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THERE is no hint of the dumb blonde about super-stylish Sarah Lancashire.

The one-time Coronation Street favourite is looking sophisticated and serene as she sips mineral water and talks enthusiastically about her latest TV outing Clocking Off.

In fact, it's hard to even bring to mind the bimbo-like Raquel from the Rover's Return. Sarah may have made her name as the mini-skirt-loving barmaid with a heart of gold in Coronation Street, but she has gone on to prove there is a lot more to her acting talents.

She knew she was taking a gamble when she quit the soap at the height of her fame four years ago, but scored an immediate hit with viewers as the hard-working midwife Ruth in Where The Heart Is. Once again she decided to quit the drama at the height of its popularity and searched around for something new.

Now she is showing she still has plenty of punch left for BBC 1's new Sunday night drama Clocking Off, which comes from the pen of award-winning writer Paul Abbott of Reckless and Touching Evil fame.

Each episode follows the lives of a different worker and the drama allows Sarah to run the emotional gauntlet as factory worker Yvonne Kolakowski, a widowed single mother of three with an errant boyfriend in tow.

It was filmed in Wigan - "Very glamorous," smiles Sarah - and Manchester and features a strong cast that includes Lesley Sharp, Christopher Eccleston and Philip Glenister.

Sarah might never have worked in a factory, but she says Yvonne is a character who is easy to understand. "She's Polish by marriage and she's widowed," she explains. "Her husband was a manic depressive and committed suicide and she's had a number of rather traumatic relationships since he died, but she's now a lone parent with three children.

"She doesn't have a great deal of money, she's working in a factory as a machinist and then she encounters a new man, played by Chris Eccleston, who attempts to mellow her. He's not interested in necessarily taming her, but he makes her face up a few harsh realities about herself."

Sarah, who lives a single life in Cheshire with her young sons Matthew and Thomas, says she sympathises with the struggling machine worker. "She's a strange character in that she's very damaged by the relationships she's had and she's kind of vulnerable," Sarah muses.

"She doesn't want to let anyone else in. She wants

relationships with men on her terms. She wants to play by her ground rules and then this man comes along and knocks her for six."

Sarah says the quality of the writing made the role easy to play and she is full of admiration for creator Paul Abbott.

"He made my job so easy," she says enthusiastically. "His writing is tremendous. He's so economical with his dialogue and he's witty. There's fantastic pathos and great humour there."

The former soap star shuns the showbusiness limelight but had no problems recently making a return visit to Coronation Street as Raquel specially to inform the surprised Curly that he was a father and she was planning to remarry.

Sarah is quick to point out that her return to Weatherfield was a flying visit and she has plenty of other acting work to keep her busy.

She has also completed Seeing Red, about the life of Coral Atkins, for Granada Films, as well as Clocking Off.

And she says the later has also turned her into an expert seamstress and she can happily take orders for curtains if the work dries up. "Luckily, I've been constantly in work since I left Corrie," she smiles. Meanwhile, Sarah is currently enjoying her first family holiday for three years. She has taken her sons to Lanzarote and does not plan to return to work until February.

"I've just taken a two-month chunk out," she says taking another sip of mineral water," and it's the first chance I've had to do that for years.

"I just want to recharge the batteries. I think that's important. You just need to refuel occasionally ... and get passionate again about your work. You lose motivation if it nothing but non-stop work."


SARAH is the daughter of television writer Geoffrey Lancashire. He was responsible for many Coronation Street scripts and also wrote for TV sitcom The Lovers.

OTHER television roles include Watching, Dramarama, Celebration, Bradley, My Secret Desire and About Face.

SARAH trained at the Guildhall School Of Music And Drama in London and began her acting career in 1986.

SHE first appeared on Coronation Street a year later as nurse Wendy Farmer. She answered an advert placed by the Duckworth's for a lodger, but was turned away by a jealous Vera. She returned as Raquel four years later.

SHE appeared on the West End stage in musical hit Blood Brothers.

"CORONATION STREET will always be like a curiosity shop, dark and dingy, a wonderful emporium of nonsense with absolutely nothing you want to buy, but it keeps attracting you back," says Sarah.

HER marriage to composer Gary Hargreaves broke up in 1997. They met when she was 18 and singing in a dance band.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jan 22, 2000
Previous Article:FACE OF GOD.

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