Stage and screen actress Liza Goddard is probably best known for her television roles on Doctor Who, Bergerac, Out of Sight and The Brothers, as well as children’s television programmes, Woof and Skippy. Her television roles have also included screen adaptations of Ray Cooney's Wife Begins at Forty and Lady Windermere's Fan.
Her West End stage appearances include See How They Run at the Shaftesbury, Wife Begins at Forty at the Ambassadors, The Hard Shoulder at the Aldwych and No Sex Please We’re British at the Strand, as well as Arms and the Man, The Importance of Being Earnest, Who’s on the Menu Tonight, The Case of the Oily Levantine, Let’s Do It Your Way, The Flip Side, Blithe Spirit and The Signs of the Times with Kenneth Moore at the Vaudeville.
Goddard played Lady Bracknell in Val May’s touring production of The Importance of Being Earnest, Mrs Irving in the UK tour of Lady Windermere’s Fan and Mrs Cheveley in Bill Kenwright’s production of An Ideal Husband.
Goddard is currently starring in a UK tour of N J Crisp’s thriller, Dangerous Obsession. Set in the conservatory of a luxurious Georgian house, Sally Driscoll waters the plants, unaware that a man is watching her intently through the window. The man makes his presence known to her. He’s not a total stranger, although perhaps her husband has more cause to remember him than she does. As the visitor locks the door and slips the key into his pocket, it becomes chillingly apparent that this is not going to be a social call. The Theatre Royal Bath Production is directed by Alan Cohen.
Date & place of birth
I was born in Smethwick on the 20th of January, 1950.
Lives now in
Norfolk. I’ve been there 13 years.
Training? What made you want to become an actress?
When I was 13, I went to Arts Ed for two years and then I worked in Farnham Castle Theatre during school holidays. I did everything, I made sets, I made coffee, prompted, made costumes, I went on if people were sick, and I loved every second of it. Then we went to live in Australia and I worked in the theatre in Sydney, which was sort of the national theatre of Australia. I did lots of classical roles including Juliet, Antigone - various serious heavy roles. And then I was lucky enough to be cast in the TV programme Skippy the Bush Kangaroo which I did for two years; I did 92 episodes. I always wanted to act. I had a vocation, I suppose.
First big break
Skippy became a huge hit internationally and it was lovely to work on so I suppose that was my first break. We didn’t know when we were doing it just how popular it was going to be, but it was a pleasant surprise that it did so well.
Career highlights to date
There have been so many of them! On film, I would say working with Richard Burton in Wagner, and Ben Kingsley]in Shostakovitch, as well as - telly wise - Take Three Girls and Bergerac… and Doctor Who and Woof. And then in the theatre, playing Juliet was fantastic, and then recently I’ve been doing a lot of Oscar Wilde and Single Spies was wonderful, and The Constant Wife. Most recently, I loved doing High Society, which was my first musical. I love doing panto as well. I’m in panto this year in Cinderella in Malvern as the Fairy Godmother – as long as I have a big pink dress, I’m happy!
Lots really. John Nettles, Robert Powell and Richard Burton are particular favourites, and Punch the dog in Woof. Also Michael Praed, Sara Crowe and Julia Watson. It’s all about people you have an empathy with and work well on stage together and make you laugh. Oh, I also have to mention Christopher Biggins. It was heaven working with him, I had 22 weeks of bliss on tour with him in Lady Windermere’s Fan.
The one I’m working with now, Alan Cohen, and David Grindley. They understand a play and give you a lot of help and they’re not afraid to talk things out and give you a different way of thinking of the play and your character, which is a good thing. Too many directors just leave you to get on with it, in a lot of ways.
What roles would you most like to play still?
I haven’t played the mother in Hamlet, Gertrude, and I’d like to do that. And I haven’t done Noel Coward, apart from once when I played Elvira in Blithe Spirit, so I’d like to do more Coward. I’d love to play Madame Arcati now in Blithe Spirit. I’d also like to do The Rivals, so there are lots. I’d also be open to doing more musicals. One musical I’m looking forward to is Wicked, I adore the music and listen to it all the time.
If you hadn’t become involved in theatre, what might you have done professionally?
I did toy with being a mounted policewoman when I was about 13 because I loved the idea of being on a horse all day - when you’re 13 that seems like a wonderful idea!
