For most actors, if your face is instantly recalled when someone says ‘you know, the mum in such and such a sitcom’ you’ve done well.
For Belinda Lang, the role was in the BBC’s 2Point4 Children – as Bill, the mum of the titular family – which ran for nine years and was watched at its peak by nine million people.
Belinda is in Northampton to act – and sing a little – as Aunt Eller in Oklahoma! at the Derngate, and, surprisingly, she has done far more on the stage than the screen, despite that golden decade.
A look back through her acting CV shows few big TV roles but dozens of well-reviewed plays, including Ladies in Lavender, which played at the Royal three years ago.
Her abiding affection for the venue is clear.
“The Royal is beautiful and it’s got that wonderful embracing theatre shape,” she says.
“ It doesn’t have a staggering amount of seats; it’s not tiny but it’s got this lovely intimate feeling that beautiful old theatres have where it looks after you as much as anything else.
“Northampton is definitely on the map and that happened with Laurie [Sansom].
“Actors will be thinking ‘This is actually going to cost me money to go up there’, because you’ll be on minimum wage levels if you factor having to support your weeks out of work as well. But people are prepared to do that for talented people and they think ‘ It’s Northampton, it’s worth it. Yep, I’ll go.’”
This time Belinda will find her task marginally harder. The 61-year-old talks about the difficulties – also voiced recently by Sir Michael Gambon – of stage acting in your later years.
“It’s just as you get older, I don’t know, you have years of knowing little things that can go wrong,” she says, “and you know you are more likely to forget things.
“And you’re just less resilient, really, its just weird. All the actors I know are much more frightened now than they ever were when they were younger.”
If her memory for lines isn’t quite what it was, her enthusiasm is totally undiminished, particularly for her current fellow cast members and director.
She says: “I’m looking at rehearsals as a punter half the time, and this is absolutely true; I cannot believe the pack of talent that is in this.
“It’s pretty astonishing. If there’s a weak link it’s probably me, in fact! I’m looking at everyone and thinking ‘Jesus!’.
“I knew it was a wonderful old classic but I had no idea how brilliant until I started working on it.
“It’d be great if I could just sit and watch it every night.
“But then you hear that music and think ‘Yes! I’m joining in’.”