Angela Lansbury on bringing Blithe Spirit to London: 'It feels like coming home'

The veteran actress gave a press conference this morning at the Gielgud Theatre, a venue that has very personal associations

Angela Lansbury on stage at the Gielgud Theatre
Angela Lansbury on stage at the Gielgud Theatre
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

Dame Angela Lansbury gave a press conference this morning on the stage of the Gielgud Theatre where her mother, Irish actress Moyna MacGill, made her debut in 1918.

"It feels like coming home," said an emotional Lansbury of reprising her role as Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit at the venue.

The production, which runs from 18 March to 7 June 2014 (previews from 1 March), marks Lansbury's first London stage appearance in four decades. "I can't believe it's been 40 years, it doesn't seem that way," she said.

Angela Lansbury in Blithe Spirit on Broadway
Angela Lansbury in Blithe Spirit on Broadway

Michael Blakemore, who directed Lansbury in Blithe Spirit in New York in 2009, is again at the helm. The West End cast will also include Charles Edwards, Janie Dee, Jemima Rooper, Sandra Dickinson, Simon Jones and Patsy Ferran.

"I think it's one of the best parts I've ever had in the theatre… and when you're that happy in a role you want to repeat it, and what better place to repeat it than in London," Lansbury added.

"I have an inordinate amount of energy and I have to expend it somehow. There are two things in life I know how to do – one is keep house and the other is act."

Now 88, Lansbury hasn't appeared in the West End since a glut of performances in the mid-1970s, including starring roles in Gypsy and Hamlet.

She revealed today that, despite moving to America at the age of 14 when she was evacuated during the war, she "runs a very English household".

"I love everything English," she said. "I still have cans of sardines and I drink very strong tea." She said the person she would most like to share tea with is the Victorian actress Ellen Terry.

She said that her life hasn't all been plain sailing, and she struggled in America when her children ran into problems with drugs, prompting a temporary move to Ireland.

"All of these things contribute to building the person you become. It's a question of facing up to certain aspects of family life that have to be dealt with. It was no good giving up work, that wouldn't solve anything.

"I had to take them [the children] and put them in a safe place. We didn't have the help, the psychiatrists, that they have these days. It was a very difficult time in my life."

Lansbury, who remains most strongly associated with her long-running role as Jessica Fletcher in TV series Murder, She Wrote, was made a Dame in the New Year's Honours.