5 days in the life of SIAN PHILLIPS

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MONDAY: Marlene Dietrich couldn't be less like a brick wall but today I have the disloyal and delicious feeling that I've stopped beating my head against something. For the first time since last October there's no show tonight, nor am I travelling to the next theatre.

Lying in irreproachably crisp linen looking out at the Hertfordshire valley beyond, I know that life doesn't get much better than this. Upstairs William Corlett is working on a novel; outside I can see Bryn Ellis improving an already perfect corner of the garden. There will be lunch but this is not my house and I'm not doing anything. I'm being pampered.

Later, I take the train to London. Things are still dreamily wonderful. This is Hollywood's idea of an English spring day. Celia Johnson and Greer Garson should be in first class.

TUESDAY: Easter is over and reality is intruding. We really are going to do Marlene in London. It says so in the paper. The phone begins ringing at 8am and I leave the house to deal with a dozen unnecessary errands. Start back at Trevor Blount's Pilates Studio. Surprisingly, after this long absence, the body remembers most of what it has to do. Feel better.

Fit some reserve trousers for the play. Assistant director Thierry Harcourt brings me more new footage of Marlene in concert. He's spotted a new and characteristic gesture which we'll put in before the opening.

A crowd of us go to Romeo and Juliet and we're a bit bemused. It's nearly wonderful but I couldn't understand a word.

WEDNESDAY: Wake very early and ring William and begin to talk about the things that were left unsaid during my stay. He has a novel coming out two days after we open Marlene. Two Gentlemen Sharing is very different from the last book, Now and Then. We wonder, fretfully, if the public always wants a bit more of the same. Coincidentally, we find ourselves a little distanced from the excitement this time around. Is this good and admirable or have we lost the capacity to be over-excited?

Go to Carlton and do an interview with Mary Nightingale. She very good and relaxed. Go to the theatre and promptly get nervous. The Michaels are presiding over controlled chaos. Director Sean Matthias, just back from South Africa, is brimful of ideas. Mark Jonathan is lighting like a man possessed. I go to my room for a bit of light housekeeping. Theatre very dirty. Painting and decorating going on around the clock. Work til 11pm.

THURSDAY: Wake too early again. Receive a phone call from a charming man who wonders if we might like him to bring the show to Israel. Well, yes, thank you. This means Bob Kingdom, who is playing Truman Capote there, has put in a good word. Actors are really kind to one another.

Do another TV interview at the theatre. I'm not sure that I'm making much sense today. We are all a bit jumpy. Then it is Pam Gems's turn. We sit in the dust and marvel that we have arrived after a three-year jour- ney. Sean is at his best on these awful days. He never gets short-tempered, never pushes, just pulls it all together gently but very firmly.

Lou (Gish) says she's nervous but to me she seems her usual cool-with- a-streak-of-mad self. Thank God for her as we change everything for the umpteenth time.

Do the show. Great audience. Find a nice coffee bar. Go to bed and watch EastEnders. Things are looking up.

FRIDAY: More interest in the show from abroad. Have to address the first- night party. Why is it that these problems are such a nightmare? Doing the show is just a question of doing the show as well as possible. Deciding what to wear to the Cafe de Paris is too difficult.

To the theatre. Notes with Sean. His suggestion for a big alteration last night helped hugely. At home friends are coping with my displacement activities: televisions are being repaired, the wisteria is being hauled back up the wall, the gazebo (the Judi Dench memorial marquee - don't ask) is up for the summer.

Do the show. Dinner with my dear agent, Sara Randall, who first thought of my playing Marlene a mere 14 years ago, and Rose Tobias-Shaw. Both very grounded, thank God. Everything a bit feverish. Four days to go to the opening. Please, just teach me to care and not to care.

Sian Phillips is in 'Marlene' which opens at the Lyric, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, on Tuesday.