Monday, 30 November -0001

First impressions: Claire Sweeney

'I wanted to be Barbra Streisand'

CLAIRE SWEENEY is a popular actress whose roles include Amanda in Candy Cabs and Katrina in Clocking Off. She has presented documentaries, appeared in West End musicals and performed at the Royal Variety show. Her solo album, Claire, was a top fi ve hit and she is currently starring with Matthew Kelly in Willy Russell’s hit play, Educating Rita. She lives in London.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m in Educating Rita with Matthew Kelly. Willy Russell was in the rehearsal room with us most days, updating aspects of the story, so it’s been an amazing process.

When were you at your happiest?

Possibly when I was in Guys And Dolls in the West End with the gorgeous Patrick Swayze. All the cast were lovely. I’ve got great memories of it. I was a very happy girl.

What is your greatest fear?

Losing my mum. She’s my best friend.

What is your earliest memory?

Watching my mum put on her make-up and get ready for work. She was so glamorous, like Elizabeth Taylor. I was totally in awe.

Who has been your greatest influence?

My mum and my agent, Jan Kennedy, who’s like a second mother.

What do you most dislike about yourself?

I can’t remember names – I’ve always been bad at it. I remember faces. I wish people wore name tags. It would make my life so much easier!

What is your most treasured possession?

My music chest. It’s full of sheet music and arrangements from all the shows I’ve done. As long as I have my music, I’ll always be able to earn a living doing something I love.

What trait do you deplore most in others?

Rudeness. I hate it when people are rude to others. My mother was once a barmaid and waitress, and I’d hate to think of anyone being rude to her.

Do you have a fantasy address?

I actually have two homes – one in London and one abroad – so I think I’m quite lucky already.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

My bottom and thighs. No matter how much weight I shift, it just doesn’t seem to make a difference to them.

What is your favourite book?

I collect autobiographies; my book collection is probably my second most treasured possession. My favourite book is The Kid Stays In The Picture, the autobiography of producer Robert Evans – about his rise and fall in Hollywood.

What is your favourite film?

The Way We Were. I remember I wanted to be Barbra Streisand, and Robert Redford was probably one of my fi rst crushes.

Your favourite meal?

Poached eggs and toast – really homely food.

Who would you most like to come to dinner?

Bill Clinton, who is seriously the most charming man I have ever met; Ray Winstone, my guilty crush; and Frank Sinatra, of course.

claire 590 2

Which historical character do you most admire?

Gandhi. I was in India recently and we visited Gandhi’s home. For one person to make such an impact on the world is incredible. I watched a film about him shortly after I got home, and he’s such an inspiration.

What is the nastiest thing anyone has ever said to you?

A TV critic once compared me to Hitler, which was a little shocking, to say the least. I was just a young jobbing actress at the time, so I was a bit taken aback.

Do you believe in aliens?

I do, actually. Who are we to say there’s no other life out there?

What is your secret vice?

Haribo jellies.

Do you write thank-you notes?

Not as often as I should.

Which phrase do you most overuse?

Y’know. But I think that’s a Scouse thing, y’know?

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?

A photographic memory. There are so many lines to learn for Educating Rita because it’s just me and Matthew on stage. Then I’d probably be able to remember people’s names, too.

What would you like your epitaph to say?

That’s tricky. In an ideal world I would love it if it said, ‘She made a difference – even just in a small way’.

Educating Rita is at the Menier Chocolate Factory, London SE1, until 12 May, then on tour: 020-7378 1713,

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