‘Dad’s energy is amazing’

Michelle Dotrice as Mrs Wilberforce in The Ladykillers
Michelle Dotrice as Mrs Wilberforce in The Ladykillers

“My father rang this morning to say he had tickets for Eddie Izzard,” said Michele Dotrice.

‘My father rang this morning to say he had tickets for Eddie Izzard,’ Michele Dotrice tells me.

Her father, of course, is venerable Shakespearean actor Roy Dotrice – and he’s 89 years old. ‘His energy is amazing,’ she says ruefully. ‘We’re meeting at 11.15 tonight. I’m usually fast asleep by then.’

The Dotrices have always been a close family, and the acting gene is strong; Michele’s two sisters and now her daughter Emily have continued the tradition.

‘I was fascinated by archaeology when I was a child; I had posters of Sir Mortimer Wheeler when most girls had Elvis Presley,’ she recalls. ‘But I really always wanted to be an actress; I was carried on stage at six weeks old!

‘I was working with the Royal Shakespeare Company when I was 16 – so when Some Mothers Do ’Ave ’Em catapulted me into the public eye, it was rather a shock. And of course for a long time afterwards directors couldn’t see me any other way.’

Michele is still remembered as the long-suffering Betty, wife of the hapless Frank Spencer. She and co-star Michael Crawford remain great friends; he has been helping her create her latest character, the not-so-dotty Mrs Wilberforce in The Ladykillers, which comes to Sheffield this autumn.

‘He transformed himself into a perfect old lady! I told him he’d be much better at the part than me! Then again, I’ve just had a knee replacement operation, so perhaps I shan’t have to do very much acting to pull it off!

‘It’s exciting to be touring again – so much is going on outside London.’

The Ladykillers is at the Lyceum from October 1 to 6 and Nottingham Theatre Royal from October 29 to November 3.