‘Not Now Comrade’ 1976 Written by Ray Cooney
I played a stripper called Barbara Wilcox who was in love with a Russian Ballet Dancer who had the KGB after him. I remember I had to do a scene driving up in my sports car to try to distract the KGB from my lover so he could escape. I had a large fur coat on and little else on underneath except a g-string and a couple of tassels on my boobs. I wasn´t too happy about doing the scene. It was filmed outside the Royal Albert Hall in London. A huge crowd had appeared and I refused to come out of my caravan I was so frightened they would take photos of me when I discarded my coat. Everyone was ordered not to take photo´s. I duly drove up, ran over to my lover and the KGB, threw my coat off and proceeded to do a dance for the distraction. During me prancing around, to my horror, a bus load of Japanese tourist drove past camera´s at the ready, click click click and sailed past!
‘No Sex Please We´re British’ 1974 in Margate, summer season.
This play was great fun to do, it starred Peter Denyer, Pip Hinton, Robert Dorning and the wonderful Charles Hawtrey. Charles Hawtrey could be a little unpredictable at times and I remember poor Pip and Robert standing behind a door just chatting waiting to come on later when Charles decided to launch into a cabaret act, nothing to do with the script and then went on to open the door way before it was supposed to be opened, feeling extremely stupid not know what to do Pip and Robert just stood there with open mouths until someone closed the door. I do not know how I controlled myself from laughing.
Another incident when Charles was a little under the weather I thought I had killed him on stage. In one scene I had to take his arm and move him across the stage which I did but instead of him moving, bearing in mind how slight he was, he just seemed to launch into the air in a horizontal position, hovering in mid air then suddenly dropped in that position onto the floor. Silence and horror, no movement, oh my God. I kept in character shouting his character´s name and to my relief he got up as if nothing had happened. The audience of course laughed thinking it was in the play.
The Dunlop Commercial
This commercial won awards at the Cannes Film Festival. It was the one whereby a girl is playing tennis and everything that is Dunlop disappears including the girls clothes!! It was quite difficult to film as when something had to disappear I had to freeze in a position while they removed say the ball or racket, then my skirt, then my top until I was down to bra and pants, that is when it finished with me protecting my last bit of clothing. Very clever commercial. The team from Dunlop wanted to give me a present and asked what I would like. Not being into sport at that time and knowing my father loved golf and his equipment was something to be desired, I took a brochure to him for him to pick what he needed. Oh his face, the delight. He duly picked some things out and was like the cat who had the cream. Lovely.
‘Dirty Linen’ 1980 Written by Tom Stoppard.
I took over a part from Carol Cleveland. I had very little rehearsal and was scared to death. I had to open the show by walking on stage in pitch blackness, all the lights backstage were off and I could not see a thing. I was standing there ready to go on when the music cue came for me to open the door and walk on stage. I was in a complete panic as I could not see the door but all of a sudden the surround of the door lit up and the door handle illuminated. I didn´t have time to question this but just thrust myself forward, grabbed the door handle and walked on stage and all was well. Strange, eh?
I took over the part from Lorraine Chase playing a dead girl. All I can remember I had to do was lay on some sort of slab in a white dress while the play went on and at some point arose and said a few words. The wonderful Kenneth Williams was in the play and we got on really well having been in some of the Carry On Films together. As his abode was on my way home I used to drive him to his residence and he used to chide me if I was going out after the show and could not take him home. I later found out when he had passed away and his diaries where published he had put a few comments in them about me. I wouldn´t buy the diaries as I felt it was an invasion of his privacy. A friend later gave me the book as a gift and I just couldn´t resist looking up my name to see what he had written about me. A great mind sorely missed
‘No, No, Not Yet’ Bournemouth Playhouse.
My first stage play and I was terrified. I was playing an Australian girl and was worried about the Australian accent. I went into London to a department store and found an Australian girl on a cosmetic counter, explained my situation and she agreed to come to lunch with me and help me by saying my lines so I could get the accent. Unfortunately I still found it difficult and the only way I could get going was to say “kangaroo” before I went on stage. So you had me just about to make an entrance saying Kangaroo and off I went.
‘Babes in the Wood’ Richmond Theatre.
Maid Marion with Arthur Askey, Ed Steward and Ian Lavender.
It was my first Panto. Arthur Askey was wonderful, he used to ad lib a lot when it took his fancy and I had to go along with it as best I could but he knew exactly when to stop and got back to the script. I remember when I had to sing a song, the children in the audience got bored and threw boiled sweets as us. It was a bit off putting to say the least.
‘Aladdin’ 1975 Southampton
I played Aladdin and two chums from Please Sir and The Fenn Street Gang were in it. Peter Denyer and Malcom McFee, sadly both passed now. I became great friends with Anna DeCosta who played the princess, she was an opera singer and used to carry me singing as I wasn´t too good at it. I remember having to appear from behind some cardboard painted bush and she, having the most wicked sense of humour, had to say in the script, surprised, “Why, it´s a boy” which of course she hammed up and the audience roared with laughter as I didn´t look anything like a boy.
