Sian Phillips still stylish

Sarah Hardy Although in her mid 70s, Welsh acting star Sian Phillips – who appears in Sheringham later his week – looks amazing. Sarah Hardy hears about her new cabaret show – and discovers how she manages to look so gorgeous!

Sarah Hardy

Much is made of 60 being the new 40 and how we're all living much longer with a better quality of life, too. Well, Sian Phillips is a real shining example to us all. Born in Wales in 1934, Sian is an incredibly hard working actress who flits all around the world, appearing in all manner of musicals and plays.

Despite a hectic schedule, she looks and feels terrific, with a glowing complexion, neat figure and good general health.

She puts her trim figure down to several simple rules. Sian has been practising pilates for years, saying: “Well, I prefer the New York version, it's a bit more energetic than what's done here in Britain.”

She takes a weekly class and, combining that with walking everywhere, is in good shape.

“I like the odd massage and I used to like things like reflexology and acupuncture but I don't have the time these days.”

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She follows a vegetarian diet, saying that it is through choice rather than conviction.

“I have a fantastic digestive system, I can eat just about anything, which is lucky when I'm on tour as it can be tricky,” she says.

She is enjoying cooking Indian food at the moment.

“I've been practising for almost a year and am really getting the hang of it. I love all the spices, especially tumeric, but I do think that all my girlfriends are getting a little tired of eating the same thing so I'll have to start looking at something new.”

She's a big fan of quinoa, a grain that is also a protein. “You just stir it into some vegetables, add a few spices, and it is great.”

Sian reckons that her complexion has taken a real battering over the years, with the constant use of heavy stage make up. “Well, for nine months last year, I was in a play in New York where I had to be a 94-year-old woman so the make up was very thick. I've often had to play those sorts of roles - with lots of prosthetics and lots of glues. It is so bad for your poor skin!”

As a result, Sian loves her skin to feel really clean. “I would just never go to bed with my make-up on, it's just not me! I do like lots of steams and I don't like to wear a lot of make up. I think that as you get older, you actually need to wear less.”

And she isn't a fan of using really expensive beauty products. “Well, you learn over the years not to always believe what is promised on the bottle. I like my skin to feel fresh. I like Eve Lom products, which are quite expensive but worth it, and I love Boots Protect and Preserve. It's about £16 and is very good.”

Sian, who is based in London, has two daughters from her 20-year marriage to Irish hell raiser Peter O'Toole and they have both followed in her footsteps, with careers in and around the acting world. Her eldest, Pat, is an actress and writer who lives in the beautiful Connemara area of Ireland, while her youngest daughter, Kate, teaches drama at a London college.

“And I'm a grandmother,” says Sian, proudly. “My youngest daughter has a seven year old daughter. She's a good cello player so we'll have to see what she does next!”

Sian has been a regular visitor to East Anglia over the years. She has performed at Norwich's Theatre Royal and, for many years, her agent had a cottage near Downham Market, so she used to come for holidays.

“I've taken part in a concert at Burnham Market and now have a good friend, a Hollywood set designer called Bob Ringwood, who has a place near the coast so I'm sure that I will come to visit him,” she says

Sian's back catalogue is impressive. It seems like she was acting as soon as she could walk and performed in her native Wales from a very young age. She studied at the University of Wales, in Cardiff, before attending Rada and the rest, as they say, is history.

She made her West End debut as Hedda Gabler in 1957 and two years later met and married Peter O'Toole, frequently appearing with him on stage in heavyweight classic such as Man and Superman and Goodbye Mr Chips.

Yet many of us will remember her as the creepy Empress Livia in the classic BBC1 series I, Claudius which starred Derek Jacobi - and in 1984 she appeared as the Reverend Mother in the movie Dune.

In the 1980s, she started a new phase in new career - musicals. Her part in Pal Joey received amazing reviews and she went on to appear in Gigi and A Little Night Music.

Her one woman cabaret show, Marlene, a tribute to the great Marlene Dietrich, was another crowd pleaser and now, as Sian explains, she has a new cabaret show which she is bringing to Sheringham on Saturday.

“Well, I devise the shows myself so they obviously contain lots of my favourite music and there's plenty of time to chat, too,” she says.

The two-hour show sees Sian taking a musical journey through the twists and turns of love with songs from the likes of Noel Coward, Billy Joel and Stephen Sondheim - and she happily admits that it is an emotional roller coaster. “Love is like that, isn't it?” she says.

And what about the future? Well, Sian plans to keep on working as she likes to be busy. “I rarely take holidays and if the offers come in, I take them!”

Sian Phillips in Cabaret, Sheringham Little Theatre, Saturday, February 9 at 7.30pm. Tickets are £15. Call 01263 822347 for more details.