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13 September 2012

The Paradise: An interview with Sarah Lancashire (Miss Audrey)

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Sarah Lancashire (Miss Audrey)
© BBC


Could you start by telling us about Miss Audrey’s role within The Paradise?

Miss Audrey is Head of Ladieswear, so some of the young girls are working in her department. She’s away from The Great Hall, she’s purely undergarments, underpinnings, dresses and hats. A rather beautiful and lavish place to work. One gets the feeling that she’s been established there for a fairly long time.

How does Moray look upon Miss Audrey’s position at The Paradise?

Moray tolerates her. One doesn’t know her history fully, it’s really with pieces like this you have to start inventing a bit of a backstory for the character and I have always felt that it would have been very unlikely for Moray and Dudley to have employed Miss Audrey when they took the shop over from it being Emmerson’s. I suspect he inherited Miss Audrey and therefore she would not necessarily be his choice, but he has enough compassion to realise that this really is her life and her livelihood, which of course it is.

Without her position at The Paradise she would no doubt be destitute, being a woman of a certain age in this particular time and never married. I’d like to think Moray inherited her so he’s prepared to put up with all her little quirks and flamboyances and her rather theatrical approach to the job, simply because she is actually rather good at the job.

However, she’s limited because she doesn’t have the flare and vision for the job that Denise clearly has. Therefore Denise does pose a very real threat to her. Miss Audrey can see there’s a genuine talent for the job and also something which Miss Audrey doesn’t have which is ambition, which Denise has in spadefulls.

Can you tell us more about Miss Audrey’s relationship with Denise?

When Denise comes along there definitely is a point where Miss Audrey feels terribly undermined, simply because she can see she hasn’t met her equal at all. Denise is capable of achieving far more because she has this incredible vitality and vibrance, and of course Miss Audrey is of a different generation.

Miss Audrey states in one of the episodes that she was very happy to be responsible to men, to take on a position of responsibility whilst being responsible to men. Meaning that she was happy to be responsible to Moray. She understands that Denise doesn’t want that. Denise wants more than that. Denise wants to run the place, she wants to be Moray, and Miss Audrey can see that.

Denise comes up with some rather creative ideas for The Paradise. Does Miss Audrey embrace those ideas?

No, because to embrace them would be to undermine her own position. It would also be to acknowledge the fact that she has a contender for the position.

Initially she assumes some of the roles that Denise has thought of as her own inventions, which is wrong, but with Miss Audrey she actually finds a way to deal with Denise and ultimately ends up having an extraordinary amount of respect for her. She likes her and she also becomes her confidant.

Would you say Miss Audrey is a lonely character?

Yes, she has very melancholic moments which are filled with regret for a life that she turned down with Edmund (Lovett). We’re really only at the beginning of her story there, picking up part way through her life.

No matter how much she denies it, and she vehemently denies she has no regrets, her life is truly fulfilled, when it’s quite clear that at times we see moments when she really does realise she could have had a very different life had she married Edmund. She wanted a career.

It’s quite clear that the position she holds at the moment at The Paradise is the position she’s always wanted. She achieved it, but once she achieved what she wanted it also gives her the time to reflect on what she hasn’t got, which is Edmund.

What is Miss Audrey’s relationship with Edmund like now?

We get a glimpse into the relationship that they clearly had when they were in their twenties. How the relationship has settled into something that is very comfortable now, except they clearly don’t spend an awful lot of time in each other’s company.

Although Miss Audrey has a certain way that she wishes to appear to everyone, she doesn’t really think that Edmund’s good enough. She’s really a product of her birth unfortunately. She just wanted so much more out of life. You can’t change your social standing. You couldn’t marry out of it, she’s stuck and she’s made the best of it.

She’s achieved what she wanted to achieve, and that’s Head of Ladieswear at The Paradise. She’s terribly proud of that position and fiercely protective of it and guards it. She won’t have anybody bring it into disrepute at all.

Moray can be quite flirty with Miss Audrey, or would you say he is being manipulative?

Moray is a manipulative figure, that’s his role, and Miss Audrey is terribly and easily flattered. Miss Audrey is terribly flirty. She loves it when she gets attention from the opposite sex because she has had a life without it.

She is a true archetypal spinster and it doesn’t mean to say that she doesn’t have these extraordinary deep feelings, she does, it’s just they’ve been denied because she couldn’t have had her working life if she’d married.

Miss Audrey is an incredibly passionate woman had she been given the opportunity. So when Moray flirts with her, as he does occasionally, she loves it. She can flirt right the way back, but she’s easily bought over by him.

Have you enjoyed playing Miss Audrey?

I have, she’s a fun character. I think there was a lot of scope in Bill’s writing which allowed a level of embellishment so I’m sure she’d have been interpreted completely differently by somebody else. Fortunately Bill’s writing is very rich and it was quite clear when I first saw the script her language was very florid which of course would be quite unusual for a woman of her background. So I read into that that she clearly is a woman with pretensions and that hopefully is what I’ve managed to portray. I think it fits perfectly with the story and the character.

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