Raw recruit? From three to six, I was at an army school in Singapore. I played the White Rabbit in a school production of Alice in Wonderland and I had to say, "I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date." I was cross because I wasn't long-haired enough for Alice. There was a school on the boat back to England; it was a four-week journey.
Goody-New-Shoes: I went to Farnham Preparatory School for just a couple of years. All I can remember is a school dance, and someone treading on my toes. Then my father was posted to Cyprus, where we were taught privately. Someone taught me Greek - Greek-Cypriot, that is, which is quite useful in London restaurants.
A merry dance? From eight to 16 I went to a small ballet school in Camberley. It was like something out of Bunty [the girl's comic]. There was a kind of enthusiasm for acquiring information, but they were not terribly good at teaching it. We had Latin, which I loved, for a year, but it stopped. There was a good biology teacher but he was overwhelmed by all these girls and he left. A very eccentric woman from, I think, Morocco, taught us French.
Don't put your daughter on the stage, Mrs Agutter: They weren't pushing girls into professional work, but had somebody who kept an eye on opportunities. I got a part in Ballerina by a fluke. Walt Disney were making a film about the Royal Danish Ballet but wanted someone who spoke English, not Danish. Five of us were sent up to screen-test; the school told my parents I wasn't expected to get it and I thought it was for the part of a great Dane in a pantomime. Then I was seen by the producer of East of Sudan, who cast me as a little Arab girl; he wanted someone lightweight - that is, light enough to be picked up and carried about by Sylvia Syms and Anthony Quayle.
Off the rails? At 11, that didn't interfere with school too much. I took English language and literature O-levels early, just to get them out of the way, and then Art - and that was all. Apparently I put my foot down at 14 and said I wanted to take the [professional] work that was being offered. When I was 15 I did the television version of The Railway Children.
On the right track? I left school when I was just 16 and went to Arts Educational, right on Hyde Park, allegedly studying for O- and A-levels. I did three films - The Railway Children, I Start Counting and Walkabout - and that was it; there was no time for school. Going into theatre was quite a struggle. At 20, I was Miranda in The Tempest and hardly knew what an iambic pentameter was. John Gielgud would go over my lines with menReuse content