Belinda Lang just loves touring, so much so that she and fellow actor / director / producer David Haig have formed their own company, Haig-Lang Productions. I caught up with her in Malvern where she was appearing in Noël Coward's Private Lives, directed by David Haig, and the second outing for their touring company. Although produced financially by Bath this has the same design team as their previous very successful play My Boy Jack, written by David Haig, which toured after a West End run.
Having their own company means they can be in control of a piece and produce it “how we want it to be, and how we want it to feel”. Private Lives is a play Lang has always wanted to do, a play which does not need to be tampered with, but it is important to get the right balance of actors. I had heard it described as frothy—a soufflé—but she assures me that it is most definitely a very intense, and intensely funny, passionate love story, and of course written with extreme wit. She and Haig regard it as his best play: “a ferociously honest look at life. and as a result extremely funny because he puts people into an extreme situation in which they behave in an extreme way. So he does sort of cover all the aspects of a passionate love affair.”
Asked if she preferred comedy or drama, she replied that she doesn’t necessarily see them as separate things, and a good play usually has both.
She is probably best known for the television sitcom 2.4 Children and I wondered if this had been a turning point in her career. Not so! “It creeps up on you quietly,” she said “You’re just doing another job, and then nine years later it’s a success.” She describes it as a very solid programme with a large and loyal fan base.
Her mother was actress Joan Heal. Had she encouraged her daughter into the profession? “I don’t know of any actor who would encourage his children to become actors,” she says, and her own fifteen-year-old daughter shows no sign so far of following in her mother’s footsteps.
At one point, Private Lives becomes very physical and, having seen advertised an exercise video by Belinda Lang, I thought she might be keen on keeping fit. She is, thinking it very important to find a way to keep flexible and fit, but is totally against these exercise programmes. She only agreed to do one if she could put over her ‘anti-exercise’ beliefs, and she hates aerobics. Her method, apart from walking, is to invite people over, put on disco music, and dance around.
She couldn’t be happier with the show—a fantastic cast, she says, and David Haig is a wonderful director. Her next director will be the legendary Peter Hall in another Noël Coward play, Hay Fever, which open at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in April. Rehearsals begin as soon as the present tour ends—a very tight schedule—and she will be starring with Judi Dench and Peter Bowles.