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The Independent Culture
"If I thought about it too much I'd go mad." Faced with the prospect of playing Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman in the world, Janie Dee (right, with Peter McEnery) is being pragmatic. "Beauty is a pretty subjective thing, I'll leave it up to the audience." Instead, she and director Annie Castledine are concentrating on Helen's iconic, mythic quality.

She won an Olivier award as Carrie Pipperidge in Nicholas Hytner's spellbinding Carousel and has just returned from the Duty Free Festival in Cannes - "like walking round a glossy magazine" - where she performed in cabaret "in front of the richest people you've ever seen."

When not rehearsing Euripides, she's busy on the set of London's Burning, which she regards as her big break in TV. "Yesterday I did my first-ever bed scene. I was very concerned it should be about the characters, not how much body I was showing. The director was surprised that I answered him back and changed decisions." Just when you think you've got her taped as tough and feisty she hastily admits that half the time, she's wrong. "Doing the cabaret made me realise that there's more to putting on a play than just being good."

Women of Troy is something of a departure for someone who tends to work from instinct. Ironically, despite lengthy research on the central issue of war, and (she admits) an unusually intellectual approach, this time she is most excited by the scale of Castledine's approach. "She's daring to be dramatic."

`Women of Troy' is in repertory at the National Theatre, SE1 (071-928 2252)

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