A 'homecoming' for Lesley Joseph
A decade after the BBC One sitcom Birds of a Feather disappeared from our TV screens, Lesley Joseph is still remembered as the sex-mad Dorien.
Birds of a Feather - which ran for nine years - propelled Lesley Joseph into the national consciousness.
"You're catapulted up a ladder into being invited to places you would never normally be invited to," she says. "I was GMTV glamour correspondent for three years; I travelled the world for Wish You Were Here; I did quiz shows; I did game shows; I did radio plays; I opened supermarkets..."
Lesley's enthusiasm for acting began during her childhood in Northampton. Although born in London's Finsbury Park in 1946, she lived in Kingsthorpe, Northampton, from the age of two and a half until she was 18.
The former pupil of the Northampton School for Girls frequently returns to the town to visit her mother. She's also patron of the Royal and Derngate and recipient of an honorary degree from Northampton University.
Lesley is also president of the Northampton amateur dramatic group Masque Theatre. During her school days, Lesley acted in two plays with Masque: The First Born by Christopher Fry and an open-air production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream performed in Abington Park.
Birds of a Feather
She still attends some Masque social events and play readings and she speaks affectionately about members she used to perform with: Bryan Hall, Barry Hillman ("he's a great character") and Alison Dunmore ("the most gorgeous, gracious lady").
"Nothing influenced me [to become an actress]" says Lesley. "Since the age of four, that was what I was going to do.
"From the age of six or seven, I went to elocution classes; I did all the LAMDA [London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art] exams; I did all the school plays."
Am-dram was something she just did. "I wanted to act... if I'd have been in London I'd probably have gone to stage school."
Thrust into the limelight
After 'O' Levels and 'A' Levels she left the town to go to drama school.
"I had a good career [as an actress], thank you very much, and then Dorian came along."
In Humble Boy at the Royal Theatre
The huge success of Birds of a Feather thrust Lesley into the limelight: "I sort of went down a celebrity route rather than a very kosher acting route," she explains.
She admits that some people will be dismissive of her as an actress because of her popular work. When asked if there is snobbishness, she says "I think there's a lot of that. But the people who know me know that I'm a proper actress."
She likes to do both serious and popular acting: "I very much find myself cross-fertilising between serious acting - what I call National Theatre type acting, though I've never worked there - and the light entertainment and the comedy and the musicals and the lighter celebrity stuff. I am always drawn to one and then the other; I could never say I could give one up."
But performing at the National would get thumbs up: "Now I would like to go to the National and do some Restoration comedy and some Chekov. But there are some great ladies out there - the Judi Denchs, the Aileen Atkins - the great leading ladies who Hoover up all the great Chekov ladies, so you're not going to cast Lesley Joseph in those."
On stage at the Royal
In April 2008, Lesley Joseph was back in Northampton again but this time walking the boards on the professional stage for the first time.
She was starring in Humble Boy at the town's Royal Theatre: "That is quite weird - living at my mother's house and working here - it does feel quite strange; discombobulated!"
She describes walking on the Royal Theatre stage as an emotional experience because of the play, rather than the place: "Because I've never played there before, I don't feel as if I'm coming back to it. What I will find quite moving, I think, is the fact that I know lots of people who're going to come to see it; people who I grew up with."
For Lesley, it's those lasting links with local people that are most important.
last updated: 22/04/2008 at 11:39