Mr Flibble Talks To... Psirens Wailing
In the sixth season of Red Dwarf, Lister found himself confronted by the final broadcast of a ship's captain. Or did he? Certainly viewers must have thought they were hallucinating when former Eastenders star Anita Dobson showed up! But, as she tells Mr Flibble, she's always been a closet SF fan...
26 January, 2001
Anita Dobson
Mr Flibble's right hand provided by
Andrew Ellard

How did you become an actress?

I used to do school plays, and everybody used to say, 'Put her on the stage.' I did a bit of amateur drama work, but we had no kind of formal dramatic training at grammar school, it was very academic. And not being particularly academic, I didn't like it.

Then I sort of bummed around doing lots of different jobs, and eventually I thought, 'Well, everybody said I should be on the stage - maybe I'll give it a go.' So I went to evening classes and loved it, then applied for drama school and did a three year course at Webber Douglas, and took it from there.

I sort of exhibited a lot of that when I was very young, but I didn't go to drama school until I was 21. So I'd kind of lived a bit - which I always think is a good idea, that you've had a bit of life before you decide.

So what was your first professional gig?

My first professional gig was terrible! (Laughs) A Christmas show called 'The Saga of Sir Singalot.' Which he did - very badly. (Laughs) It was right up in the north of England, in... I can't remember the name, I've blocked it out of my memory bank! It was freezing cold and I was dressed, head to foot, in silver body-paint. Running around a cold auditorium on concrete at ten o'clock in the morning.

I used to ring my Dad every day and say, 'Daddy, I hate it, I want to come home.' And he'd say, 'Darling, if you can get through this, you can survive anything. And you know, he was right.' It was one of the worst jobs I ever had. But it was good practice, and it got my feet wet, gave me no illusions of what I was going into. Made me realise that it was going to be hard work, that it wasn't going to be easy.

My next job after that was a Glasgow Citizen's Theatre, which was a bit like going back to drama school, because it was a Rep, far away from home. They had an experimental unit attached to the theatre. So I did lots of stuff that I was probably too young to play, but it was tremendous training, it was fantastic. We did Shakespeare and Pinter; [we did] anonymous playwrights; [and] Marlowe, lots of American stuff that's not done very often over here. Plays about drug addiction, and all sorts of things about the Deep South. It was a very good time for me. I was there for about a year and a half.

Then I did a bit of everything. I went to Watford and did some musicals, did a couple of West Ends and went off on tour, did everything - anything to get work and to get experience. Then I did a rock and roll show, and the guy who directed it was called Phillip Headley, who works at Stratford East. I did a couple of West Ends for him, and one of them got televised.

Then I got an audition for Play Away, and that was my first telly! Being quite an energetic performer, it was a good piece of TV to cut my teeth on. It allowed you to be quite big, because it was for children. Then I went back to doing everything. I did The Rocky Horror Show, Henry IV Part II, lots of stuff. The big break, of course, was when EastEnders came along. I was well into my thirties by then.