businesswoman. One night she is away on business when she is contacted via Facebook by her first love. All the old memories come flooding back, along with new temptations.
It’s set in a hotel room over the course of an evening, with Denise sitting on the bed in her hotel robe, using her laptop, for most of it.
She also sings a few 1980s songs.
“It’s not a jazz hands musical, it’s very realistic. The audience are in the room with you,” explains Denise.
“I’m excited about the play and proud it is actually being staged, from its beginnings two years ago with ideas scribbled on bits of paper.
“It’s the first thing I’ve written. I’ve had the story in my head for ages and told a few people, who said they liked it but I had to write it down.
“I had no idea how to go about that, so I asked my novelist friend Terry Ronald. We had lots of meetings in coffee shops.
“The hardest part was defining all the characters. I’m the only person in it so I have to create mental images for the audience of everyone else.
“I wanted to create it because I kept looking at female roles and couldn’t see anything that appealed to me.
“I tried it out for three days at the Curve in Leicester, which was really scary because I didn’t know what the reaction was going to be.
“When I’ve been on stage before it’s been in hits like Chicago and Legally Blonde, but this has never been done before. Thankfully, people seemed to like it.
“I have done a one-woman show, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Tell Me On a Sunday. There’s nowhere to hide when you’re on your own, but I hope my experience with live TV and thinking on my feet will see me right.
“I’m going to enjoy singing songs I love every night, songs that reminded me of growing up.
“Hold Me Now by the Thompson Twins always reminds me of spending the day by the seaside with this boy I went out with. He gave me a mixtape with that on afterwards and it always reminds me of feeling happy.
“Also Culture Club’s Do You Really Want To Hurt Me, as the lyrics are so poignant.
“I remember listening to Sonia’s You’ll Never Stop Me Loving You in my bedroom and wishing it was slower because I like listening to the words. So we’ve stripped it down and turned it into a ballad with strings.”
Denise was last in the Midlands a year ago for the Strictly Come Dancing live tour at the NIA.
“I have a couple of good friends who live in Birmingham so I’m really excited about spending time with them. They’ve never seen me on stage before.
“I’m looking forward to getting to know different cities. It’s like an adventure.”
Betsy will be joining Denise for part of the tour.
“She doesn’t really understand what I do. She’s far too young to see the play but she thinks everybody’s parents are like me and Lee.
“Once I asked her ‘Do you know what Mummy does?’ and she said ‘You talk to all the people’, which I suppose is kind of true!”
* Some Girl I Used To Know plays Birmingham’s New Alexandra Theatre from February 10-12 (for tickets ring 0844 871 3011) and Wolverhampton Grand Theatre on February 20-22 (ring 01902 419112).