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Liza Goddard interview

The actor speaks about her role as Sheila in Relatively Speaking at Leeds Grand Theatre.

Liza Goddard is a familiar face on screen and stage, starring in Bergerac, Doctor Who, The Brothers and classic children’s dramas such as Woof and Skippy.

Soon to appear at the Grand Theatre Leeds, Liza recently spoke about her latest role in Alan Ayckbourn’s Relatively Speaking.

Hello Liza. You’re at the Grand Theatre Leeds on 30th August. Does the theatre hold any significance for you?

I did Lady Windermere’s Fan with Christopher Biggins, which was when the regeneration of Leeds was just starting. They had the lovely market and Harvey Nichols, which was thrilling. Everyone tells me it’s fantastic now so I’m looking forward to going back.

What do you most enjoy about touring?

The thing I least like is being away from home all the time, but once you get over that I really enjoy playing to different audiences. It’s amazing just how different they all are. I also like seeing the country. I always make a point of going to a beauty spot or a museum. I know more about this country than anyone else I know because I’ve been everywhere.

How would you sum up your character in Relatively Speaking?

Sheila is a lovely, kind woman who is also a little bit sad. She and her husband Philip don’t have children and she’s left at home all week while he’s up in town. She tries to make a lovely home and everything for him, but there’s a slight suspicion he might be up to something with someone else but she doesn’t really know. He doesn’t seem to want to take her with him when he goes on business trips.

What do you most relish about playing Sheila?

What’s lovely about Sheila and Greg [who is at their home with his girlfriend Ginny and mistakes Philip and Sheila for her parents] is that they’re the two innocents in the story. At times it’s like she has just fallen down the rabbit hole into Wonderland because things are not making any sense whatsoever but she just carries on gamely – ‘Yes, stay for lunch, lovely’. She just sort of rolls with it, which is brilliant. They never really say who they are so she thinks, ‘They must have turned up here for some reason’.

Is there much of you in the character?

Of course. That’s all you’ve got – your physicality and yourself. But the thing about Alan Ayckbourn is it’s all there in the lines so the trick is learning them. As for being like Sheila, I like to cook, make things nice for people, entertain them and feed them.

You and Robert Powell, who plays Philip, have worked together many times. How is it being reunited again?

We’ve known each other and been friends for a long time but we first worked together in Murder By Misadventure, then we did the Alan Bennett play Single Spies, a couple of years ago we did Black Coffee – an Agatha Christie where he played Poirot amazingly – and now this one. It’s that thing of working with someone you’ve known a very long time. You feel safe with them on stage because you’re on the same wavelength, you work in a similar way and you understand what each other is talking about. Also at our great age we also know who each other is talking about. If it’s about Laurence Olivier you know exactly who that is.

The play was Alan Ayckbourn’s first national hit in 1967. Can you recall when you first encountered it?

I’ve never seen it, I’ve only read it before. But the funny thing is he used the first page of the play in Life Of Riley, where the characters of Kathryn and her husband are in the garden rehearsing an amateur production. He never says it’s from Relatively Speaking but they start with that first page and they do it very badly. That’s when I first came across it and I’ve always wanted to do it because I think it’s a wonderful play.

Why do you think it has endured for so long?

It’s a classic. It will endure forever. This will be done in 100 or 200 years because it’s a genuine classic, providing you set it in 1967 because obviously in this world of mobile phones it wouldn’t really work. But it’s a classic because like all Alan’s work it’s about human emotion and it’s about real life – it’s people going through trauma of some kind and being found out, good people doing bad things… It’s just everyone’s experience and then the wonderful mix-up of people not understanding what other people are talking about is just genius, as indeed Alan is a genius himself. And of course it’s really funny and really entertaining. People always want to come along and have a laugh.

Relatively Speaking is at Leeds Grand Theatre from Tuesday 30th August to
Saturday 3rd September. Tickets are on sale now priced from £19.50 to £36. Book online at leedsgrandtheatre.com or call box office on 0844 848 2700.

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