PASSED/FAILED: Susannah York

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Susannah York appears in tomorrow night's ITV Ruth Rendell mystery, A Dark Blue Perfume. She is currently in The Merry Wives of Windsor at Stratford, where she can soon be seen in Camino Real and Hamlet.

Early test? My first important exam was for Marr College in Troon, Ayrshire. I was 11, although you were supposed to be 12, but it was rather important that I got in at the same time as my three best friends. It wasn't, in fact, a state school, but you didn't pay because it had been endowed by a local benefactor in a previous century.

The result? We all got into the RAS class, which was mixed, and did Latin, Maths and Science. RBS was girls only and RCS was for boys; they didn't do Latin, but domestic science and woodwork instead. RDS and RES didn't do languages.

A long run? The school provided a very good education but after two years, because of tensions at home, I went to Wispers, a boarding school in Sussex. I was removed - virtually expelled - from here after a year for being out of bounds, and swimming after midnight; there was also a long history of midnight feasts. I then went to East Haddon Hall in Northamptonshire.

Next exam? Six O-levels at 15: two English, History, French, Art and Latin.

Glittering prizes? I got the Geography prize. I didn't do it for O-level but I liked maps.

Last exam? At 16 I took three A-levels, which you needed for the drama school in Glasgow where I intended to go. But by this time my mother had separated from my stepfather and gone to London, so I auditioned for RADA instead. I did a speech from St Joan and a passage from Alice in Wonderland.

Prize student? At RADA I won the Comedy Prize - pounds 5 - and the award for Most Promising Student - pounds 50. Quite soon after leaving RADA I was asked to come back to make a speech and give away prizes. It was awful, deeply embarrassing; a lot of the students were older than me.

Grands prix? At school I got the French Acting Cup (but not the Acting Cup). Since then I have translated and performed plays in French; I've been decorated by the French government with a medal from its Office des Arts et des Lettres.

Big Prizes? I was nominated in 1969 for an Oscar for They Shoot Horses, Don't They? for which I got the BAFTA Best Supporting Actress. In 1972 I was Best Actress at Cannes for the Robert Altman film Images.

Epilogue? The summer before last I performed one of my RADA audition passages - to an empty theatre. I was wandering round Turkey and one twilight came to a tiny Greek theatre. Ancient amphitheatres are irresistible; you want to test the acoustics. We were told that it was after hours, but we slipped in and I did the St Joan at the stake speech. It is full of dramatic flourishes: she casts the document back to the Inquisitor and says, "Light your fire!" The only audience we had was some Danish tourists, who wandered in halfway throughn

Comments