“I do believe if you can do Shakespeare you can do anything…”

On April 23, actor and former Tunbridge Wells resident, Louise Jameson will perform her one woman show Shakespeare’s Mistress at The Amelia. Eileen Leahy discovers more about this special one-off performance, which is a memoir of Louise’s life and experiences on stage and screen, all based around her personal love of the Bard…


Louise Jameson is probably best known for her impressive canon of TV work, which includes prime roles in EastEnders, Tenko, Bergerac and perhaps most famously Dr Who, in which she played Leela during Tom Baker’s successful run as the doctor during the 1970s.

But when I meet the successful actor, who is currently starring in the main cast of Emmerdale as Mary Goskirk, she tells me that it’s the stage – and specifically Shakespeare – that has always been her true love when it comes to performing.

“You know how some kids would sneak a copy of The Beano magazine under their bed at night to read in private? Well I did that with the Complete Works of Shakespeare,” she smiles as we sit down to chat at The Amelia.

“I had no idea what any of the plays meant of course, but his work moved me so much. I just loved the musicality of it all.”

We’re at the town’s cultural centre to discuss Louise’s forthcoming one-woman show, Shakespeare’s Mistress, which she will perform on April 23 – a date that also just happens to be the Bard’s birthday.

She describes it as being along the lines of a ‘Desert Island Discs format’, with lots of her favourite Shakespearian speeches interspersed with anecdotes from her life and times in the theatre.

Proceeds from ticket sales will go to DAVSS, a local West Kent charity, that supports victims of domestic abuse. Louise is its patron.

But before we talk about the show in more detail I ask how the classically trained Louise became an actor in the first place.

“I was beguiled by drama from a very young age. When I was four I played Little Miss Muffet rather brilliantly and I remember the response from the audience was intoxicating. They were whooping because I’d done this really terrified scream at the spider and they loved it. I thought ‘right, I want to do this forever’.”

This passion for performance led to Louise gaining a place at RADA drama school where one year she won the coveted Shakespeare Award for Classical Performance.

“I’d gone to RADA with a comprehensive knowledge of Shakespeare’s work thanks to a genuine love for it, whereas some students hadn’t even picked up a sonnet,” she laughs.

Louise, who up until recently was a long-term resident of Tunbridge Wells, tells me that after graduating from RADA, she went on to work at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

“I was mainly an understudy with the odd small part, but I was so hungry for it. I did a lot of waiting in the wings and so got to see the likes of Sir Ian McKellen, the legendary Ian Richardson and all these other amazing actors perform. I watched their way of working and had the opportunity to participate in sonnet classes and workshops – it was like another three years of training really.

“I do believe that if you can do Shakespeare you can do anything – including soaps,” states Louise who also played the matriarchal Rosa Di Marco character in EastEnders for a number of years at the end of the 1990s.

“But I have to point out that it doesn’t necessarily work the other way around, as alongside the obvious emotion, you also need to know Shakespeare’s technique, which means knowledge of timing, vowels, consonants, rhythm and deliverance.

“This is why Shakespeare never wrote any stage directions as it’s all completely inherent. You have to be a bit of a Sherlock Holmes and investigate the text and I personally love all that.”

Alongside her acting career, which has seen Louise play most female Shakespearian characters including Rosalind in As You Like It, Helena in a Midsummer Night’s Dream, Portia in the Merchant of Venice and Viola in Twelfth Night, she reveals she’s also written extensively and done many drama workshops both here in the UK and also the United States.

Louise goes on to tell me that she started writing Shakespeare’s Mistress eight years ago.

“It started out being rather precious and worthy so I just shook it up a bit. That way I can get as informal as I can with the audience. I’ve been through a lot since I first wrote it. I’ve been in therapy for the past three and a half years, given up drinking, moved house and got the job on Emmerdale.


“What I’ve been through – coupled with getting old – has certainly influenced and helped develop the show. It’s given me the confidence to be more honest and more vulnerable. I think it’s actually a very strong thing to be vulnerable.”


The show, which is suitable for those aged 14 years and upwards, is something Louise says she can dip in and out of.

“It’s always been in my back pocket. You just need a chair and a music stand for the notes and off you go.”

She explains that it runs to 70-minute in total with no break: “I love not having an interval as I feel that if there’s a break you sort of lose your audience somewhat. When you step on stage you immediately feel a collective heartbeat in the house and that’s what does it for me. You know you’re transporting the audience somewhere; whether that’s making them happy or sad or educating them. Afterwards people should leave slightly altered and that’s what drives me as an actor. You are the conduit from the writer to the audience. The easier it looks, the harder you’ve worked at it.”

Despite her passion for Shakespeare, Louise readily admits that it is her role playing Leela in Doctor Who alongside Tom Baker in the seventies that has made her most recognisable as a star.

“There isn’t a day that goes by when someone doesn’t reference it,” she says, raising an eyebrow and sure enough, right on cue, one of The Amelia’s employees shuffles over to our table asking if she is indeed THE Louise Jameson.

“I’m a massive Doctor Who fan,” he says shyly before politely asking if he can have Louise’s autograph. She agrees and with that he swiftly presents a vintage Doctor Who annual which Louise happily signs – and makes the ‘Whovian’s’ day.

“Isn’t it incredible to think that a job I did for just ten months in 1976 still has this impact?” she laughs. “It’s really quite extraordinary.”

And with that our time together is almost up. I wrap up by asking Louise why she wanted to support DAVVS by returning to Tunbridge Wells with Shakespeare’s Mistress.

“Because it is the most extraordinary charity. Every penny goes in the right direction, but like everyone they are struggling with funds and so with my profile being raised again due to my role in Emmerdale I thought I’d help them as much as possible.”

Louise adds she hopes the audience who come to see Shakespeare’s Mistress, which she has performed in small arts venues and theatres around the country since 2015, will feel liberated and inspired by the performance.

“There are sonnets and speeches reflecting my experiences both personally and professionally. It’s celebratory, it’s about being a woman and I’m really happy to share the journey…”

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