Actress Lysette Anthony pays tribute to her late mother and speaks of why her theatre tour is especially poignant

Actress Lysette Anthony in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith

Actress Lysette Anthony in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2013

As actress Lysette Anthony performs on stage at Norwich Theatre Royal this week, her late mother is at the front of her mind.

Lysette Anthony's mother, former actress and producer Bernadette Bennett, whose professional name wa

Lysette Anthony's mother, former actress and producer Bernadette Bennett, whose professional name was Milnes. Photo: Courtesy National Portrait Gallery - Credit: courtesy National Portrait Gallery

The play she is starring in, Go Back For Murder, is particularly poignant because it was one of the last things Ms Anthony spoke about to her mother – actress and producer Bernadette Bennett – who died last December aged 82, and whose body was found following a fire at her Sheringham home.

During her lifetime Mrs Bennett – whose professional name was Milnes – appeared in more than 50 film and TV series including On The Buses, Z Cars, Steptoe and Son and Hancock's Half Hour, but Ms Anthony said her mother's biggest pride was her theatre company City Stage Productions and Stage Arts Players.

'That's where I miss her most, on stage, because that's how I grew up: we had a touring theatre company,' said Ms Anthony, who has appeared in Woody Allen's Husbands and Wives, ITV's Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and BBC sitcom Three Up, Two Down.

'The last night I saw her, which was two weeks before she died, I was offered this part in Go Back For Murder. She rang me on the Thursday to make sure I had taken it, and I had just literally started rehearsing,' she said.

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'It just feels like an amazing privilege to be able to mourn my mother in some of the most beautiful theatres in the country. She would have loved it. The one thing she would have wanted was for the play to open.'

Ms Anthony was told of her mother's death just a week into rehearsing for Go Back For Murder.

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'I have gone through a horrendous experience and I am just humbled by the care and the kindness of the police and everyone,' she said.

'They just went above and beyond, and I want to say thank you.

'The inquest was something of grace and beauty, actually, in the end, it really afforded her a lovely public goodbye which she would again have loved.'

Ms Anthony's mother had a history of mental illness and Ms Anthony said she was especially touched by Norfolk coroner William Armstrong highlighting that mental illness did not define who a person was.

She described her mother as 'a very warm, loving, brave and incredibly beautiful woman,' and she also reflected on how her mother's mental illness meant that, at times, she was not always her true self.

'We had some very extreme times but my core of who I am and everything I try to teach my son is about kindness and love which was very much my mother.'

She said builders had just started work on renovating her mother's home, and that she and her son planned to spend Christmas there and possibly move to the area.

'I just feel I need to spend time there,' she said.

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