When Lysette Anthony talks about having a stressful couple of years, that’s somewhat of an understatement.
Her mother burned to death a few days before Christmas in a freak accident at her home. A manic depressive and schizophrenic, Bernadette Bennett suffered a heart attack before accidentally setting her clothes alight with a cigarette.
Then two years ago Lysette took her son’s father to court. She accused film composer Simon Boswell of assaulting her, but a court cleared him.
She’s juggled being a single mum to nine-year-old Jimi with going on a tour which has taken her around the country.
She’s about to do her 300th performance of Go Back To Murder, for which she travels up to nine hours a day to theatres in order to spend time at home with Jimi.
But she’s found an emotional release in playing a “hideous” woman on stage, and has kept her health together through the power of juicing.
She’s been on the year-long tour of the Agatha Christie thriller, alongside Liza Goddard, Sophie Ward, Robert Duncan and Gary Mavers.
“Liza Goddard took me to see this amazing nutritionist,” says Lysette, best known for the sitcom Three Up, Two Down but has also appeared in Hollyoaks and Coronation Street and in Woody Allen’s movie Husband and Wives.
“I’ve been through so much stress, I was slowly falling apart at the seams.
“But I bought this amazing state-of-the-art juicer which has transformed my life. I’m quite religious about it now, making sure my body gets what it needs. My favourite is carrot, apple and ginger but beetroot juice is delicious and very good for energy.
“We look after our household appliances better than we do our bodies, but I’ve had to take more care of mine. I have really started to notice the ageing process.
“I try to drink lots of water to wash away the toxins, and I always take my make-up off at night, however tired I am.”
Lysette probably feels more pressure than most to still look fabulous at 50, as photographer David Bailey proclaimed her to be the Face of the Eighties when she was just 17.
She also has an incentive to keep trim, as she wears very few clothes in Go Back For Murder apart from a skimpy pair of shorts.
“I wish I had long tweed skirts,” she says. “I can’t even fit thermals underneath.
“It was fine in the summer but now I’m starting to get very cold.”
Birmingham’s New Alexandra Theatre is the last stop on the tour, in which Lysette plays aristocratic murder suspect Lady Elsa Greer.
“None of us have been in such a long run before. It is exhausting, but we have really bonded and I have made friends for life. We haven’t killed each other for real yet.
“I am really proud of this play, in every single show we give it our all and attack it as if it was the first time.
“We’re very supportive towards each other as a company. We are all that little bit older so there’s none of that ridiculous ego going on.
“Lady Elsa Greer is wonderful to play, but a hideous character, fantastically selfish and a nightmare. You want to slap her, quite frankly.
“Agatha Christie writes embittered, posh middle aged woman really well. People are quite shocked but it’s very funny.
“She’s really awful and hilarious, I love her. She’s obsessed with sex – her sexuality is incredibly modern, but this is how it was written by Christie. It’s funny how every generation thinks they invented sex.”
Lysette was last in an Agatha Christie drama when she appeared in The Hollow on ITV. The Poirot mystery co-starred Edward Fox and Sarah Miles.
“When we filmed, I was pregnant with Jimi and trying to pretend I wasn’t. It was painful, I went from a 30E bust to a 36JJ.
“In this Christie production I may get a bit fatter through all the fudge I’m eating. We keep a pot backstage and take a big bite before going on. The sugar rush is the biggest thrill we get, the highlight of our day!
“We only had two weeks rehearsal, during which time my mother died, so I was very grateful to Jimi helping me learn my lines.
“He was very strict and kept saying ‘again mum, again’.
“He loves this play, he thinks it’s much better than the Oscar Wilde I did, Lady Windermere’s Fan at the Manchester Royal Exchange last year, which I loved but he said ‘It’s not very funny at all, mum’.
“I’ve worked in Birmingham a few times, in plays and I’ve been in Doctors three times playing different characters.
“I love the Anthony Gormley statue in the city centre, the Iron Man.”
* Go Back For Murder plays Birmingham’s New Alexandra Theatre from November 25-30. For tickets ring 0844 871 3011 or go to www.atgtickets.com/birmingham.