Anne Stallybrass
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Alphabetical Order programme, June 1980

Anne Stallybrass’s love of the theatre came from her parents, both of whom were dedicated amateur actors in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex where she was born.  Anne appeared on stage from four onwards.  She went to a good convent school that was very keen on drama (Helen Mirren and Gemma Craven came from the same stable) so it was natural that Anne went on to the Royal Academy of Music where she was a Drama Gold Medallist.  John Counsell was one of the adjudicators and invited here down to the Theatre Royal for an interview.  “It was the first time I’d had a professional interview; the first time I’d been back stage in a professional theatre.  He said, ‘I’ll help you get your first job’ and recommended me to Arthur Brough at Folkestone where I spent eighteen months.  I’ve never forgotten his kindness.”

Her first appearance at Windsor was in 1965 in The Great Sebastians with Mary Kerridge and Joss Ackland, closely followed by Twinkling Of An Eye.  Her last was in 1969 in John Osbourne’s The Entertainer with Denis Quilley.

Anne’s stage work has ranged from Hobson’s Choice at the Young Vic to The Father with Kenneth Haigh at Leicester, from Bodies at the Hampstead Theatre to a recent tour of the Chichester production of The Aspern Papers with Gerald Harper.  But it is perhaps her many exquisite performances in classic series on television that has brought her wider recognition and led to her winning the TV Times Best Actress for The Strauss Family.

The first play that made the viewing public sit up and watch was Keep The Aspidistra Flying.  But it was as Jane Seymour in The Six Wives of Henry VIII that Anne really made her mark.  “It was shot on location at Broughton Castle in Oxfordshire.  Jane is the least well-documented of all the wives but she was Henry’s favourite and is of course buried with him at Windsor Castle.”

Playing Anne Onedin in twenty-nine episodes of The Onedin Line took up nearly two years of her life except for a short gap in the middle in which she managed to fit in The Strauss Family!  But what Anne remembers with particular affection is the farmer’s wife she played in the Granada serial This Year, Next Year.  “It was completely different, being able to wear trousers and not a wig or a corset in sight.”  It was back into costume again for the part of Susan Henchard in the BBC serialisation of Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor Of Casterbridge, an elegant and gripping production for which she received high praise from the critics.  At least in her most recent television The Good Companions she is creeping closer to the modern-day parts which she would love to be offered more often.

She lives in Barnes in a house with a pleasant garden.  “It’s really my passion, gardening.  I love growing flowers and vegetables and I fill every available spot.  I’ve strawberries in pots and tomatoes on the flat roof and herbs everywhere.”  She also has one very aged golden labrador called Jim.

Her other passion is cricket, an interest firmly brought to my notice as my interview was carried out on the last day of the cliff-hanging test match between England and the West Indies.  The first thing Anne said when she came into the room was, “Can I put on the television?”  Although concentrating nobly on my questions despite the fact that the West Indies only needed seven runs to win and the crowd’s excitement was total, she did cast the odd and discreet glance in the direction of the screen.  Does she often go to Lords? I asked.  “No,” Anne said.  “My idea of total bliss is to be gardening while listening to the cricket commentary on the radio.  One of the bonuses of my house is that the garden backs on to the Common so I can watch the cricket and weed at the same time.”

Theatre Royal, Windsor

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