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Byline: By Gordon Barr

Actress Alexandra Gilbreath has had some plum TV roles of late. Next week, though, she's back in Newcastle with the RSC. Showbusiness Reporter Gordon Barr catches up with her

For the first time in years, actress Alexandra Gilbreath won't be popping open the bubbly on Christmas Day.

December 25 is usually a day of rest for thespians the world over, but not this year for Alexandra and her RSC co-horts.

They've got a performance of The Taming Of The Shrew that night - thousands of miles away in America! "We're performing in Washington on Christmas night, can you believe it?" she laughs. "Those darned Americans!"

But Alex will be closer to home next week when she arrives in Newcastle with the Royal Shakespeare Company for the production of The Tamer Tamed, John Fletcher's comic sequel to the Shakespeare work.

RSC-goers will recognise her from three years ago, when she won rave reviews as Juliet in Romeo & Juliet.

TV viewers will recognise her from two high profile roles over the past two years - as Stella Moon in Monarch of the Glen and as the conniving murderer Pat Kitson in The Bill.

"When I finished the last RSC season, I thought it was time to do a bit more television," explains Alexandra, 34. "And what corkers of roles they were.

"The setting of the Scottish Highlands was simply beautiful for Monarch of the Glen. Fantastic scenery.

"It is breathtaking when the sun's out. And when the mist falls, it's just devastating.

"There is a white sandy beach surrounding the loch. I just didn't expect anything like that in the Highlands. Extraordinarily beautiful.

"But I have to admit I felt a little isolated. I don't consider myself a city girl, I was brought up in Buckinghamshire, but I did miss the immediacy of city life, the buzz, the energy.

"I was based up there for five months, and I didn't even have a car."

Earlier this year she helped give The Bill some of its biggest ratings ever, playing Pat Kitson, who murdered copper Cass Rickman.

"I had great fun in The Bill. I was so welcomed on that show. The cast is so used to having different people on the show that I was welcomed with open arms.

"What a part to get my teeth into!"

Playing such an evil character can have drawbacks, when the public confuse TV with reality.

"You know, I never got any of that, thankfully," says Alexandra. "I am very short-sighted, so when I am not acting, I slip on my glasses, and so I disappear quite easily into the crowd. People don't recognise me with them on."

Alexandra is at Newcastle Playhouse next week as Maria in The Tamer Tamed. The Taming Of The Shrew isn't coming to the Toon, as it is being shipped out for the American stint.

"It is a big pity you won't see The Taming Of The Shrew, but The Tamer Tamed sits well on its own.

"In fact, I think there was a different buzz to the audiences who saw The Tamer Tamed without seeing Shrew first in Stratford. There was a certain freshness, and actors can sense that."

A well-earned rest is on the cards after Christmas. "After that, I don't know what," says Alexandra. "The great thing about being an actor is you never know what's around the corner. I don't have a specific plan."

NThe Tamer Tamed is at Newcastle Playhouse from Monday to November 22. Ticket details on 0870 905 5060.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 14, 2003
Words:588
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