Louise under suspicion in classic theatre whodunnit
They say you should never speak to your heroes, but Louise Jameson is very much the exception that proves the rule.
Speaking ahead of her appearance in the quintessential whodunnit coming to The Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury, she’s in warm and witty form as she makes this Doctor Who fan very happy sharing anecdotes on a fantastic career on both stage and screen.
If anything Mrs Boyle, the character she plays, is the complete opposite of herself.
Louise said: “It is very unlike every part I have ever played before. She’s miserable, grumpy, she’s very much a glass half empty kind of person.
“The challenge for me has been to make her real and give her some depth. If you study the text, she’s been damaged by what has gone on in her life.
“I don’t think anybody in real life is really that miserable without and the director of the show Ian Watson has been very good at guiding me to that point and he lies what I am doing which is good.”
But why did she want to take on the part?
Louise added: “We are the same age as each other. In fact, I am a tiny bit older than the show. I wanted to do something to celebrate it.
“There is however real relaxation in doing a long tour. Last year, I did five new plays and it is a lot of lines to learn. I am also one of those actors who what we call in the trade is DLP, dead letter perfect and to do that when you get older is much harder.
“But it is also such an iconic British show and who wouldn’t want to be a part of that.”
You may think that after 65 years of the show running that audiences would be perhaps a little bored of the show. Not a bit of it, if the reaction from audiences so far has been to go by.
“We’ve had absolutely packed houses every single night and we have even had a few standing ovations. The audience for a whodunnit are just as fanatical as something for a musical theatre show.
“I think we have got a particularly good cast for this show. I know there have been plenty of good casts in the 65 years it has been running, but this one is really good.
“It is escapism, it’s family entertainment and wonderfully written. Agatha Christie at her best.”
Television has made a household name of Louise, playing Leela to Tom Baker’s Doctor in Doctor Who, Susan Young in Bergerac and Rosa di Marco in Eastenders, yet with frequent appearances treading the boards, one gets the feeling that she prefers the stage.
Louise said: “It mainly depends on the writing but I do really like the radio medium and I have been doing some writing for Big Finish (the company that produce Doctor Who drama CDs) and that has given me a real appreciation of the audio medium.
“But one of my favourite things to do is perform to 50 people in a pub. If you are performing something shocking to a theatre with 2,000 people on it then you have to go big to convey that to the audience up in the gods.
“If you are doing it to 50 people then the reaction can be smaller and is a little bit like television work. And those 50 people are concentrated and are there to watch it”
We are previewing the show when it comes to The Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury running from Monday July 4 to Saturday July 9 and it’s a venue she can’t recall whether she has appeared at before.
She added: “I wish I could say for definite whether I have been to Aylesbury before. I have probably been to every theatre in the country before but it is only when I am on the stage and look out the auditorium can I then recall with complete precision whether I have been here before.
“It doesn’t matter if I am driving around the area or am near the theatre, or even see local landmarks, it is only on the stage that I know.
“If you do a tour and the adrenaline gets you through the first two, three, four or five weeks of a show. After that, it is a little like a meditative state and you absorb your surroundings a lot more.”
This interviewer is more than a little bit of a Doctor Who fan and it’s safe to say that it is something she has been asked more than a few questions about over the years. So I grapple in my brain trying to think of an original one.
It is also passed into common knowledge among fans that she didn’t see eye to eye with Tom Baker during their period working on the show.
I ask Louise whether she thought his indifference towards her was prompted by him missing his former co-star on Doctor Who.
Louise said: “I have no doubt that he was missing Elisabeth Sladen. But I know he got on very well with Mary Tamm who came after me and especially Lalla Ward (who he later went one to marry).
“I know he wanted to travel alone in the TARDIS and to be honest, there was no way you could have replaced something like Liz, god rest her soul.
“I think that is why they went for a completely different kind of character in Leela which perhaps Tom didn’t like.”
However any animosity that was there during the filming of the show has long since disappeared she is quick to clarify.
Louise said: “Tom and I are now absolutely fine and work with each other a lot on the Big Finish audios.
“And he has since apologised for how he behaved when we were working together. And very loudly too and I think he is just a wonderful actor and a fantastic Doctor Who.
“I only did a year on Doctor Who. I left because I wasn’t getting on with Tom and had an offer to go off and do some Shakespeare which is what I went to do.”
And despite it being more than three decades since she left the show, it is never far away.
Louise added: “This year, I am off to New York, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles this year all off the back of Doctor Who.
“I know I get jobs because of doing Doctor Who. I did an episode of Toast and I knew they were massive fans of Doctor Who.
“It is just the gift that keeps on giving and couldn’t be more grateful.”
She has frequently stated in interviews about the lack of opportunities for women in the industry, given that she has frequently described the war drama Tenko as her favourite show, was it because of the all female cast?
Louise added: “It was my favourite job. It was written by a woman, created by a woman and so well researched by Lavinia Warner and it was just a fantastic group of ladies to work with on that show and couldn’t have been happier.
“It was so well cast by the director Pennant Roberts who also cast me as Leela so I owe a lot to him.
“It so well researched and there was no gratuitous violence, it was all implied.
“Even though the material itself was so dark, we all had a hoot doing it.”
I suggest to her that doing something dark and miserable can make you laugh whereas rehearsing comedy is a much more torturous process?
Louise added: “I think you are right. I did Noises Off last year, and the timing in that, you have to be so absolutely perfect so it became very hard work.”
Not content with playing a miserable character in The Mousetrap, she plays a very unusual part after finishing the tour of the Agatha Christie classic.
She said: “I’ve got a show to do in France and then after that, straight into rehearsals for a show called Diva Drag in which I play a Welsh homophobic ghost. It’s a drag queen who decides not to go to his own mother’s funeral and she turns up to berate him.
“It’s at the Hope and Anchor in Islington and it is just a 50 seater. It’s heaven for a performer.”
The show runs from Monday July 4 to Saturday July 9 with performances taking place throughout the week.
Tickets for The Mousetrap are available from £16.90. They can be booked by calling the box office on 0844 871 7607 or visit www.atgtickets.co.uk/aylesbury.