Preview: Grumpy Old Women, with Britt Ekland, Dillie Keane and Denise Black, Grand Opera House, York, November 26

York Press: Britt Ekland with Dillie Keane and Denise Black Britt Ekland with Dillie Keane and Denise Black

Fifty years after she appeared in her first toothpaste commercial in her native Sweden, Britt Ekland is enjoying performing as much as ever, this time joining Fascinating Aida's Dillie Keane and Coronation Street soap star Denise Black in the tour of Grumpy Old Women.

From unforgettably naughty roles in Get Carter and The Wicker Man, to Mary Goodnight in the 1973 James Bond movie The Man With Golden Gun, to fitness videos and very British provincial tours of farces, mysteries and even pantomimes, the Brits have always loved Britt.

Last in York in 2002, when she played a beautiful widow in Robert King's creepy Dragon Variation, the 65-year-old Swede returns to the city on Monday.

Will she be playing herself or a grumpy everywoman? Charles Hutchinson investigates.

Previously in York, you have appeared in plays, first in Run For Your Wife in 1994, then Dragon Variation five years ago.Presumably, Grumpy Old Woman will be a different experience, Britt?

"That's where people are wrong. It is a play. We've been given dialogue to say written by Jenny Eclair and Judith Holder; we've been given stage directions; we're not allowed to go out and embrace the audience, like you would if you were in a cabaret.

"The only difference is that our characters have been given our names, and therefore I'm playing Britt Ekland."

How hard is that?

"It's possibly one of the hardest things I've ever done because I'm on stage for two hours, and it's physically demanding. You run, you dance, you talk. I've been touring since September, and I don't think I've looked better since I was 20. My life is so unbelievably wonderful at the moment."

Had you seen Grumpy Old Women on television?

"I've never been a fan of TV, period. I'm a radio fan. I absolutely adore the radio and that stems from the fact that when you're on tour, you haven't got time to see TV shows. There's nothing more frustrating than missing half an episode. With the radio, you can have it on in the car or wherever. I adore Jeremy Vine on Radio 2. I think he's God's gift to the nation.

"But no, I'd never seen Grumpy Old Women before, though I read something about it, and two years ago, there was a TV show, I don't know if you'd call it a series, where Bob Geldof was being grumpy about something. But I don't remember it being hilarious?" ...

Why not?

"I don't think grumpy old men are hilarious."

Would you consider yourself to be a grumpy old woman?

"I'd never even heard of 'grumpy' until I got the script, but now the script tells me that I am grumpy! I read it and thought, 'that is me', 'I say that', 'That's just what I say'."

How are men reacting to seeing you in grumpy mode on stage?

"Men come up to me and say, 'I was afraid to come to the show because I thought it would be about us', but it's nothing to do with putting men down. It's got nothing to do with them; the show is all about women, so there's no reason for men to feel uncomfortable."

How do you react to men these days?

"I think men are really lovely. I very much love men, but I haven't found any man who loves me."

Why not?

"I don't have the time. I'm never long enough in one place. I never realised that I'm now living the life of a rock star. Onenight shows; going back to the hotel; packing up your stuff again the next morning; travelling; arriving at the hotel; doing the show; you never have a proper meal."

What have you learned from performing Grumpy Old Women?

"Knowing now what 'grumpy' is, there's also a way of knowing how not to be grumpy. It's like knowing your enemy so you can prevent your enemy from taking over."

Do we become more grumpy with age?

"You can be a grumpy old woman without being nasty. Older people can become more grumpy because we allow them to. You should say, 'Mama, life is interesting, life is good, you should enjoy those things'. You have to tell them there's no need to be grumpy."

Would you say Swedish people are more grumpy than the British?

"I haven't lived in Sweden since I was 20 years old and I certainly wasn't grumpy then.

"Swedish people have a very positive outlook. I'm an open and honest person and I'm pretty realistic about how I look at life? but having not lived in Sweden for so long, perhaps people there will say I'm talking out of my you-know-what about the Swedish character."

  • Grumpy Old Women, with Britt Ekland, Dillie Keane and Denise Black, Grand Opera House, York, Monday, 8pm. Ticket update: only five left at £23 on 0870 606 3595

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