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Interview: Beth Goddard - The woman who went wife-swapping with Robson Green; But sadly for Beth Goddard it was only for a new TV drama, she tells Daphne Lockyer.

Byline: Daphne Lockyer

Beth Goddard admits that she went all prim and proper when she first read the script for the television drama Take Me - a racy tale of middle class wife-swapping in North East England. "Shocked of Sheen, that was me," she says with a laugh. "I suppose I just didn't realise that this sort of thing actually goes on. I imagined it was the kind of thing only the dirty raincoat brigade got involved with. But after talking to the writer, Caleb Ranson, who'd been to swinging parties (for research purposes, of course!), I realised there are groups of otherwise quite ordinary people who choose this as a sexual way of life. It's much more common than we as a society acknowledge." The controversial six-part drama - partly an adult love story and partly a tense thriller - will lift the lid on the taboo world of wife-swapping. It tells the tale of a successful young couple (Jack Chambers, played by Robson Green, and his wife Kay, played by Beth) ) who become embroiled in swinging after they move to an upmarket housing estate in Newcastle. "Everything about the estate seems just right - manicured lawns, stainless steel kitchens, friendly neighbours," Beth smiles." Everything about the Chambers' life too seems Marks and Spencer-perfect. Lovely house, two kids." But, as the drama unfolds, we discover the estate is hiding a terrible secret and the Chambers' marriage is on the rocks - thanks to Kay having an affair. "They've moved to the estate to put the past behind them but their problems are only just beginning," Beth explains. "Eventually they get drawn into wife-swapping thinking it will fix things between them . What they don't realise is that, in fact, only the strongest and most secure marriages stand any chance of surviving a wife-swapping scenario." The cracks in the marriage become chasms and their lives begin to disintegrate. "So from that point of view, Take Me is a rather moral tale. It looks at the destructive nature of swinging. It certainly doesn't advocate it as a good and healthy way of life." For all that, Beth admits that, after starring in Take Me, she can see how swinging works for certain couples. "At the very beginning, I was appalled at some of the things that I heard and some of the things that people were expected to do at these parties. But then I thought `Who am I to criticise?' I realised that for some couples this way of life works and in that sense it might even keep some families together. Personally, I'd be petrified to find myself in a situation like that. I'd run a mile. That's me. But I can also see that if you're in a relationship that is very strong and you're very sure of each other then perhaps it can work as a purely sexual game." Take Me features intimate scenes between Robson, Beth and other characters which may cause outrage among TV clean-up campaigners. "But you can hardly make a drama about swinging without scenes of an intimate nature," Beth says. "It simply wouldn't work." Not that this made them any easier for the 33-year-old actress. She admits that on-screen sex encounters are the least favourite part of her job. "In the business, we call love scenes `loomers' which means that they loom over you until the moment they're over and done with - and it's not until that point that everyone can start to relax. On the day of a loomer, you're up at 6am washing your hair, checking for spots and shaving every conceivable bit of unwanted hair from your body. "On set, you're cleaning your teeth and sucking mints all day. And it's just so odd because not only are you just about kiss or to be intimate with someone you probably don't know very well, but you've also got a camera filming you and you don't know what part of the body the camera is looking at. If you do the scene too well, you imagine everyone nudging each other and thinking you're a bit of a goer. If you don't do it well, then you worry that people will say `Well she's not very good at it is she?' Everyone tries to all jokey about it, but it's terrifying. I can't think of any actors who enjoy love scenes." Beth took comfort, at least, in her leading co-star - a veteran of TV love scenes. "Poor Robson," she laughs, "God knows how many of them he's had to do. And I don't suppose he's exactly jumping up and down about doing them any more than anyone else is. Having said that, he's an absolute dream in that situation because, unlike a lot of other actors, he's so calm and funny and caring of the other person. So you're both able to get through some pretty embarrassing moments with the minimum of pain." She was helped too by a sensitive director, Alex Pillai, who was prepared to listen to her doubts. "In one scene, there was a disagreement about how far up my skirt was going to ride. He suggested somewhere around the midriff and I didn't want that because I wasn't happy with things flapping about. So I said `If I'm going to do that, then for God's sake give me a pair of tights!' I think we came to a compromise." Beth is laughing - something she does quite a lot. She's at a happy stage in both her professional and private life. On the career front, she's as well known for comedy shows like Gimme, Gimme, Gimme as she is for serious dramas like Daylight Robbery. Her TV credits include Cracker, Peak Practice and the Scarlet Pimpernel. "Of all the work that I've done I think sit-com is the hardest and most terrifying," she says. "If I had to do that all the time, I'd probably need drugs just to get me through it." She's lucky, she adds, to be in a relationship with another actor who understands the problems. She and Clocking Off's Philip Glenister have been together for four years and have recently moved to their first house in Sheen, South-West London. She's full of the joys of DIY and gardening - and talking, too, of the possibility of having children. "It's true that we both want children very much but so far we just haven't found the right time. Right now both our careers are quite busy and you have to ask yourself `Who's going to look after a baby if we have one?' and I do feel one parent at least should be around. "There again, somewhere deep down I feel that we should probably get on with it because at my age I'd hate to find out that I couldn't conceive and find myself running out of time to do anything about it. I look at Phil and I know absolutely that he's be the most tremendous father." The couple met at a party. "One of those occasions when you wind up talking to someone the entire evening. I remember thinking `I've never met anyone before where I was absolutely interested in everything they were saying'. And it's still the same. I'm never bored by Phil. We have rows just like everybody else, but there's some kind of chemistry that works." Beth grew up in Essex. Her childhood was happy but coloured in later years by her mother's struggle with schizophrenia. "I don't cover it up, but I don't really talk about it much either, for my mum's sake." It's thanks to her mum, she says, that she became an actress. "I was incredibly shy as a child and mum was always encouraging me to join different groups. Eventually I joined a drama group and from then on there was nothing else I wanted to do with my life." She looks forward to Phil watching Take Me. "Maybe only another actor can fully understand what it's like to take your clothes off in front of a bunch of strangers," she laughs. "Bloody murder." Take Me will be shown on ITV next month
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 3, 2001
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