Liza Lording it up

She’s one of our busiest actresses yet still enjoys new challenges. Sarah Hardy catches up with Saturday Magazine columnist Liza Goddard as she appears in a sassy champagne-popping musical in Norwich.

Liza Goddard lives her life out of a suitcase – and is thriving on it. Despite being at an age – although it must be said she doesn't look anything like it – when most of us would be thinking of putting our feet up and taking it easy, Liza continues to work at full speed.

For several years now, Liza has been on the touring circuit, taking top-quality drama out to the provinces. “It very rewarding, the audiences are very appreciative. And the theatres are full. It's so much better than the West End where the ticket prices are keeping people away,” she says.

Liza's appeared in several popular pieces. She has most recently been in Alan Ayckbourn's Season's Greetings with Matthew Kelly while we last saw her at the Theatre Royal in Norwich three years ago in Secret Spies with her old friend, Robert Powell.

“You certainly get to see the country – a friend of my daughter asked me about restaurants in Edinburgh so I got out my touring diary and looked it all up for her. I sometimes think that I could write my own guide to Britain,” says Liza.

Liza, now in her mid 50s, has just joined the cast of Cole Porter's High Society, a glossy, glamorous musical set to the master's mouth-watering music.

“It's been adapted from the 1956 movie that starred Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra,” explains Liza. “It's packed with great songs like Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Swell Party and I Love Paris and Just One of Those Things.”

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For Liza, this all-singing, all-dancing role is a slight departure from her usual dramatic performances. “Yes, it is terrifying!” she laughs. “I played the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz in Cambridge a couple of years ago and that was a proper singing and dancing role. But this is taking it all a step further and I'm loving it.”

Liza started to rehearse on her own, learning the songs and the dance steps and then she travelled to Glasgow to train with the cast. She plays Margaret Lord, mother of Tracy – the rich heiress played by Grace Kelly. “It's a question of remembering it all, getting it in the right order,” she says. “I get to sing one number on my own, Throwing a Ball Tonight, which is lovely.”

Another plus is the fabulous frocks, Liza admits. “They are all made to measure and are very glam,” she says. “And it's lovely to have perfectly-fitting outfits. Susie Blake liked one of her outfits so much that she had it made again to wear to her son's own wedding.”

The show, which started out in Regent's Park Open Air Theatre in London, has been highly successful, with Liza saying: “Yes, it's been doing very well, with queues for returns. I think it's because it's just a classic with some wonderful songs. It seems to appeal to all ages, with younger people liking all the swings songs because of Robbie Williams and Rod Stewart.

“It's just a great feel-good show, you are uplifted as you leave which is all anyone can ask for.”

While Liza travels all over the country because of her work, her heart remains very much in Norfolk where she has lived for the past 15 years.

Together with her film producer husband David Cobham, she made the county her home and returns every weekend. Her daughter, Sophie, and grand daughter, Adelaide, who is five in March, are also based in north Norfolk so Liza gets a great deal of pleasure from the little one whom she often writes about in her column.

“She's just started at a local school and is really enjoying it. It's lovely, there are only 85 pupils in the whole school and they are so well behaved!” Liza says.

Liza also shares her farmhouse home near Fakenham with five dogs, three ponies, six chickens and a cat. “Yes, Adelaide has sat on a pony but doesn't go out riding much in the winter – it's too cold.”

And despite being a keen and very competent horsewoman herself, Liza doesn't get to ride much. “I just get to muck out these days,” she says.

She's looking forward to staying at home while appearing in Norwich. “Yes, I'll drive home at night which will be lovely. I'll get to do all those little jobs that build up – I'll get to the hairdressers, have my eyes tested – all those sorts of little things,” she says.

“I would much rather be at home but I haven't worked out another way to make a living yet and the work I've been getting is so enjoyable.

“For women, as they get older, there are more roles in the theatre than on television. I'd like to do some television but it's the theatre work that keeps coming in.”

Roles that Liza, who started acting in Australia when she starred in the hit TV series, Skippy, still craves include Gertrude in Hamlet and Judith Bliss in Hayfever.

And we've enjoyed over the years seeing her in top TV series such as Bergerac where she played the upmarket Phillipa Vale, the Brothers where she played April Merroney and Victoria in Take Three Girls. Most recently she appeared in a Dawn French sitcom set in Cornwall called Wild West.

Liza is due to be in High Society until early July and then hopes to take a holiday. She and David are very keen on Greece, especially the Ionian island of Ithaca. “It would be lovely to have a good rest, I don't know what will happen after this show, I'll just wait and see.” t

t High Society runs at Norwich Theatre Royal from Monday until Saturday, February 28 to March 5. Tickets cost from £5. For more details phone the box office on 01603 630000 or visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk

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