First Impressions: Maggie Steed
After studying drama at the Old Vic Theatre in Bristol in the 1960s, MAGGIE STEED left the stage, before being lured back to act at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry, and then at the Royal Shakespeare and National Theatre companies. She appeared in th
What are you working on at the moment?
I'm rehearsing for The School For Scandal, which opens in Bath on 5 July. It's very witty with a heart of gold.
When were you at your happiest?
It's very difficult to say – there are so many happy times in your life. I've had wonderful moments in the theatre and I adored playing Adelaide in Guys And Dolls. I also think of the times when I used to sit with my old mum when she couldn't see, looking out over the sea at Plymouth and telling her about the boats. Things like that were very special moments.
What is your greatest fear?
A painful death. And maybe dementia and going a bit barmy – although I don't mind the notion of going barmy as long as I'm not anguished. If I'm barmy but happy, and as long as I don't get on people's nerves, that would be all right.
What is your earliest memory?
Sitting in my pram and not being prepared to speak to anyone who was saying 'hello' and just licking the inside of it – and my mother being absolutely furious.
Who has been your greatest influence?
That's an incredibly difficult one. But when I really think about it, I suppose it was my grandmother, my father's mother, because I adored her. She didn't give a damn about anything. She said the most important thing was love and to be able to laugh, and I always feel as though she would be rooting for me.
What do you most dislike about yourself?
I've got lots of very irritating traits that I'm sure my friends would tell you about. I think I've been quite brave in my life, but I wish in a way that I was braver.
What is your most treasured possession?
My little lurcher called Jack Sparrow. He is adorable. If I lost him you would probably have to beam me up.
What trait do you deplore most in others?
A lack of empathy.
Do you have a fantasy address?
I haven't thought really but I would love to have a beautiful old long house in the middle of Dartmoor.
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
I have my father's nose. And also from time to time I can look a bit like Margaret Thatcher.
What is your all-time favourite book?
Winnie-the-Pooh and then things like The Great Gatsby. In fact, anything by F Scott Fitzgerald.
What is your favourite film?
The Third Man.
Your favourite record or piece of music?
Schubert's last songs; his four last songs.
Your favourite meal?
This is a particular meal at a particular place – Toula's prawns in Corfu.
Who would you most like to come to dinner?
Leonard Cohen. This might sound a bit dreary but I'm convinced it wouldn't be because I think he is terribly funny. But I wouldn't invite him on his own – I'd be too much in awe of him so I'd have to have a few very good friends over at the same time.
Which historical character do you most admire?
Maybe Boadicea – on a good day. Or Emmeline Pankhurst. Probably Emmeline Pankhurst really, but Boadicea as a good second.
What is the nastiest thing anyone has ever said to you?
Well I have had an incredibly nasty thing said to me. It was so upsetting that it took ages for me to get over it and I'm not going to say it. My mum also always used to tell me to put some make-up on because I looked as white as a sheet.
Do you believe in aliens?
Well, the only thing I can say to you is that I think my old cat Davey was an alien. Absolutely. He was from outer space.
What is your secret vice?
Having a whole day in bed once a month.
Do you write thank-you notes?
I try to but I'm appalling and I usually write them about a month later. I'm pretty flaky really.
Which phrase do you most overuse?
How are you darling?
What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
It's an impossible thing really – it's called peace of mind.
What would you like your epitaph to say?
Will go no more a-roving.
The School For Scandal is at Theatre Royal Bath, 5 to 21 July: 01225-448844, www.theatreroyal.org.uk
Daily tip from the lady archive
“THERE is great satisfaction to be had in properly ironed garments that look as if they have just come out of the shop window.”The Lady. You Can’t Iron? 19th February, 1953