Last of the Duty Free is coming to Theatre Royal Windsor

Carol Royle

Carol Royle

First published in News Bucks Free Press: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

AN experienced actress is joining the original cast of an 80s TV series, Duty Free, which has been turned into a play.

Carol Royle, who is most famous for being in Life Without George, will take on the role of Linda in Last of the Duty Free, which is coming to Windsor. She talked about joining the cast, her famous father and her penchant for digestive biscuits.

Duty Free was an ITV show which ran from 1984 to 1986 starring Keith Barron, Gwen Taylor, Joanna Van Gyseghem and Neil Stacy.

Now a stage version of the show called Last of the Duty Free is starting a tour next week in Windsor, with Carol taking over from Joanna as the role of Linda.

Carol said: "I am joining a cast who have worked together many years ago.

"I am the sort of interloper. I didn't do the series 30 years ago.

"It is both demanding and exciting at the same time."

The 60-year-old was in rehearsals when I spoke to her and they were just getting to grips with the script.

Carol said: "It is a new play. It is a new beginning but nevertheless the characters name is the same and the situation is the same.

"I am sort of taking that on. They [Gwen, Keith and Neil] are used to doing three series and a Christmas special. We are all feeling our way."

She caught bits of it when the TV show was on but she had a series of her own at the time with Life Without George.

She said: "I hadn't seen it for a long time. When I was asked to do this I got hold of the box set and overdosed on Duty Free."

Carol comes from a family with a strong acting background. Her dad, Derek Royle, was an actor and played the part of the eponymous corpse in the Fawlty Towers episode The Kipper and the Corpse. Her mother, Jane, gave up acting to become a film make-up artist.

Her sister, Amanda, is also an actress who has appeared in a variety of British television shows including Agatha Christie's Poirot and Rosemary and Thyme.

Carol is looking forward to coming to Windsor Theatre Royal, due to the family connection.

She said: "The theatre I have worked at many times before. It is lovely to be able to come home and go to bed at night in your own bed.

"My dad, Derek Royle. He was with the Whitehall company for many years.

"His photos are up around Windsor Theatre."

And she said the story of Last of the Duty Free follows the gist of the show.

She said: "I think the simplest thing to say is if people liked the series they will like the show.

"We really are talking about the same ilk.

"It is the same cast, apart from me. Even then, I am playing one of the same characters."

In Duty Free when working class David and Amy first met upper-middle class Robert and Linda while holidaying at the San Remo in Spain, their differences were immediately apparent.

But opposites were proven to attract and a most unlikely romance developed - with extraordinary consequences.

And now they are back: David more lustful, Amy more cynical, Robert more dangerous, and Linda more romantic than ever.

The story has moved on by about 20 years and Carol said the best way to describe it is as a farce.

She said: "The series was around 30 years ago and unfortunately no-one looks the same as they did 30 years ago.

"By sheer coincidence everybody is meeting up again and having another stab at all that they had a stab at last time."

Carol is probably best known for playing Jenny Russell in Life Without George, which was a BBC comedy series around a young woman's struggle to adapt to life after being left by her partner (George). The series ran from 1987 to 1989.

Carol said: "Life Without George was fun. I loved working with Simon Cadell, God rest his soul.

"There was so much about that, which was really good fun.

"To do a situation comedy was, for me, a first and to have a studio audience.

"It was all a really good experience and a new experience for me to do comedy."

But Carol has many strings to her bow. She has worked often with the Royal Shakespeare Company and starred in Heartbeat and Crossroads on TV.

She said: "I have done so many things. Some of them have been slightly more enjoyable than others because I have really got my teeth into it, like a Chekhov.

"Each and every one of them has had something to learn and help me grow, if you like.

"And the backdrop, of course, I had my family, which is an enormous part and biggest part of my life."

In 1977, she married Julian Spear, son of actor Bernard Spear and dancer/ writer Mary Logan, and they have two children - a son, Taran and a younger daughter, Talitha.

There is no doubt about it Carol is still looking great. I ask her if she is careful to look after herself.

She said: "I am not as careful as I should be. I am quite careful. I eat a healthy, Mediterranean diet. We are all veggies in my family.

"Always have been. My kids have never eaten fish or meat.

"I do succumb to the occasional digestive biscuit or a piece of lemon drizzle cake. Those are my weaknesses and the occasional glass of wine.

"In your 20s, 30s and 40s you are slightly in control of your body and you can think I am going to lose some weight now.

"You set your mind to it and it happens. You get to your 50s and your body is in control of you. It happens rather quickly."

Last of the Duty Free is at Windsor Theatre Royal from April 15 to 26 at 8pm, with a Thursday matinee at 2.30pm and a Saturday matinee at 4.45pm. Tickets are £12.50 to £34.50 from 01753 853 888 or go to www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk

For more leisure stories including what's on, gig listings and food reviews click here.

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