Lesley Nicol counts herself lucky to have had such a varied career, which has taken her from a role alongside Rowan Atkinson in Blackadder the Second, to starring in the Tetley Tea TV commercials as Auntea.

She says: "I was in Mamma Mia for two years, and Our House for eight months, and at the end of that I was dying to get out and go and do some television. It's really nice to have the option."

Of course, the different disciplines require a different approach.

"You use different skills. But if you are doing comedy, it is very gratifying to have the live audience there and you get the reaction. It is a bit strange doing comedy on television, as there is nobody there," she says.

Lesley trained at the Guildhall School of Drama, after a brief stint with local theatre in her home in Manchester.

"I was just 18, I'd been doing bits and pieces in Manchester at my local theatre. They auditioned me and said I should go and train, so I applied and got in to the Guildhall."

She says the training she received was important, but nothing compared to the experience of getting her first professional role.

"When you are that young, a part of the experience is about leaving home, like any other student. The real learning starts the minute you leave, and you get your first professional work. When I studied you didn't get any specific television training, so your first experience is when you jump in, and wing it really."

In spite of a successful career, including numerous television and stage credits, she is aware of how tough the business can be, particularly because her niece is just getting started.

"It's never been easy. There's always been too many actors, and particularly too many women. My niece came to see me in Mamma Mia. Until then she had no interest in drama. I took her onto the stage at the Prince Edward Theatre, and now she is training to be an actress."

Lesley stars as the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella at the Oxford Playhouse. She is delighted that the fairy is a strong character.

"I can't bear wet fairies, I like them to have a bit of oomph, she is a caring one but she tells it how it is.

It reflects my character ever so slightly," she says with a laugh. "The ugly sisters are hilarious. It will appeal to all the age groups. The kids will get it, but it is funny for adults, and the music is really classy."

Cinderella is at the Oxford Playhouse, until January 15. Tickets: 01865 305305 Jeremy Campbell