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Former screen goddess and Bond girl takes on new stage role
Bill Kenwright's Classic Thriller Theatre Company is currently touring the country with their latest chilling whodunit, the creepy thriller The Cat and the Canary. Heading the cast is silver screen and Bond girl legend Britt Ekland, whose numerous films include The Man with The Golden Gun with Roger Moore, The Wicker Man with Christopher Lee, and Get Carter with Michael Caine. Britt, who stars alongside soap stars Mark Jordon and Tracy Shaw, and West End leading lady Marti Webb, is returning to the live stage after almost a decade. The actress, previously married to Pink Panther comedy star Peter Sellers, plays housekeeper Mrs Pleasant in this new stage adaptation by John Willard, which comes to the Lichfield Garrick theatre in March as part of its UK tour. So, what is the plot of The Cat and the Canary, and what attracted the screen star to appear in the production?
Movie star Britt Ekland talks about her career and new stage role
Britt explains: "It's a story about a big, deserted mansion on the Bodmin Moor. The owner died 20 years earlier and he has instructed his solicitors to assemble all the possible heirs to go through the will. There's an assortment of people from all over the world that come into this spooky house, and loads of surprises ensue from the start. It is an interesting story with many twists and turns. It's very much in the tradition of Agatha Christie and the type of thriller British audiences love. I think our audiences will get a big surprise and that's all I'm going to say." She adds: "I play the housekeeper. She has been in this house alone for 20 years before this midnight meeting with all the assembled heirs and the solicitor. She's probably had quite a solitary life and had to find ways of surviving that solitude, the cold and the war. She hasn't had any physical company, but she feels she has had spiritual company. She's very stern. Her job is to guard this house until the heir takes it over and that's what she's done for 20 years."
Britt Ekland appearing in The Cat and the Canary. Credit Paul Coltas
So, why this stage role after such a long and successful film career? Britt says: "I'm always up for a challenge, I always have been. I have done almost everything you can think of in my career. This is definitely not a role I'm used to; this play is not a farce, for a start! It's something a bit more challenging for me. I haven't been on stage since my last panto in 2013. And I was never a rep actor – I was a movie star. I finished school when I was 17 and went to drama school for two years, then toured with a variety show and did a film in Rome. The next thing I know, I have a contract with Twentieth Century Fox and I'm sent to London. That's where I meet Peter Sellers and marry him. Although I wanted to be on stage, being a movie star didn't hold the prestige of being a good stage actor – not in Sweden where I came from. I don't have the background that most actors my age have, which is my main challenge on this tour."
The former Bond girl stars alongside Tracy Shaw. Credit Paul Coltas
After more than 60 years in showbusiness, what's the secret for keeping yourself fit enough to take part in a UK stage tour? "I'm very fortunate that I've always worked out. In March 2018, I did Strictly Come Dancing in Sweden as the oldest participant ever. But I don't take anything for granted. You have to be alert and stay on top of everything. A lot of this is your own mental attitude to life as well, not just what you eat and how you move. You have to have a very mobile mental attitude. As you get older and what you look like matters less, you've got to challenge yourself to stay relevant and continue working. I could just sit down with a cup of tea and biscuits and watch television… but I don't do that!"
The Cat and the Canary can be seen at the Lichfield Garrick
Britt Ekland can be seen in The Cat and the Canary which comes to the Lichfield Garrick theatre from Monday 9 March to Saturday 14 March. Tickets priced from £25.50 are available by visiting www.lichfieldgarrick.com or by calling the box office on 01543 412121.