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Show will leave you dying with laughter

PUBLISHED: 09:00 07 September 2002 | UPDATED: 12:36 03 March 2010

LOUISE Jameson is a familiar face to more than one generation of television watchers.

From the TARDIS to the concentration camp to Albert Square she has lit up the small screen from all manner of locations.

LOUISE Jameson is a familiar face to more than one generation of television watchers.

From the TARDIS to the concentration camp to Albert Square she has lit up the small screen from all manner of locations.

This year she and real-life partner and former teacher David Warwick are touring the UK in Corpse! which arrives in Ipswich on Monday.

JO MACDONALD met up with them both.

SHE was the matriarch of the di Marco family living in Albert Square, the scantily clad sidekick of Tom Baker's Doctor Who and the chain-smoking Blanche surviving life in a Japanese concentration camp.

Now Louise Jameson has turned to the bottle, playing Mrs McGee, the increasingly inebriated landlady of Evelyn in the latest stage production of Gerald Moon's comedy thriller Corpse!

It is a role that has taken her back to her roots on the stage and given her the opportunity to perform alongside old friends and new acquaintances – and she's relishing every minute of it.

"As far as other thrillers go, this is such a clever yarn and the use of comedy is also quite brilliant," Louise said of the production which arrives in Ipswich on Monday when we met at Northampton Theatre Royal.

"I'm the drunken landlady of one of the twins in the show and get progressively more drunk throughout the play."

She added of her fellow cast members: "Colin (Baker) I've known forever, David (Warwick) is my lover and Mark (McGann) we've just met."

Louise is at home with her colleagues and life on the stage. Not only has she already toured this year with a production called Ghost Train but she began her acting career treading the boards.

"When I was four I played Little Miss Muffet and got a huge round of applause," she recalled. "From then on this was all I wanted to do. I was very single minded.

She left the Royal Shakespeare Company for television and was soon being lusted over by sci-fi fans the world over when she stepped into the minimal clothing of Leela as Doctor Who's sidekick.

She maintains a fond link to the phenomenally successful cult series, and secribes Tom Baker as "a volatile man, deeply eccentric and enormously talented."

She said: "With Doctor Who I learned television techniques in a hurry and I'm very grateful to it. It put me on the map," she said.

Her career led to roles in more TV programmes including Bergerac, Omega Factor, Tom Brown's School Days and The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole.

However, she is now reknowned as the steadfast head of the Italian family who caused a flurry of interest when they opened their restaurant in Eastenders' Albert Square.

It is a time that Louise looks back upon with mixed feelings.

"There was a time when I would have turned my nose up at Eastenders," she said.

"There used to be a curse that you wouldn't get employed afterwards. But there are so few feisty roles for middle aged women.

"I feel very mixed looking back on my time there. I loved working with the actors but the hours were long. I saw more of my screen kids than my own kids. I was angry when I left, not because I was going but because the producers told the press before they told us. When we were told they warned us it would be in the papers the next day. I felt very distressed by that. "There didn't have to be such a public humiliation."

She best loved playing Blanche in the drama Tenko in which she starred between 1981 and 1983.

"Tenko is without doubt my favourite," she enthused. "It was beautifully written, had a fantastic cast and was all filmed on location. My whole life was changing as well. I had just reached 30 and had two babies. I had to go though because they couldn't write round my second pregnancy."

Louise has had plenty of different roles to make her own.

But the extent of her work does not end there.

She has founded TLC Productions with partner David, is scripting a children's Christmas musical and works regularly with children and students of all ages as a tutor and director both here and in America.

For the time being, however, all Louise's energies are focused on Corpse!

It is a production which is already receiving critical acclaim and one which she guarantees will entertain.

She simply said: "It's not going to change anyone's life but you'll enjoy it."

"WHICH is the most important leg on a three legged stool?" David Warwick asked hypothetically.

To choose a preferable string on his theatrical bow is clearly something he is reticent to do.

He fondly remembers his roles as Reggie's son Mark in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin and an Alan Bleasdale production, in the days before Boys From The Blackstuff cemented the writer's name.

As we chatted in a corner of the front of house restaurant at Northampton's Royal Theatre where Corpse! recently began its UK tour, he said: "I love directing as you're in control. You can see a piece taking shape as you mould it. But then directing doesn't give anything as direct as pleasing a theatre audience. One of the best highs is to receive an audience's applause."

His latest incarnation is as a policeman in Gerald Moon's award-winning comedy thriller, Corpse!

"It's a terrific play but my part is a bit of a doddle," he confessed.

"I do a bit of body doubling but my main character is only on stage for about six or seven minutes, and I'm not on stage until 25 minutes into the show."

And it's no secret that his relationship with one colleague is closer than with the others. He and Louise first met as students at drama school more than 30 years ago but in more recent years have become partners in every way.

David said of their production company: "We want to be in control of our own futures and so often in this business we aren't."

His career could have been very different, and he said: "I started out wanting to be a teacher. I was one of those surly teenagers who had no idea and thought the easy option would be to go to teacher training college. I did a year and a half of that before I realised I had made a huge mistake.

"I now work at a drama school and am employed as a free lance director. "Part of that is working in a teaching capacity. However, I don't miss standing in front of a crowd of 35 snotty kids. Now that is hard work."

Last year David directed I'll Be Back Before Midnight for the Jill Freud Company's summer season at Aldeburgh and Southwold.

This is all not to mention the abundance of roles to feature on his CV – appearances on television in Z Cars, Dr Who, Peak Practice, Reach For The Moon and Yes Minister and theatre roles in Run For Your Wife, The Gentle Hook to name just a few.

His words of encouragement to the Corpse audience is simple: "They will have a wonderful evening at the theatre, see a good story and laugh a lot."

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Corpse! is at Ipswich Regent from Monday until September 14. Tickets cost £10.50 to £14.50 and are available at the Central Box Office, Princes Street, Ipswich, by calling 01473 433100 or on-line at www.ipswich-ents.co.uk

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