Comedy or drama?

So does she prefer comedy or drama?

"I prefer good writing. It doesn't matter which it is. I have a good grasp of how to play truth. I'm not blowing my own trumpet but some people put on an acting thing and I don't. I put on a being thing.

"If the script's all right, then usually the truth comes through whether it's comedy or tragedy. It works because I play for the truth.

"I am not a funny person. I can't walk into a room and do a trick and make people laugh. People often think you can when you do comedy. I'm not Su Pollard or Victoria Wood. But if you give me a decent script I can make you laugh, I hope."

Gwen Taylor explains how she was offered the part in The Butterfly Lion.

"I wanted to do some theatre next. I'd done six months in television and was ready to do a bit more theatre.

"Sometimes it's so extraordinary; you say to your agent ‘I'd like to do some theatre' and she says ‘there's a script on the way actually from a company called New Perspectives based in Nottingham, and they'd like you to read it with a view to playing Millie.'

"You can't really ignore something like that—it's like fate. It's a sweet, lovely piece by Michael Morpurgo who of course wrote War Horse. It's a children's story but it has a message and something to say to adults. I thought it was a character I could play and bring something to it."

She still gets regular offers of work—last year she took her clothes off when she toured in Tim Firth's Calendar Girls—and there's usually a good reason for her not to accept a part.

"I very rarely turn work down unless it's something that would take me away from my family too much or would be exhausting because I'm getting on now and sometimes I do get exhausted. I have to watch myself a bit."

She pays tribute to her "fabulous" husband, writer Graham Reid, who looks after her while she's on the road.

"I couldn't do it without him now. I couldn't do a tour, for example, without him because he organises my hotels or my digs and he drives me."

While Derby audiences will be looking forward to seeing Gwen Taylor for the first time since she was in Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie at Derby Playhouse in 1988, she is relishing meeting up with family and friends again.

So what's next for her? "I'd love to do something like Downton Abbey. Would you please spread that about?"

It's not a ridiculous idea. Are you listening, Julian Fellowes?

  • The Butterfly Lion runs at Derby Theatre from 23rd May until 8 June