So successful, she has to have permission to go home

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Caroline O'Connor's passport is stuffed full of Australian stamps and visas. Her fam ily emigrated to Australia from England when Caroline was four and she grew up there. In 1984, at the age of 17, she made her first trip overseas, to London to study at the Royal Ballet School. She came over with a green "Resident, Return Employment Unrestricted" visa tucked in her passport, which was transferred to her new passport when the old one ran out. Secure in the knowledge that she could always return to work in Australia if things didn't pan out, she built a successful career in musicals in the UK.

Then she was cast in a Melbourne production of West Side Story, and had a nasty shock. Her "Employment Unrestricted" visa had run out after 10 years and, as the Australian authorities felt she had made her home in the UK, she was not entitled to a replacement. Now every time she has a job offer from Australia - and they come thick and fast - she has to apply for a visa.

As she flicks through her passport, the bright orange visas with "work limitation for such and such a period" stamped all over them grate on Caroline. Her parents, brother and sister all live in Australia, and it seems unfair that she has to keep going back to the Australian High Commission to gain access to the country she calls home. The only saving grace is that most of the staff saw her acclaimed performance as the leading lady in the musical Mack and Mabel and are devoted fans. They welcome her and usher her upstairs, making the process altogether more palatable. "I feel like Olivia Newton John!" laughs Caroline.

Also in Caroline's passport there are stamps from holidays to Corfu, mainland Greece, Gran Canaria and Tenerife, where she went for her first holiday with Barrie Shaw who is now her husband. Barrie is a saxophonist who also works in the West End, currently in the orchestra of the shows Smokey Joe's Cafe and Grease. Caroline and Barrie were engaged for eight years, and the most evocative stamp in Caroline's passport has to be the purple one she received when the couple went to Mauritius last May to marry at long last. They stayed at the gorgeous Hotel Le St Geran and the ceremony took place on a private island near by. They invited no friends or family - just a couple of the staff to act as witnesses - oh, and Hello magazine!

Caroline O'Connor is starring in the musical 'Romance Romance' at the Gielgud Theatre, London.