Why Gwen Tayor, star of The Croft, believes buildings “inhale and keep” the emotions of the people who live there

PUBLISHED: 15:54 29 February 2020 | UPDATED: 15:55 29 February 2020

Gwen Taylor in The Croft. Picture: CHARLOTTE GRAHAM

Gwen Taylor in The Croft. Picture: CHARLOTTE GRAHAM

©2020 CAG Photography Ltd

The play is based on a true story, It is set in a village in the remote Scottish Highlands and told by women in three different eras.

Buildings hold in their walls the emotional experiences of the people who have lived there, says Gwen Taylor, who is starring in The Croft at Cambridge Arts Theatre next month.

The play, by Ali Milles, is based on a true story,

It is set in a village in the remote Scottish Highlands and the story is told by women in three different eras.

In the 1880s, Enid, takes in the Laird's pregnant daughter, Eilene. In 2005, a woman called Ruth occupies the croft.

She and her husband Tom have bought the place as a holiday home.

And this is where Ruth has an affair with a local man.

Fifteen years on, in the present day, Ruth's daughter Laura returns with her friend Suzanne after her mother's death and together they discover the terrifying truth that lurks within the croft.

Talking about the play, Gwen says: "I have a great belief in bricks and mortar inhaling and keeping emotional happenings in the stone.

"I think that explains sometimes the feeling you get when you walk in somewhere.

"Buildings big and small take in trauma and love.

"When we first walked into our house in London, I said to my husband that I felt that the house had been some sort of harbour for people.

"Later we found some letters that explained that the owners had taken in Jewish people during the war.

"Harbour was the word I used and that is what it was, a harbour."

Eric Idle described Gwen Taylor as "the best comic actress I have ever worked with. She could do anything. "

She was an assistant area bank manager for the National Provincial Bank in Derby before she took up amateur acting and then went to East 15 Acting School.

She has just turned 81. Her birthday was February 19.

How do actors in their 80s manage to do eight shows a week?

She says: "I am thriving on it. I love to work and I love a challenge."

She is looking forward to being on the road again, though she says she goes for comfort these days.

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"I did digs for years, but now I like an en suite and a comfy bed."

Her husband, Graham travels with her.

Gwen Taylor's biography goes on for pages. Television shows include Coronation Street, Heartbeat, A Bit of A Do and Duty Free. Film roles include The Lady in the Van and Monty Python's Life of Brian.

She says The Croft is trail blazing:

"My character blazes a trail for the two ladies who appear later in the play. Her courage is amazing. She is resilient and a survivor; a really strong female character. "That really appealed to me when I first read the play."

She read The Croft when she was performing in another thriller; The Lady Vanishes.

"So my head was in a bit of a mind split - two brilliant thrillers playing two strong women.

"People love a good thriller, be it a book, a film or a play, but I think a stage production is different because of the involvement an audience feels and those moments when people jump as one.

"It is a mix of anticipation, live performance and fantastic storytelling - and this is a great story.

"You'll be trying to guess what might happen but the action may not go the way you think it will.

"The other thing about a thriller is that you have to work out if you believe in all the characters or if you think they are telling lies. People like the intrigue.

"The tour goes everywhere - what am I going to do in Perth when I have to speak with a Scottish accent?"

She says that throwing her hands up in mock horror.

"I am very fond of Cambridge. You walk up Trumpington Street, look around the shops and take tea.

"It is lovely to be back there. And the theatre has the best dressing room arrangement of any theatre because all the rooms are based around the green room, so it is very sociable."

This is a play that asks if the present heals the past.

Gwen declines to provide any specific spoilers but describes the outcome as 'very satisfying'.

"My character's trailblazing pays off against all the odds, but The Croft is the link to it all."

Age guidance 14+.

The Croft is at Cambridge Arts Theatre from March 11-14.

Shows 7.45pm with 2.30pm matinees Thursday and Saturday. Tickets 01223 503333 or www.cambridgeartstheatre.com

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