It's 45 years since Sian Phillips last worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, and it's not just because they didn't think of asking her back.
The distinguished Welsh stage actress, now playing Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, reveals that her first visit coincided with a low point in her life, and the association has taken a long time to shake off.
"I had a very unhappy time when I was here," she says. "I've written about it in my book. I had just got married and had a baby and I think I probably had post-natal blues, but it wasn't called that then. It was a very low point for me, the worst year of my life. It wasn't because of Stratford, but it so happened that I was here when I had my bad year. But it went so deep that it's taken me this long. I'm a very slow reactor."
So slow, in fact, that she reveals that even five years ago would have been too soon to come back. But then a happier turn of events gave her a second chance to play one of Dickens' most extraordinary characters.
"I've been asked to play Miss Havisham before, in the 1980s, and I think it was for American television. But I couldn't, and that was a disappointment.
"It was suggested to me some while back. Somebody said would you like to do this and I said yes I would, but I can't because I'm doing something else. At this point I was planning to be in The Cherry Orchard but then I decided against it, so this came back to me in a very roundabout way.
"Very often when you miss a part you miss it for good, so when I was offered it this time I had no hesitation although I had all the baggage about Stratford. And it was a wonderful six weeks rehearsing it."
Director Declan Donellan had already gone out of his way to tell me how much he had enjoyed working with her: "I'm having the most wonderful time working with Sian," he said.
"As well as being an incredibly talented actess she's always just so open and eager, and has a very youthful attitude to her work."
For her part, she says: "You get something different from every good director, and there aren't that many. I love the way Declan works. He's a very kind person: there are some directors I like working for who are tough and horrible."
One of the novelties of joining the RSC was being part of a large company.
"I've been doing a lot of two, three, one-person shows recently - I did The Unexpected Man by Yasmina Reza with Peter Bowles earlier this year and before that I was doing my one-woman show Marlene for four or five years.
"So this is like being in a Broadway musical. I looked around at at all these people at the rehearsals and thought what does this remind me of?"
Miss Havisham, the woman for whom time stops when she is jilted and who moulds her adopted daughter as a tool to take revenge on men, is one of Dickens' most monstrous creations, even though she does come to repent.
"I was shocked when I read the book again. I read it while I was at university and I had seen three versions of it on the screen, so I'm reasonably familiar with it, but it's much wilder than I remembered.
"Dickens was really at the height of his powers when he wrote this. It's very extreme, the characters are right out on the edge.
"When you're a child or a young person you don't realise the extremism of it, you think she's mad, she's sad. But it's very desperate - all the characters are driven.
"There's no way of making this conform to a 21st century style. I think half the point of doing something from a period other than your own is not to flatten it out so that we understand it psychologically. Life was much tougher, much rawer, I think, even in our parents' time."
Sian Phillips has worked extensively in American theatre and prefers the buzz of Broadway to the atmosphere in the West End these days.
"There's a lot more excitement on Broadway. It's not like that when you work on Shaftesbury Avenue. I suppose it's because Manhattan is very small, and New York is a town that doesn't pay just lip service to theatre.
"In London the best audiences you get might be at the National or at the Donmar or the Almeida.
"I've seen a lot of theatre over the last couple of months and I actually had someone sitting in front of me and she was texting all the way through the performance. People answer the phone now in the West End."
* Great Expectations is at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre until Feb 4 (Box office: 0870 609 1110). ..SUPL: