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Radio Review: Frances Barber's Private Passions

Nuala McCann

Private Passions Radio 3

Private Passions is the slow burn relation of Desert Island Discs with dreamy long playing tracks.

You ease yourself into a warm bath of talk and music and luxuriate.

Actress Frances Barber offered choices that were fresh to this listener.

She has never been typecast in a career that has spanned classical theatre, television, and film.

But then she never set out with a plan, she said, she loved the chance to do things differently – even spending years in French films playing the English woman.

It was a funny, touching interview. She is a gambler, she said – her father was a bookie. She took her chances.

Among them was the 1980s film, A Zed and Two Noughts.

“I played Venus de Milo whose sole ambition in life was to make love to a zebra.”

The role called for her to walk naked through a field with a lot of sprinklers pouring down on her.

“I don't know how I did that in a freezing cold February in the middle of Rotterdam.”

The chat touched on her early days and her old boyfriend, film maker Danny Boyle who was working very hard, so she went to the local library and borrowed the classical music records. She got to Chopin when she found a job – so she paused there.

There was an element of the fierce lioness about her as she described an attack on a train on the way to the Tatra Mountains: she got rid of her assailant: “I did have his blood on my nails.”

There were also songs by Brecht and the Pet Shop Boys as well as warm memories of being Madonna for a night, of Ian McKellen who put her up at his house and nursed her following a cycle accident involving an articulated lorry.

Actors and actresses are supportive to each other and the last track was dedicated to her friend, the late Alan Rickman.

“He was hugely supportive to all of us,” she said.

The music, like his presence, was haunting.


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