Hot on the heels of her adventures at The Real Marigold Hotel in India, Miriam Margolyes is going on a road trip in BBC4 comedy Bucket, about a free-spirited but terminally ill mother who persuades her rather more reserved daughter to join her in ticking items off her bucket list.
Here, Margolyes shares her real-life list of things to do before you die…
1. Return to India
Back in 2012 I was going on a world tour with my Dickens show and I had to be very fit for it, so I went to India to refresh my body and spirit. I spent six weeks at an Ayurveda retreat with daily yoga and enemas. It was absolutely marvellous.
India is a most magical place, so returning to film The Real Marigold Hotel was a treat. I love the people, the smells, the food, the colours, the vibrant women… It’s just an extraordinary country. The only thing I wasn’t keen on was the lack of toilets. But that is being repaired by prime minister Narendra Modi, who has made an edict that there have to be lots more toilets. I can’t wait to go back!
2. Star in a TV detective series
Everyone wants to be Helen Mirren, don’t they? A part like Tennison in Prime Suspect, or Sarah Lancashire’s in Happy Valley, would be wonderful. I did play a detective for a Lynda la Plante series called Supply and Demandback in 1998, but I wasn’t picked up and made famous. I probably wasn’t good enough, there you go!
The best part I ever played was when I did my own show and played all the women in Dickens. I did a very, very good Miss Havisham — now she’s dark. Perhaps people don’t see me as a dark actress but I’m actually extremely dark. Perhaps if Sally Wainwright reads this we can effect a change…
3. Visit Norway
My parents, Ruth and Joseph, honeymooned in Norway in 1930. It was the only place abroad they ever went together. My father was a GP, the first member of his family to go to university; my mother left school at 14 and worked in a dress shop called Madam Flora, in south London. I don’t know why they chose Norway, but they had a wonderful time and spoke about it for years afterwards. I suppose it was down to economic circumstances that they never went abroad again. We mostly went to Scotland, where my father was born, Glasgow and Loch Lomond. I’ve never been to Norway and I really would like to see the fjords my parents talked about. But I don’t want to go skiing. I wouldn’t want to cause an avalanche. I don’t like activity holidays. I like inactivity holidays.
4. Lose three stone healthily
I don’t have an ideal weight in mind, I haven’t thought about it in that sense, which is probably why I’m still fat. I want to live a healthy lifestyle and exercise moderately. I swim every day for an hour, which I know is good for me. But my weakness is food.
5. Host my dream dinner party
I’d like to have Barry Humphries, Eileen Atkins, business entrepreneur Julia Hobsbawm, Victoria Coren and David Mitchell, Graham Norton, Dickens expert Michael Slater, lawyer Helena Kennedy and surgeon Iain Hutchinson at my house. It would have to be Jewish food: chopped liver to start, then chicken soup and a roast chicken with lots and lots of vegetables, and tarte tatin with coffee ice cream for dessert made by the chef at Mullins Brasserie in Margate. Maybe he could do the whole meal? Oh no, he’s not Jewish — he’s from Barbados.
6. Get a good part at the National Theatre
I have never appeared at the National; it would be very sad if I died and I’d never performed there because I love going. Maybe they just don’t think I’m good enough, or maybe the right part hasn’t come along. Although I’m not fussy. I’d like to be taken more seriously as an actor — whether I deserve that, I don’t know!
7. Go back to Broadway
The only time I’ve been on Broadway, I was in the musical Wicked. And I can’t sing so I did what Rex Harrison did and spoke with the music. I don’t need a career in America, certainly not at the moment. I did lots of Hollywood movies — I went in 1989 and lived there for 16 years, and it was an interesting, fulfilling and lucrative part of my life. But there’s no reason why anyone should remember it and Hollywood celebrity life doesn’t appeal to me.
8. Find my relatives
Genealogy is my passion. I have no brothers or sisters and I have no children, so I have space in my life for more family. My nearest family is my first cousin, Buffy, who lives in St John’s Wood in north-west London, is extremely well dressed and perfectly turned out, and is always in despair at my clothes! I only wear trainers; I won’t be uncomfortable for anybody. I’m always doing my family tree and have found a surprising number of black sheep in my family. It turns out we’re not a law-abiding bunch. I’ve met cousins that I didn’t know existed and it’s thrilling and life-enhancing.
Bucket begins on Thursday 20th April at 10pm on BBC4