‘Cinderella’ 1976 Broxbourne.
Tony Blackburn was Buttons and I was Cinderella. We did 3 shows a day and after a while it got very confusing, thinking which show were we in. Tony and I had to dance which we were not good at and used to crash into each other on many occasions. When the carriage came on the stage at the end they had a real pony, he was so cute but on a few occasions let himself down badly by relieving himself on stage much to the delight of the children.
‘The Two Ronnies’ 1974-75-76-78
I appeared in many episodes of the Two Ronnies playing different characters. Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett where the most generous actors one could possible wish to work it. One sketch that sticks out in my mind is called “The Swedish Lesson” I played the Swedish waitress. When I got the script I couldn´t understand it, the dialogue was all letters and numbers. Not wanting to appear thick I went up to Ronnie Barker and said I am sorry I don´t really understand this. He said, just say the letters and numbers and it will sound like Swedish. ie. L O. = Hello. RUBC? = Are you busy? and so it went on. It was a very funny sketch and the next day I am told people at the BBC were going around saying “L O”
‘Please Sir’ (The Film) 1971
This film launched my career, it was great fun to do. I was used to filming but when we came to do “The Fenn Street Gang” for television I was scared to death. There was so much to think about other than the lines. We had a live audience, we had to be aware of marks on the floor so we were in the right position for the camera, know when the camera was on you and not make a mistake. I sailed through the first episode having no recollection of it at all.
The Carry On´s
We filmed “Please Sir” at Pinewood Studios and I met Peter Rogers the producer of the Carry On films. He asked me to do the film of the TV series “Bless This House”
Carry On Behind and Carry On Abroad followed. So much has been written about the Carry On films, I would just like to say the cast were great to work with, so professional and such nice people. I loved working with Kenneth Williams, he was a mind of information which I found fascinating.
‘Run for Your Wife’ 1982 Written by Ray Cooney
This play is my most memorable, I played the part of Mary Smith and I nearly didn´t do it. I was on holiday in America visiting my sister and received a phone call from my Agent telling me Ray Cooney wanted me to do a tryout of a new play in Guildford. My immediate reaction was, do I really want to do this but my agent said it was a very funny play, so they sent the script over to America. After reading it I had no hesitation in saying yes. The story line was about a taxi driver who had two wives, leading a double life. We did a gruelling 3 weeks at Guildford making script changes almost every night.
It then went into the Shaftesbury Theatre in the West End starring Bernard Cribbins and Richard Briers. I came out of the show after six months. It was a huge success and ran for years going into different West End theatres. It is one of the funniest farces I have done and it was a great part for me. The company used to change the cast every 3 months or so and I was invited to go back every so often. I played at the Criterion, Whitehall, Duke of Yorks and Duchess Theatres. I went with the play to Canada and Australia.
Among the actors I worked with in this play, were, James Bolam, Ian Ogilvy, Stratford Johns, Windsor Davies, Eric Sykes, Paul Shane, Royce Mills, Bill Pertwee, Peter Blake, Ralph Bates, Jimmy Thompson, Terry Scott, Jeffrey Holland, Derek Griffiths, Henry McGee, Trevor Bannnister, to name but a few.
‘Caught in the Net’ 2001 Written by Ray Cooney, Vaudeville Theatre, London
Ray phoned me up one day in 2001 and asked if I would like to do Run for Your Wife Again. He had written a sequel to Run for Your Wife, 18 years on but omitted to tell me it was a new play and I nearly said no until he explained. It was a hilarious starring Eric Sykes, Russ Abbot and Robert Daws. Martyn and I had just bought our holiday home in Spain and I was really wrapped up thinking about furnishings and what to do with the garden. There was a point in the play whereby I was shut in a bedroom for pages and pages and had to knock on the door at intervals, yelling for someone to let me out. I got very bored with this and used to day dream about Spain and often missed a knock only realising, when there was silence on stage. All they heard from the bedroom door was a loud shocked “Oh” then the knock. Well that did it for me I was a hysterical wreck. Russ knew that when I was let out and got on the stage I would be laughing so much I could hardly speak. The only way to get through the scene was for us not to look each other in the eyes. That was my last West End appearance.
Michael Elphick and me in Bloomfield.
See How They Run, Shaftesbury Theatre
Carry on Laughing playing the maid
Sextet, Criterion Theatre, Peter Blythe, Leslie Phillips, Julian Fellowes and me
Bless this House, Sid James and Terry Scott
Carry on Behind, Sherrie Hewson and me
Zeta One, Charles Hawtrey, James Roberston Justice and me being tortured