Glynis gets festive in Ayckbourn’s farce

She's appeared in two of our biggest soaps and was half of one of the 1980s best known TV cop duos. RACHEL BANHAM catches up with Glynis Barber as she arrives at Norwich Theatre Royal in Alan Ayckbourn's Season's Greetings.

At least 25 years separate pictures of Glynis Barber in Dempsey and Makepeace and images of her as Glenda Mitchell in EastEnders. Yet they could be just a few years apart.

Glynis credits yoga with keeping her young, and her yoga and lifestyle DVD has just gone on sale.

This week she is playing Belinda in Alan Ayckbourn's classic comedy Season's Greetings at Norwich Theatre Royal.

'I'm a big fan of Alan Ayckbourn. I haven't done a play of his for a very long time,' she says.

'I wanted to get back on the boards so I was delighted when this opportunity came up.'

It's not her first visit to Norfolk. Glynis appeared here with Dennis Waterman in the play Killing Time, and most recently played Mrs Robinson in The Graduate in Norwich.

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In Season's Greetings, she will play alongside Ricky Groves, Denis Lill, Christopher Timothy and Matthew Bose.

'It's quite a dark comedy, actually. It has very funny moments in it, also some quite sad, dark moments in it. It's quite real,' she says. 'I think it will be a nice cast.'

Glynis is no stranger to East Anglia; she has also worked at Chelmsford rep which she described as a 'fantastic way' to learn the trade and business.

'That was my very first job out of drama school,' she says.

'In those days you couldn't work in the business unless you had an Equity card so most people started in theatre. Usually you would start as an acting ASM – an assistant stage manager.'

That meant Glynis prepared the props, did sound effects, and helped actors with their lines. She worked on two plays during the two months she worked there.

'I was the lead in both the plays as well as trying to do the acting ASM,' she says. 'I literally lost about a stone in weight. They were paying me so little money I could barely afford to eat!

'I would be on stage acting away and then every time I came off stage I would be puffing like mad in the wings trying to do all the acting ASM jobs.

'You really had to love the business to go into it in those days – it was hard work and very little money.'

Glynis was just five when she decided she wanted to be an actress, after seeing The Parent Trap, starring Hayley Mills. She played Soolin in Blakes 7, followed by the mini-series 'Jane' based on the famous wartime comic strip heroine.

Then, in 1984, she was cast as Makepeace, in the series Dempsey and Makepeace, alongside American actor Michael Brandon.

'Dempsey and Makepeace was the one that put me on the map,' Glynis says.

'It was funny because when I went into the business my first love was theatre. I wasn't really even that interested in television so when I look back on it, I was a bit blas� when I got it. I think none of us had any idea how popular it was going to be so that was all a bit of a shock really. . . it was very exciting.'

More recently Glynis has become known as a soap actress, first in Emmerdale, which she says she 'thoroughly enjoyed', and then in EastEnders.

'That was amazing being there, being on the square and being part of all the action,' she says.

'I have worked very hard in my life but I have never ever worked as hard as I did on EastEnders.

'People don't realise but that timetable is brutal. You work every day. . . you are literally up between 5am and 6am every morning and because of where I live I often didn't get home until 9pm. Then you've got 15 scenes to learn for the next day.'

She adds: 'The thing that's amazing about EastEnders I think is that the standard of the work is so high. The people are great, but it's tough.'

Glynis has also starred in the series Night and Day, Trial and Retribution and New Tricks. Most recently she was seen in The Royal.

Her DVD is called Secrets of Anti Ageing with Glynis Barber. It is due to launch in conjunction with program-ming on the Body In Balance channel.

'This is going to be something slightly different,' she says. 'We do specific yoga forms, anti-ageing and we'll also be talking to a nutrition expert, about lifestyle.'

She hasn't ruled out a return to EastEnders one day, but for now she's just looking forward to getting back on stage and enjoying the flexibility at this stage of her career.

After working on Season's Greetings in Norwich she'll appear in her first panto, as the bad fairy in Sleeping Beauty at Tunbridge Wells.

'Then we'll see how it goes next year,' she says. 'Right now I'm very happy doing what I'm doing.'

l Season's Greetings is at Norwich Theatre Royal, September 12-17, �22-�5.50, 01603 630000,