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echo live: Turn back the Paige; Elaine Paige has become something of a national institution, but, as MATT THOMAS hears, even respected OBEs can sometimes have a very colourful past to speak of.

Byline: MATT THOMAS

ELAINE PAIGE is an OBE, a respected BBC Radio Two presenter and is often referred to as the first lady of musical theatre, so it's a bit of a surprise when, recalling her youth, she says, "sex was rife."

There is a context to her comments, though, as she is coming to Cardiff next week on her Memories tour.

Thetour is promoting the album of the same name which accompanies her autobiography, again called Memories, and making it took her back through a 40-year career to a starting point full of freedom and potential.

"Well, you know how they always sayabout the '60s, 'if youcan remember it then you weren't there?'," she laughs.

"Well I was there, I definitely remember it, and I had a great time."

"Being in my 20s then, of course I had a great time. There was no such thing as Aids, women had just got the pill, it wasagreat time to be young."

In fact out of the not-so-holy trinity of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, it seems she tried them all.

"I did try drugs and it was most enjoyable," she confesses.

"Nothing too extreme of course."

The professional backdrop to her 60s sojourn was the first British production of the counter-cultural musical extravaganza, Hair.

"I feel that now the message we were trying to bring to the world with Hair might be having something of an impact.

"We were trying to encourage openness, dialogue instead of conflict, a new way of looking at the world."

While Paige, pictured, has been happy to revisit the past, she doesn't want to stay there. She is a lady who has continued to succeed in her career because she has always advanced, but the book, album and tour felt like the right way to mark a career milestone.

"I realised that it was 40 years since I started in the industry and it came as a bit of a shock to be honest," she says of why she embarked on the heavily pictorial autobiography.

"The reason the book is laid out like it is really has to do with the fact that I have so much memorabilia, and family photos and all the stuff I have collected over the years.

"I got it out of storage and went through it all, which I was expecting to be just ghastly by the way, and realised that I had to think of some way touse all of this material, but to do it in a slightly different way.

"So that was why we decided to do the book in the picture-based format. I ended up having a lovely time sifting through all my old memories."

Despite her still-burning love for the stage, Paige hasn't been performing in as many productions of late and wonders how many more roles she might take on.

"It reached a point where I was only being offered parts that were not interesting to me," she says.

"I don't like simply doing the same thing over and over, I like to look for new challenges rather than to be locked into something for three months of a year. You can't be in a show if you don't have that burning desire to be there every single night.

"Perhaps doing this tour was a reaction to that realisation that I might not take on another musical theatre production at this point in my life."

Elaine Page will be performing at St David's Hall, Cardiff on March 4. Tickets cost pounds 29.50-pounds 32.50 from 029 2087 8444.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Feb 24, 2009
Words:596
Previous Article:LOOKING BACK: BLAST FROM THE PAST.
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