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Finding fame in Corrie was difficult, but it was great fun ; Here's looking at you, kid Angela Crow, actress and author, spent her early years in...

May 25, 2013

YellowBrix

Finding fame in Corrie was difficult, but it was great fun ; Here's looking at you, kid Angela Crow, actress and author, spent her early years in Leicester and now lives in Yorkshire

We lived in Glenfield Road and I went to Alderman Newton's Girls' School. Little did we know in the playground we were jumping and skipping on the remains of Richard III.

I remember the market in Leicester, it was a fabulous place to visit on a Saturday morning and, in the afternoon, I'd go to the cinema with friends. It's all coming back to me now.

I saw some fantastic people at De Montfort Hall, including Danny Kaye. And there were such wonderful dances. I loved dancing and the Saturday night hop at the local church hall.

My father was a brilliant man, he was a lecturer at Leicester College of Art and Technology. He taught biology and wrote several books - text literature used in libraries and colleges all over. I was very much in his shadow, I knew I could never live up to his talent or reputation.

He'd taught the teacher who taught me at school, so I didn't really work very much in class. I was a very shy child, cripplingly so.

It was an English teacher, Miss Hughes, who encouraged me into acting. She organised school plays and was very involved with the theatre.

You must be in a play,'' she said.

You'll love it.'' The first thing I did was a nonspeaking part, which got a couple of laughs, and made me think it wasn't too bad. When we did plays by Moliere. I found being someone different was good fun, so I joined an amateur group called the Blue Dawn Players. They were based at The Little Theatre.

Is it still there? I would love to see it again. I'm feeling quite nostalgic now.

We did all sorts of plays and competitions there. And then Phillip Barrett came to Leicester for three months. His was the kind of old fashioned actor/ manager touring company that played twice nightly.

My best friend, Rita Sharman, who lived in Westfield Road, told me they were looking for children for a new play. She dared me to knock on the stage door. I was 12 at the time. And I did. I actually asked if I could see Phillip Barrett. I don't know what possessed me. I hung about for some reason, just fate I suppose, and he came out.

I've got all the girls I need,'' he said, disappointing me. Can you dance?'' he asked. I can go on my toes, I told him; I had a second-hand pair of black ballet shoes. Well, then there might be something,'' he said, and left it at that.

Three weeks later I got a typed, addressed envelope through the door.'' What's this?'' mum said. It was a letter from Phillip Barrett, asking whether I'd be interested in playing Adele in Jane Eyre. Well, it was the most magical moment. I think I still have that letter.

I flew down to The Opera House, in Leicester, that was one of those lovely Edwardian theatres most likely turned into a car park now. I was just 13 and it was my first professional performance. It was so very exciting - I was bitten by the bug. After that, Miss Hughes said I ought to go to RADA.

My parents weren't very pleased. The headmistress said I had to catch up on my studies, but I thought, blow to that.

I left home at 15. I kind of ran away, I suppose. I lied about my age, adding two or three years on, and auditioned. They found out when I got there, but let me in anyway.

RADA was an eye-opener. I was a schoolgirl really, naive, but became very dedicated. I was named outstanding student of the year. I also won the award for comedy - I think I got 25 guineas - and shared the award for drama with Brian Bedford. From there, I went on to Bromley Rep, with Sheila Hancock; I played the cat to her Dick Whittington.

I also did Shakespeare at Regent's Park, playing Maria in Twelfth Night and Audrey in As You Like It. It was a lovely experience to play open air.

I was asked to be in Under Milk Wood, the original, controversial, stage production, with Donald Houston. That was a year in the West End, a superb time with a great team at New Theatre. My name stuck out like a sore thumb among the Welsh actors.

I had a good ear for accents and loved doing them. I toured many plays after that. One was with Frankie Howerd. I liked him, he was a sensitive soul, a depressive really, but brilliant. He wanted to have a go at drama. The show was a French farce.

My first television was The Laughing Woman with Peter O'Toole in the '50s. It was live TV in those days, but when you're used to doing theatre, you know you can't stop and say can I do that again?'' It was not rehearse, record, like today.

Things just aren't the same in the TV world. In the '60s, '70s, and '80s, it was wonderful. Today, it's run by businessmen.

You can tell from what's on.

Where are all the wonderful plays for today? I'd done a play at Granada before the producer of Coronation Street asked me to play a character who worked in the factory. I didn't think it would last, but they kept me on and built up the part. It was an interesting three years (1961 to '63).

Finding fame through a role such as Doreen Lostock was difficult. The character was not like me at all. When she left The Street and joined the Army I got letters from young girls, telling me they were going to do that, too. That worried me. I was such an opposite in reality.

It was an enjoyable time, without a doubt. We did one episode live and recorded the next straight after. It was just two shows a week then.

I still see a group of the old cast, including Ernst Walder, Anne Reid - who I shared a flat with when I was 16 - Ken Farrington and Bill Roache.

I could name-drop quite a bit, but well, there are so many to remember.

After Coronation Street I wanted to do something a bit different and I was in a play with Leonard Rossiter called Between The Two Of Us, but I never stopped doing TV.

I also worked in Vienna, at an English-speaking theatre, which was most wonderful.

I love costume drama and did many, such as Bleak House and North and South, a Trollope thing, Dickens serials and Jack the Ripper, playing one of the victims - that was quite a grim thing, out on location in the wilds, and quite spooky, too.

Life was just one job to the next. I got asked to play parts without needing to audition. Of course, there was Grange Hill, as Mrs Birtles, and more recently Heartbeat and The Royal; the list goes on. I worked for 50 years solidly - I never stopped and I am very lucky to have done that - I realise that now.

I have done West End stage since, a play called Stepping Out, at the Duke of York theatre, and the last thing, a Peter Hall Company production of Major Barbara; but, when my husband passed away seven years ago, I took a couple of years off. I needed that time to reflect.

He died very suddenly. Sadly, he went into hospital and five weeks later, was dead. It was bitter. We only had two years together, he was my second husband, but it was a lovely, unexpected thing that happened for us. I have a son and two grandchildren from my first marriage. They are truly wonderful.

Since my small retirement, as you might call it, I have been giving talks and lectures about women in the First World War, and authors such as the Brontes and Dylan Thomas. I toured across America, which was an interesting experience. That's how I keep the wolf from the door.

Looking back is strange. I have another life now really. I am writing, which is hard work. I'm also putting together a one-woman show, to make a DVD tribute to Dylan Thomas.

My heart does lie in the theatre, but getting back into it, and on TV - I just don't know if it's possible these days. I would love to, though.

My next novel will be finished later this year. Perhaps I could do a book signing in Leicester? I'd love to come back and look up old school friends. I think that's something you feel as you get older.

I'm still in touch with Annie Bright. She was Anne Taylor at school. I bumped into her again at a party in Covent Garden. I would never have recognised her, she's this very glamorous jazz singer and I'd tapped her on the shoulder to say I liked her boots. It was a wonderful coincidence.

I don't know where Rita is now, but I know she married a Mr Rabbit and was one of four beautiful blonde sisters. I hope there are still a few of my old friends around. ? .M: ROVERS ROLE: Angela with Street legends Len Fairclough (Peter Adamson) and Ena Sharples (Violet Carson) GREAT MEMORIES: Doreen's character chatting with Emily Nugent and Annie Walker (Doris Speed)

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