What was the last stage production that had a big impact on you? And the first?
I think the last things I saw were Mary Poppins and Billy Elliot. Oh, and I saw Martin Shaw in A Man for All Seasons, all of which I thought were astounding and just brilliant. I don’t remember specifically a production I saw that made me want to get into theatre, but I’m sure it must have been a panto, which is why I think it is so important it’s done well because it is usually children’s first experience of theatre. When I’m in panto, I see all these little faces in the audience, they come to the theatre and they love it, and if it’s good then when they grow up they’ll keep going to the theatre. Panto can have such an impact on children. Especially if you’re playing the fairy. Although when I did the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz, I absolutely terrified them, I saw them crying and being taken out of the theatre, which was great fun to have that effect too, but I prefer to be the goodie.
You’ve worked extensively on stage & screen. Which do you prefer?
I like them both and I’ve been very luck in my career that I’ve been able to go between them. I’d like to be on telly again because it’s less work and more money than theatre, but there are lots of special roles for women my age on stage. Mature women have a lot of good roles. I’ve been very lucky to be in work all the time from the age of about 14.
What would you advise the government – or the industry - to secure the future of British theatre?
In the West End they need to make the congestion charge stop earlier and have free parking. I’m really of the opinion that Ken Livingstone hates the West End. And ticket prices need to come down. I’m on tour where ticket prices are lower, parking is free and the theatres fill because people can afford to come and get home again. Particularly if you live in the country, it costs more than people’s week’s wages to see a top show in London. That’s why I think the provinces are thriving like never before. There are wonderful shows on tour all the time because people can’t afford to see them in the West End.
If you could swap places with one person (living or dead) for a day, who would it be?
I think when you get to my age you don’t want to swap with anyone. You read about parties you’d like to go to and things, like Elton John’s wedding. It would be great to go to that, but there’s not a particular person I’d swap with.
Anthony Trollope I love, I think I’ve read all his books. And I spent a whole year reading Manda Scott’s Boudica series, which I’m obsessed with which has led me on to all sorts of things. For example, my daughter and I are going on a Boudica weekend in July. So those are my two favourites. I also like crime fiction as well. I read about three books a week when I’m on tour. I have a lot more time than when I’m at home and have to feed and walk the dogs and things.
Favourite holiday destinations
Venice and Prague. Because we live in the country, we tend to go to cities when we go on holiday.
Favourite after-show haunts
In London, you still can’t beat Joe Allen’s, Orso’s, the Ivy and the Waldorf. On tour, I know loads of places, the ice cream parlour in Eastbourne is fabulous. I’m always searching for the best Welsh Rarebit. There’s a café in Chichester that does one of the best, and Bettys in Harrogate, and so does this ice cream parlour in Eastbourne.
Why did you want to accept your role in this production of Dangerous Obsession?
I have to work and I have to earn a living, and it’s a good play with a good director and a good cast. One does so many rubbishy things, it’s good to be offered something that good! I think if you have a good director and a good cast, then it’s enjoyable and you can’t go wrong with that, really.
What did you do to prepare for the role?
I didn’t research the role as such, but I have been going to the gym and doing keep fit for an hour-and-a-half every day, as well as tap dancing and salsa to try and tone up because she wears a bathing costume – which is not easy for a woman my age! She’s a bit of a sort of desperate housewife character. It’s good fun.
What are the main challenges of this production?
One of the main challenges is learning all the lines and it’s quite a marathon to do and getting it right is quite hard - and appearing in a bathing costume! I like going to different places so I like touring. I know more about the country than anyone else I know, and it’s refreshing to be in new places and you meet fabulous people. It’s a long time since I was in the West End. I think it’s incredibly thrilling, but it is very hard for straight plays at the moment. Unless you’re doing a whopping great musical, it’s impossible - although I wouldn’t mind being in a whopping great musical.
What are your future plans?
After this, I’m going to have a holiday and then there’s another play I’m hoping to do in the autumn – which isn’t settled yet so I can’t say anything about that - and then panto at Christmas. And then we shall see what happens next year.
- Liza Goddard was speaking to Caroline Ansdell
Dangerous Obsession continues on tour until 1 July 2006.