An Audience With Prunella Scales

Posted on: 27 May 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

The popular actress talks to 50connect.


Best known for her role as Sybil in Fawlty Towers, Prunella Scales has had a diverse career in repertory theatre, television, radio and film.

Now 75 and a CBE, she began her TV career in 1952 playing Lydia Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. Since then she has appeared on stage and radio with husband Timothy West, played Queen Elizabeth II in Alan Bennett's film A Question Of Attribution, and taken a one-woman show An Evening With Queen Victoria around Australia.

Prunella talked to 50connect about her career highlights and what drives her.

You've had a wide, varied and successful career since playing Sybil Fawlty. Did this role change your career?

I was, in fact, working in theatre before Fawlty Towers and had also been in Marriage Lines with Richard Briers.

Having a part in a successful television series always helps a theatre career as it increases the number of people who want to come out and see you. I don't think it had a negative effect, the public don't expect you to be exactly the same as you were on television.

What has been the most personally challenging role you have ever played?

I suppose Madame Arkadina in Chekhov's The Seagull would have been the most challenging as so many actresses have been so successful in this part in the past.

I enjoyed that because it's so interesting to play the part of an actress written so truthfully. Chekhov wrote from experience and understood that actresses are not always the most dramatic people.

The last time I played this part was in 1985, I was, perhaps, too young and would love to give that another go!

You have played two Queens - Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II - and the Mother in the Tesco adverts. Do you find you are more type-cast the older you get? 

I also once played Queen Elizabeth I in a commercial. But, what type is a queen? If I played three totally different women who happened to be city councilors would you say I was type-cast? If anything, the huge differences between these parts demonstrates that I have not been typecast in the past and I certainly hope not to be in the future.

You are a regular on the West End. Do you prefer theatre to television?

Of course, this does depend hugely on the work. Above all, one hopes always to have the opportunity to work with good writers. I love working in live theatre as one can learn so much from successive audiences.

What is your personal philosophy?

To deliver the work, the writing, to the audience. Classical work has become classical because it has stood the test of time, and I get a huge buzz hearing the audience fall about at a 400 year old joke, and knowing that I have helped.

An Audience With Prunella Scales & Friends - English Eccentrics

In this evening's entertainment Prunella, with the help of musicians Clive Conway and Christine Croshaw will celebrate English eccentricity.

English Eccentrics is a light hearted exploration of the world of Eccentrics - both fictional and real-life - through readings drawn from prose, poetry, biographies, diaries, and so on, interspersed with limericks, anecdotes, and quotations which are linked by appropriate musical interludes.

Writers include Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, Quentin Crisp, Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, Dr. Samuel Johnson, Byron, Alan Bennett and many others. Music is provided by Scott Joplin, Eric Satie, Bizet, Zez Comfrey, Fritz Kriezler, Lennon and McCartney.

The performance takes place on Sunday 15th June 2008 at 8pm at Pentland Theatre, Arts Depot, North Finchley, London.

Booking Information

Box Office: 020 8369 5454 or: www.artsdepot.co.uk

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