Stage and screen actress Stephanie Beacham has been creating a storm in her role as Judith Bliss in Noel Coward's classic comedy Hay Fever, but after spending seven months in the UK and venturing into panto for the first time, she's going back to Malibu for a break. HEATHER RAMSDEN reports.

Recently seen as Phyl Oswyn in ITV's Bad Girls (currently airing its eighth hit series) Stephanie says: "No, I'm not going back to prison. After this it's going to have to be a really good film for me to agree to it."

The production of Hay Fever is the last in a long line of roles for the 60-year-old actress, who is probably best known for her role as Sable Colby, the plotting cousin of Alexis Colby (Joan Collins) in the hit 80s series Dynasty and its spin off The Colbys.

But she disagrees this is her best known role. "Some people know me best as Sable Colby, but others say Oh You're Luke Perry's mum from Beverly Hills 90210, others know me as Rose Millar in the BBC drama Tenko, some people know me better as other characters."

Her credits even include a first-time dabble in the world of panto in the form of the Wicked Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford last December.

But whichever her most memorable role was, Stephanie says she is most unlike the glamourous villainess, Sable Colby. "I'm seldom out of my Ugg boots. But don't get me wrong, I have had more wonderful clothes in my life than anyone I know, but I am not fussy about my clothes or what I look like, unless I am on stage."

Stephanie's stage career began quite by accident on a stopover to Liverpool to visit a boyfriend who was an actor. Having being born partially deaf (she only has 40 per cent hearing) Stephanie decided at a young age to give movement classes to deaf children. With this in mind she went off to study mime in Paris.

However her stay there came to an abrupt end when she was fired from an au pair job and she returned to England via Liverpool. She walked into a theatre where auditions were being held, auditioned for a juvenile lead role and got the part.

She was only 17 then, but her career went from strength to strength and she eventually won a starring role opposite screen legend Marlon Brando in the film The Nightcomers. It was a role which would make her turn away from Hollywood.

She later told Hello Magazine: "Between the film's subject matter, the love scenes, and Brando, The Nightcomers got a lot of publicity and quite naturally, this affected me, as well. I was just a young thing at the time, and I didn't understand anything about this business.

"If someone could have guided me slowly towards a career in the United States, little by little, I would surely have followed the path. But it wasn't like that, and I ran away from the American movie scene and everything that went with it."

Instead, Stephanie returned to the stage and met her husband John McEnery, with whom she had two daughters, Phoebe and Chloe.

When her marriage ended some years later, Stephanie was left to raise her two daughters single-handedly while subsequently building a successful career as an actress.

She has one piece of "good advice" to all mothers who want children and a career. "Never go to bed unless you have done everything you need to do to prepare for the next day.

"Don't leave a letter, don't leave the dishes, don't leave the laundry. If something is left undone, don't leave it, finish it!"

Sticking to this policy has allowed her to build a career which has made her face instantly recognisable, having been cast opposite names such as Ava Gardner ( in the film Tam Lin 1971) and Charlton Heston.

Her extensive career, which encompasses film, theatre and television, has earned her nominations for a Golden Globe (for Sister Kate) and a People's Choice Award (The Colbys). Stephanie also works as a spokesman for the American Speech, Language and Hearing Association, serves on the Board of Directors for Free Arts for Abused Children and is associated with the Tinnitus Society of Great Britain.

The actress has homes on both sides of the Atlantic and in March 2005, on a visit to the coastal town of Essaouira in Morocco, Stephanie liked what she saw there and by the end of her three-week stay had bought a property. Ten months later she had transformed the ramshackle two-storey dwelling into a graceful home.

She told The Times earlier this year: "Islamic architecture works whether you're an inch from a building or 100 yards away. There is something about the proportions. The privacy of Islamic architecture is another of its great charms. You get no idea of the inside from looking at the outside."

She says she chose Morocco because she thought initially it might make a good exchange for California, but she now tells me with too many friends in California, it will probably be Morocco which has to go.

Next she has her heart set on South America, but for now she says, it's back to Malibu.

"I imagine there will be a sitcom coming along, and I have a film coming out called Love and Other Disasters, but when I am finished in the summer I'm just going to have a long break.

Not relishing return to Bromley

Stephanie Beacham may not relish the thought of returning to Bromley, but promises theatre lovers they won't be disappointed with Noel Coward's comedy Hay Fever, in which she stars.

Set in the country home of the eccentric Bliss family, Hay Fever tells the story of Judith (Stephanie) a retired stage actress, David (Christopher Timothy), a novelist, and, their two children - all of whom live in their own world where the boundaries between reality and fiction are blurred.

Already being well received around the country, Stephanie says: "Seldom have I had so many nice adjectives applied to my name.

"Come and see this play. Why? Because there are so many horrible things going on in the world and this play takes you back to a time when things were really good. It is set in an era in which we had just won the war. It's genuinely good escapism'.

"Also, there is a good looking set, a good looking cast and we're all very well frocked."

It's not the first time Stephanie has been to the Churchill Theatre. She has been to Bromley many times before.

"It's not my favourite place", she bluntly admits, "but this is a good show so come and see it."

  • Hay Fever plays at the Churchill Theatre from April 9 to 14 call the box office on 0870 060 6620.