Last Tango in Halifax actress Anne Reid achieves a lifelong ambition

Last Tango in Halifax actress Anne Reid achieves a lifelong ambition
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She's been a staple of our front room viewing for decades, from her Dinnerladies days to entertaining us on The Last Tango in Halifax. But Anne Reid isn't just a marvellous actress – and a lovely woman by the way – she's also a talented singer. And this year she's achieved a lifelong ambition - at the age of 81 - by recording a CD with her good friend and co-star Derek Jacobi. 

Making an album really is a dream come true for me. I’ve always wanted to do it. I love music – it’s such an enormous part of my life. I perform a one-woman show which is wonderful to do, but to have made a record with a dear friend and colleague like Derek is simply amazing.”

So how did it come about? “Really rather unusually,” she replies. “I first suggested it a while back when I was visiting Derek in hospital after he’d had an accident and seriously damaged his legs. In Last Tango we’d always enjoyed jiving together and Derek said we now wouldn’t be able to do so for some time. I said, ‘Well we’ll just have to sing together instead’. Derek thought it was a good idea and then I spoke to my musical arranger, Jason Carr, and it wasn’t all that long before we were in the recording studio!”

Anne says it was an absolute joy choosing which songs to sing. “I have so much music at home and I always take a note  of any song that happens to catch my ear. I was able to draw on this and included such favourites as I May Be Wrong But I Think You’re Wonderful and I’d Really Love To See You Tonight. Jason suggested a song called You Are The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me. I thought it was lovely and wanted it to be the title of the album. I was worried it might be a bit long but then I figured that the Beatles calling one of their records Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band didn’t exactly do them any harm! 

 “Derek was slightly hesitant as he’d never really done any singing before – he’s not that kind of performer – but he actually sings very well. We went into the studio and he didn’t know what he was doing but he ended up sounding like Matt Munro! 

I said to him, ‘If you get offered a musical after this, I’ll kill you!’ We perform some of the songs as duets and others individually. I wanted to do a funny song so there’s one called I Wanna Be Your Cowboy Sweetheart in which Derek starts off singing Home On The Range and then we yodel! Derek sings Music Maestro Please, which is one of his favourites, and If You Said You Had A Beautiful Body because he sang that on Last Tango In Halifax.”

Speaking of which, the much-loved comedy drama will be back for a two-part special this Christmas. “That came as something of a surprise,” Anne laughs. “We thought it was just going to be a single Christmas episode but it turned out to be two.”

 So could this be the end of Last Tango? “I really don’t know. It’s not my decision to make! It’s two years since we made the last series. I mentioned that to someone and they replied, ‘Well it’s 13 years since Cold Feet’s been on’. I said, ‘Well I don’t know where Derek and I will be in 13 years time!’

“Seriously though, I’d put everything aside in order to play Celia in another series of Last Tango. It’s the best part in the world. Celia seems so nicely dressed and so pleasant – the kind of woman you’d enjoy having lunch with – but then you realise that she’s actually rather dreadful. Alan, Derek’s character, has always seen Celia as his lost love, but he’s getting to know the real her and finding out she’s not the sweet 16-year-old he fell for. I love it!”

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So do we – even more so if Anne and Derek break into song at some point!

So what’s next for multi-talented Anne, whose list of credits includes everything from soap roles, playing Corrie’s Valerie Tatlock (later Barlow), to comedy, as the unforgettable Jean in Victoria Wood’s Dinnerladies. 

“In January, I’m starting another one-woman show called A Night At The Pictures, in which I’ll be performing film songs from the Forties and Fifties. Then in February, I’m off to France to do a Valentine’s Evening before performing my original one-woman show in Devon. There’s also talk of reprising ‘Fracked! Or: Please Don't Use the F-Word’, the play I was in at Chichester earlier this year. I’m so lucky. I could be sitting at home now just waiting for the phone to ring, but I’m not. I think someone up there must like me.”

There’s not much doubt about that!

  • The CD, You Are The Best Thing…That Ever Has Happened To Me, Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid, is out now. 
  • Interview and words by Alison James
  • There's more star chat in every issue of Yours Magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday