DIANE KEEN seems to have been part of our lives for years. In fact, there’s hardly been a time when
DIANE KEEN seems to have been part of our lives for years. In fact, there’s hardly been a time when she has not graced our screens.
Her success in one long-running television series after another has made her one of the most familiar faces in acting.
She was Fliss Hawthorne in the Seventies sitcom The Cuckoo Waltz and for 10 years she played the part of Julia Parsons in the long-running BBC drama Doctors. In between came other comedies — Rings On Their Fingers, Shillingbury Tales, You Must Be The Husband — and dramas like Inspector Wexford, Brookside and A Touch Of Frost.
But she started out in rep, and now she’s back. In fact, Diane bubbles with enthusiasm when she talks about her return to the stage in The Vagina Monologues which comes to Henley’s Kenton Theatre on November 6.
It is more than 10 years since she was on stage and she has not come back into an easy schedule.
The tour dates tell of the huge success of Eve Ensler’s collection of tales from women around the world that are funny, witty and moving and have been seen by more than one billion people around the globe since it was first staged in 1996.
In this production of the three-woman show Diane is joined by Hollyoaks stars Hollie-Jay Bowes and Terri Dwyer.
She said: “It is lovely to be back on stage working with two great people. We spend a lot of time together not just on stage but on the tour bus which is very luxurious and we meet up in the hotel gym together.”
She quickly rejects the idea that Monologues only appeal to a female audience: “Not at all, it is just a brilliant script and there are a lot of men in the audiences who seem to enjoy it. I don’t think it is a show just for women at all. I had never even seen it until the chance came up to play in it but I had always wanted to.”
She has visited Henley before but not the Kenton.
“I know Henley through the regatta which I have visited, it is familiar to me and I love it,” said Diane, who lives in Hampshire.
A long-running television series is the blessing many actors would think and Diane looks back on Doctors with mixed feelings.
“It was my choice to leave,” she said. “I wanted to get out and try other things. They are the most wonderful people working on the series but it was 47 weeks’ work a year, it was full on, it is like having a proper job. Also, it was based in Birmingham and I live on the south coast, so I was away from my home a lot.”
Not many actors can say that they have played alongside their grandchildren as Diane did in an episode of Doctors with her grand-daughter Siena Pugsley.
“She took it all very much in her stride but I think that her forte is singing,” she said. “I would never discourage her from going into acting — you should never discourage — but I would explain that these are the pitfalls and this is the downside to it.”
Diane’s daughter Melissa Greenwood is also an actress so there is something of a theatrical dynasty building in the family. Diane was brought up in East Africa where her father worked as a civil engineer, and when she came back to England she found a very different world. She said: “They had television here which I thought was fantastic.”
In fact she got her first break in television. She was one of 2,500 people who applied to be one of the presenters of a teenage show Three Go Round — she got the job. But she also realised that if she wanted to be an actress she needed experience and headed off to work in rep at the Bristol Old Vic.
She recalls: “It is where I learnt my trade. It was much better than two years in drama school.
“I am proud of the work I have done and I am proud of the fact that people know me through my work. I have worked with some wonderful people — Trevor Howard was lovely to work with and I have acted with people like Michael Caine.
“But I still see myself as a work in progress, I am learning all the time.”
lThe Vagina Monologues plays at the Kenton Theatre on Wednesday, November 6. Call (01491) 575698 or go to www.kentontheatre.co.uk