She may be starring in a play called Ladies in Retirement but screen legend Shirley Anne Field is a long way from that herself.
The star of iconic 1960s film Saturday Night and Sunday morning has been busy rehearsing for the play, which is in Chesterfield next week.
Shirley Anne said: “It’s one of the best murder mysteries that I’ve ever read. It’s very mysterious and scary and of that Victorian period. It’s interesting playing this kind of roles with five women and one man of different ages and stages of life.”
She said that the rehearsal period with director Ian Dickens had been an unusual one: “The director wouldn’t let us touch each other in any way because he said Victorians wouldn’t have done that.
“It was quite formal. We called everybody Miss this and that. I’m hardly 105 but I can remember when it was like that growing up.”
The play is described by the producers as a “nail-biting Victorian melodrama with thrilling twists and a taut plot-line that will keep the audience on the edge of their seats throughout”.
Set in the 1880s, the play is based on a famous murder that took place in a remote country house.
It also stars Coronation Street heartthrob Oliver Mellor, Kim Taylforth (Bad Girls and London’s Burning) and stage and television actress Karen Ford (Grange Hill).
Shirley Anne also recently made a short film called Beautiful Relics, playing the grandmother of 20-year-old Anya (Flora Spencer-Longhurst).
She said she enjoyed revisiting Saturday Night and Sunday morning last year in a version made for Radio 4, this time playing Aunt Ada. She said: “It was interesting; writer Alan Sillitoe would have been proud. The young cast were brilliant radio actors.
“It was very intense but good. When we were recording you could hear a pin drop.”
Looking back on her career, she said: “I’ve never made a fortune but I’ve always made every decade an important or an iconic film.
“I made My Beautiful Laundrette in the 1980s and Hear My Song in the 1990s. In the 2000s I didn’t do so well but Beautiful Relics is first class.”
Her favourite of the films she has made is Hear My Song, about singer Josef Locke.
Shirley Anne said that she enjoys making films best. “It’s easier for me than any other medium. It’s like having a family around you.”
Shirley Anne has had a fascinating life, going from a tough childhood in children’s homes in Bolton and London to joining the Lucie Clayton modelling school and then getting small acting roles.
Her breakthrough came at the age of 19 when Laurence Olivier cast her in the film The Entertainer in 1960. She said: “He was rather stand-offish at the beginning and we ended up good friends.”
She has met lots of incredible people, including President John Kennedy, during a trip to Hollywood. She said: “I met him at Peter Lawford’s supper party. He was only there for 20 minutes but you couldn’t miss him. He lit the room up. You never forget meeting someone like that.”
She had some further attention from the Rat Pack when Frank Sinatra called on the phone. She said: “It was a misunderstanding on both sides.
“He was a lot older man who said to me at 19, ‘Do you like to party?’ I said, ‘Yes I love going to parties’. He had one idea, I had another.”
She said Sinatra gave up after her innocent interpretation of his invitation.
Ladies in Retirement is at the Pomegranate Theatre, Tuesday to Saturday.
Tickets: visit the venue, call 01246 345222 or visit www.pomegranatetheatre.co.uk