My haven: Actress Sian Phillips, 78, in the living room of her home in Spitalfields in the East End of London
21:32 GMT, 24 August 2012
Sian Phillips in the living room of her East London home
I’ve been painted a few times, but this portrait by Stephen Whatley is my favourite. He’s a very collectable artist famous for his scenes of Buckingham Palace but he’s also a very successful portrait painter who always uses the same palette of violently bright colours. He also did this sketch of my Burmese cat Barnaby, who was so special and lived to be 22. I spent more time with Barnaby than with any human being and enjoyed every minute.
This beautiful black fan with silver sequins is part of my rather special collection. It was given to me by my tutor when I had a bit of success in the title role of the play Magda while still at drama school. It had actually been Sarah Bernhardt’s when she played the role before me. I have added to the collection over the years, and even have one from Little Women author Louisa May Alcott’s family. They all have a history.
A lovely reminder of my Welsh childhood is my great-grandmother’s china. It sat on the dresser in the farmhouse where myself, my mother and my grandmother were all born. I was an only child – an older sister having tragically died before I was born. Both my parents were frustrated performers. My father had a fine baritone and my mother – a teacher who taught me to perform in public – would have loved to have been an actress.
ME AND MY GIRLS
I was married to Peter O’Toole for 20 years and we had two daughters, Kate and Pat. The youngest, Pat, made this charming ceramic pot with a wonderful cat’s face on it for me when she was nine. I adore it so much I’ve kept it all these years. Pat’s now a senior lecturer in music living in Lewes with her partner and daughter, my only grandchild, while Kate’s an actress and writer and lives in Connemara in Ireland.
Sadly I don’t have a cat any more but I do have this gorgeous canary, given to me by a friend four years ago. His name is Tsip, which nobody can pronounce (it’s actually ‘sip’ with a soft ‘T’), but that’s OK with me. I’m totally devoted to him but unfortunately he doesn’t seem to care less whether I live or die. I talk to him all day in cheerful tones; ‘Hello’, ’Good morning’, ‘I’m off to work now’, ‘See you later!’ All to absolutely no avail.
These chairs are from the day Charles was invested Prince of Wales in 1969, a beautiful affair in the ruins of Caernarfon Castle directed by Lord Snowdon. It was very grand, but they invited some Welsh people like Richard Burton and Harry Secombe. I was one of them and so was my uncle DD Thomas, a local politician. They gave us these red cushions to sit on, but you could buy them and have them made into chairs, which I did.